BOOK REVIEW: Black-Winged Angels by Angela Slatter

This review contains mild spoilers.

A collection of 10 incredible contemporary retellings of fairy tales, featuring an introduction by multiple award-winning author Juliet Marillier, and illustrations by multiple World Fantasy Award nominee Kathleen Jennings.

I loved this book. It’s a collection of short stories (some only a few pages long) so it only took me a couple of hours to devour. But why was it so awesome? Well, it’s because the stories are a bunch of fairy tale retellings with a feminist leaning. And they’re the dark kind; these books don’t shy around the classics tales’ underlying tones of rape or molestation.

The girls and women in these stories take matters into their own hands, giving the finger to classic jerks like Rumpelstiltskin and the devil himself. Some of them go on to live happily ever after with their beau, but, when it suits, a lot of them just ride off into the sunset on their own.

And some people who’ve gotten bad raps over the years have been redeemed. Like Baba Yaga, whose depiction in folklore has been ambiguous at best. In Angela Slatter’s retelling, Baba Yaga has been reimagined as a persecuted witch who only wants to help. Her granddaughter, who knows little of the world, has to come to terms with grandmother’s frightening world with aid from an unlikely source. The end result is surprisingly heartwarming and I connected with the characters much faster than I expected.

The Red Riding Hood tale was one of my favourites. I love werewolf retellings of this story but the way Angela Slatter went about it was even more incredible. The only qualm I have is that a lot of the narrators’ voices sounded quite similar. I mean, it’s always been that way in fairy tales but since the author had an opportunity to develop the characters as much as she wanted, I would have preferred to get to know them a bit better. Because some of the stories were so brief and the voices so similar the overall story sometimes blended together in my mind and I would forget how many tales I’d read. That being said, I enjoyed every single one of them and even if the narrator was similar, it was still strong.

 

The verdict

For such a small book, Black-Winged Angels packs a punch. Each entry is a new take on an old tale and the end result is immensely satisfying. It’s a bit hard to come by but you need to get your hands on this book and experience the magic for yourself.

I rate it ★★★★

 

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