Book Review: Unburied Fables edited by Creative Aces Publishing

unburied_fablesThings have been a little busier than normal in my life and I’ve been thrown off track for the last couple of weeks. To help me get back on track with my reading goals and to give me some happy stories to combat the severely depressing world in which we live, I picked up Unburied Fables edited by Creative Aces Publishing.

“This collection enlisted talent around the world. From students to seasoned professionals, these writers came together to raise awareness and reinvent classic stories. While they showcase a wide variety of origins, styles, and endings, all the tales in this anthology have one classic element in common: a happily ever after.”

I’ve heard that there’s a lot of discourse going on in the queer areas these days. One of the most common tropes is the Bury Your Gays trope, wherein it seems as though queer characters on mostly straight-character dominated shows or movies are at a higher risk of being killed off. As I tend to ignore people who have the inability to be positively contributing members of society, I don’t have much personal experience with the current discourse. While I am aware of the hatred and discrimination happening in the world today, I will not perpetuate, encourage, or otherwise participate in hatred or harmful behavior towards others.

With that said, Unburied Fables is the exact opposite. All these stories are positive and uplifting and some were downright cute. This anthology is exactly what I needed to see in my world, especially since all of the stories were fairly short and I could read a story between other tasks.

Handsome and the Beast (20 pages) by Laure Nepenthes. “This story is based on ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ written more or less as we know it by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and adapted many times since.” One of the really great parts about this story is that Handsome’s family are merchants and they are shown to be very caring and hard-working folks, even though it seems like tragedy after tragedy strikes them. They maintain a positive demure and always keep working to get back on their feet to the luxuries they enjoyed. Even when they find the castle, they are remarkably polite about the entire encounter and I really wish more people were like this in the real world – honest, polite, and hard-working. As for Handsome and the Beast, this was definitely a story with an ending that brought a smile to my face, as their own heart’s desire is pretty much my own favorite daydream, to share my life with someone I love, reading, sharing life, and adventuring.

The Grateful Princess (16 pages) by Rachel Sharp. “This story is based on the Estonian fairy tale ‘The Grateful Prince.’ Though the origin is a subject of some mystery, a version appeared in Andrew Lang’s The Violet Fairy Book, published in 1901.” I wasn’t particularly familiar with the story The Grateful Princess was based on, but it was definitely a very cute story, and also involved a lot of cleverness, which I very much appreciated. I have to say that this is also a story that is very much like a daydream for me, again, to share my life with someone I love and to also be able to make a difference in the world.

Odd (13 pages) by Amy Michelle. “A retelling of ‘Rumpelstiltskin,’ a fairy tale first recorded by the Brothers Grimm but suspected to be much older in origin.” I think one of the interesting patterns I’ve noticed about this book so far is that many of the characters have parents and families who are very supportive of the main characters. In this story, Sofia’s father tells her that she can marry either the prince or the princess, whichever she prefers, and the king also makes the same offer. Handsome’s family in the first story also is offered the hands of whichever gender is preferred, but the interesting part is that, as accepting as these families are, they really just want their children married. This is also very understandable because the fear of ending up alone is one of the biggest fears I, myself, have, especially since I’m asexual. It’s very difficult to find a compatible partner and sometimes you do find that one in 9 billion person and things fall apart because you were self-destructive and unstable. So these stories are hitting really close to home because my family is also very supportive and also worries about me ending up alone. And this story is also a very positive ending that ends with productivity and companionship, which is all I could ever ask for.

Expectations (18 pages) by Bec McKenzie. “In a way, this is many fairy tales, but may be best described as a vignette from ‘The Prince and the Pauper,’ a story by Mark Twain.” This story was not as much to my taste as the previous three have been, but this is the first one that I found humorous with some sense of the ridiculousness of fairy tales and a pun or two. I guess this story shows you that there are different things that make different people happy and that everyone can find their own place in the world without sacrificing who they are. That’s definitely a theme with this anthology, not just with happy endings, but also with acceptance of the different things that make people happy, and also the acceptance of the people in the characters’ lives.

