RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 1ST
Jane Yolen’s new anthology collects sixteen tales from the author who has been labelled as a modern-day Hans Christian Anderson, although the tales collected here owe more to the influence of the Brothers Grimm. These stories are, overwhelmingly, dark - in tone, and frequently in theme. Yolen’s prolific career, producing work for a wide range of science fiction, fantasy, and horror publications, means that this volume includes stories from many genres and represent her work across several decades.
Yolen takes elements of the New England culture she was raised in and adds her own dark twist and there are also several stories here reflecting on the Holocaust and its continuing impact. These stories, in particular Snatchers, are some of the most haunting, possibly because they are the most grounded in reality of all the stories here. From her time living in Scotland, The White Seal Maid is a particularly strong example of a tale of sea monsters, influenced by Scottish folk myths. Yolen also explores the darker elements of modern urban living, especially in a number of stories set within New York, of which Wilding is an absorbing read, offering a glimpse into a utopian future where all behaviours are controlled, some more overtly than others.
Yolen’s greatest asset is the strength of her own voice as she weaves evocative language into a compelling narrative tapestry, but that voice is weakest in those stories included here that have been co-written with others. At the end of the book are a series of Story Notes, one for each tale, along with a thematic poem. Whilst some of these offer insightful contextual commentary, it occasionally feels as if even Yolen herself can’t recall much beyond when and where the stories were first published, and at those points the commentary can feel as if it’s been included out of a sense of obligation rather than a genuine attempt to provide insight.
Yolen would never need to write another original word to be assured of a place in the great American story book, although the overall darkness of this collection perhaps marks it as not suitable for the younger end of her usual readership. We heartily recommend it to the full breadth of readers who want to feel transported to worlds which are at once strange and new, old and familiar, and terribly, terribly dark.