Title: Rags & Bones
Author: Neil Gaiman, Tim Pratt, Rick Yancey, Margaret Stohl
Review: This is a humble little book, appearance-wise, but it holds a lot of wonder. The list of contributors to this anthology are just the start of it, many of them being notable simply because of the length of their writing careers, not just because of the New York Times Bestseller statuses. I originally picked this book up from the library because I wanted to read Neil Gaiman’s The Sleeper and the Spindle, and this anthology was the only way to obtain a copy that wasn’t on a hold list months long. Months.
Rags & Bones contains 18 short stories, each one a retelling of a fairy tale. The selection of fairy tales is vast. Some are from well-known tales, some obscure, some ancient, and some modern. Each one is a story that meant something to the author, in its original form.
Of particular note, of course, is the story that led me to this anthology in the first place, so we’ll start there, and look at a few that I found especially memorable.
“The sleeper and the spindle” – Neil Gaiman
While I enjoyed this story, and it offers a certain amount of prestige to the anthology as a whole, I found that for me it eventually faded into the background with other fascinating stories coming to the forefront of my attention. While it is a unique, well-written retelling of Sleeping Beauty, there are still many adaptations of that particular fairy tale. The more I read, the more I craved the new-to-me stories.
“The cold corner” – Tim Pratt
When I started this story, I wasn’t sure I would like it. It is a modern retelling, and is set in the South, which I’ve had the sad experience of reading stories that were not well done with both of those settings. This one, though, was a pleasant surprise, because it ended up combining many of the things I love to explore in stories myself. Namely, the ability to explore the what-ifs of life, dependent on what choices you might have made instead of the ones you did, and parallel realities.
“When first we were gods” – Rick Yancey
This might be one of the most heartbreaking stories I’ve ever read. It is set in a future where, essentially, people’s souls have been downloaded into computer chips, and mortality (and discontentment with physical features) are simply solved by ‘Transfers.’
The story is about a Beneficent, a man who lands a marriage deal with Courteous, the favorite daughter, of one of the most important men in the elite upper class… and then proceeds to fall in love with her personal maid, Georgiana. It was Georgiana who convinced Courteous to break her habit of leaving grooms at the altar, and because of that she met Beneficent. Georgiana comes from the lower ‘dredges’ of society – those doomed to one life, and one body.
What follows is a tragic love story where Beneficent cannot understand why Georgiana would be content with a single lifetime.
“Sirocco” – Margaret Stohl
The best way to describe this story, I think, is as a supernatural murder mystery. It is set in a haunted castle, on the set of a horror movie that goes wrong very, very quickly. Actors start showing up dead, mysterious omens start appearing, and illicit deals are made concerning the insurance. The Keepers of the Curse are hard at work.
Of notable mention, in addition to the stories in this book, there are six lovely illustrations by Charles Vess. Each illustration goes with a fairy tale, though those fairy tales are not any of the selected retellings. A summary of each story is included, and definitely sparks the imagination!
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