Li Chi and the Dragon (13 pages) by Saffyre Falkenberg. “This story is a retelling of the Chinese fairy tale ‘Li Chi Slays the Serpent’.” This is probably one of my favorite stories in this anthology. The story shows that you really can do anything if you have a plan, even a mildly crazy one, and that things work out with enough courage. I think one of the most interesting parts about this story is that we often don’t take into account the way our actions impact the lives of those we care about the most. Sure, Chi offers to sacrifice herself in order to save the life of Yanmei, but how would that make Yanmei feel, knowing that someone she loves left her alone in the world? In kind of a round-about way, this story made me think about depression, and how certain types of depression make you honestly believe that those you love are better off without you, which is absolutely false and completely opposite of the way most people feel. It’s been my experience that being gone would cause so much hurt to those you care about the most, which is often not part of the rational thought-process when you suffer from depression. When Chi goes off to face the dragon, she does so with the knowledge that at least Yanmei will be safe for another year, but she also faces the dragon with the sense of not wanting to die. And so she fights, not so much to save her own life, but to save the life of someone she loves, and then also of all the other girls in the future. This story definitely gave me a lot to think about and as much as the ending is also on my list of potential daydreams, I think I like the story because of the depth of thought inspired by the story itself.

Satin Skirts and Wooden Shoes (12 pages) by Moira C. O’Dell. “A variation on ‘Cinderella,’ a story recorded by the Brothers Grimm but commonly said to be of French origin. Interestingly, the oldest known version of this tale comes from China.” This was another story similar to Expectations, only in this story, the main character has a home and a shared living environment with someone who acts as a caretaker and a mentor. The ending is something I sometimes wish we could do in the modern world, but finding true acceptance like this seems rather difficult at times. Still, a very heart-warming tale.

Match Sticks (8 pages) by Minerva Cerridwen. “A variation (and, indeed, an evolution) of Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Little Match Girl’.” This is another of my favorite stories in this anthology. I liked how one of the first stories of true love is the happiness of the two women when the Match Sticks confirmed their love, as though the magic showed that love is love, no matter who. This story shows how true love affects all of us and it absolutely ended with yet another of my daydreams.

The Princess of the Kingdom of the Dark Wood (7 pages) by Dominique Cypres. “Based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces,’ this story has gone by many names. Most will find it familiar.” Something that struck me immediately about this tale is that the tailor in the story is a man. For decades in the western world, we’ve been conditioned that sewing and such is more a womanly task, and yet, here is this male tailor in this story. This anthology does a really great job with a variety of sexualities, romantic orientations, and even genders, and it really is wonderful to see such positive representation.

Damma and the Wolf (9 pages) by Kassi Khaos. “This retelling is based on the European fairy tale commonly known today as ‘Little Red Riding Hood’.” While this story does have a happy ending, it also has a little bit of a dark and unhappy undercurrent. I suppose that’s to be expected with a story from “Little Red Riding Hood”, especially when magic and creatures of the forest are involved.

Beauty’s Beasts (11 paes) by Elspeth Willems. “Another story – this time a vignette – based on ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ The original tale also has roots in much earlier depictions of unexpected compassion, such as that of Cupid and Psyche.” I think one of the strengths of this particular story is the ambiguity of the sexual and romantic orientations of all of the characters. The story is written in such a way that it doesn’t really matter how people are attracted to each other and it doesn’t really matter what other people think of people who don’t prescribe to society’s version of “normal.” This story has a lot of the bigotry associated with people who think that families consist of a husband, a wife, and children, and the villagers represent all that bigotry. This story is a little different from some of the others in this anthology in the sense that the families of the main characters aren’t accepting of the queerness of their children, and the other villagers certainly aren’t accepting, either. So while the story itself does have a happy ending, there are definitely less happy undertones in this story, as well.

