Full disclosure: One of the authors of this book gave me an electronic copy in exchange for an honest review.
There are certain aspects that influence what kind of books readers take a look at. Some are personal, while others are coincidental, but they could be seasonal too. Much like certain songs, some books are meant to be consumed at a certain time of the year. A case in point is Once Upon a Winter: A Folk and Fairy Tale Anthology edited by H.L. Macfarlane, and it’s a very good collection of stories all set in winter.
Once Upon a Winter: A Folk and Fairy Tale Anthology is the first of four planned seasonal anthologies. This contains folk and fairy tales written by 17 authors across the globe, and they consist of different genres, adaptations of known stories, and original ones.
While all of the stories have winter as their backdrops, they explore that season in different ways. Some venture into its harsh and isolated side, while others portray it as more whimsical and with more depth. All of them have a fantasy element (for obvious reasons), but some like The Biting Cold by Josie Jaffrey and Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Bharat Krishnan have horror elements, while others have humor like The Snow Trolls by S. Markem. In addition, some are more suited for a Young Adult or a Middle Grade audience like The Best Girl This Side of Winter by Laila Amado and You Can’t See Me by Kate Longstone. In other words, it’s got something for everybody.
My favorite stories were mainly the fairy tale retellings. The Match Girl retold by Rebecca F. Kenney is a twist on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of the same name. It captures the spirit of the story of a girl trying to survive while selling matches. I won’t spoil it, but the twist is let us say enlightening. Another one of my favorites was A Pea Ever After by Adie Hart – a retelling of another Hans Christian Andersen tale The Princess and the Pea. This one involves a witch who’s mistaken as a princess and gets roped into a contest for Prince Percival’s hand in marriage, yet none of the other contestants seem all that interested. This story is refreshing, inclusive, and contains plenty of twists to satisfy the reader.
I also have to give a shout out to The Snow Trolls. It involves two trolls that discover snow for the first time. It’s a punchline of a story, but it’s satisfying and obviously funny, especially with the snarky narration.
While I liked a lot of the stories, some didn’t do it for me. For example, Queen of the Snows by Joyce Reynolds-Ward is a decent epic tale of a queen looking for some magical weapons. It’s got some good imagery, yet I couldn’t follow the story, and some actions felt very random. It’s an intriguing story that should be a full-fledged novel.
In summary, Once Upon a Winter: A Folk and Fairy Tale Anthology edited by H.L. Macfarlane is a very good collection of stories set in wintertime. There’s a story for everyone in a variety of genres. I would recommend this to anyone who likes short stories, fantasy, and winter-based tales with a cup of hot cocoa or tea. I look forward to reading the other seasonal anthologies in the future.
Stay tune for next week when I post my Top 3 Best and Worst Books of 2022!
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