Glass Mountains (14 pages) by Will Shughart. “This story is based on ‘The Black Bull of Norroway,’ a fairy tale from Scotland retold in print since 1870.” I think it’s fascinating that this anthology uses such a variety of different areas for the source content. This was also a really sweet story that showed love is worth overcoming all obstacles and that anything worth doing truly takes time. Looking at how long this story took to unfold, not in pages read but in the actual mentions of time in the story, this isn’t a story with an instant happy ending. Boots has to work every day to earn another chance at his heart’s desire, and I find that to be the most true part of this entire story. Any love worth having requires hard work, dedication, a good deal of faith in better things, and time, as well as tenacity and the ability to learn and grow over time.

Brenna (10 pages) by Emmy Clarke. “This story is a version of ‘Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful,’ another German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm.” This is a neat and adventurous tale which was a lot of fun to read. While I’m not familiar with the original version of this fairy tale, this version is a very happy one and I think any other version than this one might ruin it for me. Though, I’ve lived this long without seeing anything about the original, so I should be safe, I would think.

The Last Lost Boy (19 pages) by George Lester. “A retelling of ‘Peter and Wendy,’ more commonly known as ‘Peter Pan,’ by Scottish novelist and playwright J.M. Barrie.” Oddly, this is probably the one fairy tale in this anthology that I have actually read. I’ve even seen the live play, watched the Disney cartoon, and even the movie Hook. One of my friends from several years ago really liked the entire Peter Pan mythology and I think it was inspired by the lack of wanting to participate in “normal” adult behavior – things like having a job and paying rent and living your life alone. And oddly, this is the one story in this anthology that made me actually tear up a little bit. This is probably the best modern version of a fairy tale that I’ve seen and it was probably more emotional for me because there’s someone out there who I love and care about more than anyone in the entire world, and that person has disappeared from my life. Even with modern technology and the ability to keep in touch over the greatest of distances, people we love and care about can still voluntarily disappear from our lives. But if someone we love and care about choses to go and doesn’t want us there, we have to respect their wishes. We can miss them all day every day, with every breath we take and every drop of blood in our bodies, but we have to let them go and travel their own paths. Maybe that’s the part about this story that moves me the most – the hope for the passing of time to heal the wounds developed by time apart. That time apart, though, is where we grow into who we’re supposed to be, so that when we come back into each other’s lives, we are better prepared to be equal parts of a greater whole. This is the story I would choose to see for all my exposure to Peter Pan in the future. It’s got a happy ending, even after so much time has passed between them.

Dark Matters (9 pages) by Tiffany Rose. “A retelling of ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears,’ this story adds a modern twist, as well as combing two of the best known versions of the tale.” This was another really great use of modern technology with mythology and lore. I also really liked the puns used in this story and I was amused at some of the “gay” humor in the sense of queer folks making jokes about themselves. I found the jokes to be rather amusing. This was also a really great story and one that was oddly moving, in the sense of finding a place that feels like home may not feel like the kind of home you’re used to.

The Suns of Terre (18 pages) by Will J. Fawley. “This spacefaring fairy tale is a version of ‘Prince Darling,’ which made its first known appearance in Andrew Lang’s Blue Fairy Book, published in 1889.” This was the only science fiction story in the anthology and I think it was a fitting ending, as it showed that even in the future, people will tend to find ways to discriminate between or against other people, but that discrimination isn’t appropriate at all. We are, all of us, people together. No matter what our race, gender, ethnicity, sexual or romantic orientation, cultural or societal upbringing, we are all human together, and we are stronger for it.

Overall, this is a very easy collection of stories to read. There truly are different styles and different stories, which really just means that there’s a story for everyone. There are queer stories of every variety and it makes this book a very easy and happy anthology to read. I would probably rate the entire anthology as a low four on my rating scale, as there are several stories that I am definitely going to reread and I’m very happy that I own this book.

Works cited: Creative Aces Publishing. Unburied Fables. Middletown: Creative Aces Publishing, 2016.

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About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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