Here in this book you’ll find unique twists on the fairy tale conceit of the curse, from the more traditional to the modern – giving us brand new mythologies as well as new approaches to well-loved fables. Some might shock you, some might make you laugh, but they will all impress you with their originality.
This is a really difficult review to write because Cursed really was a book of 2 halves for me, I was both enraptured and non plussed at times. The first part of the book was definitely stronger insofar as the types of story I found enjoyable and that’s the balance I have to make, because with 20 short stories and poems its going to be impossible to please every reader with every story. This was actually a strength though as no matter what your reading preference there will be something here for you. I’m a traditional fantasy girl at heart so some of the more contemporary tales dragged a little with maybe a DNF or two, but some of the high fantasy tales were instant re-reads. Each author really did fulfil the brief though and I very much enjoyed how diverse the ideas were, be it taken from existing mythology or through an entirely fresh approach.
I have to say that the start was so strong with Christina Henry’s “As Red as Blood, As White as Snow” it remains I think my favourite of the collection, it felt like a completely rounded story with all the boxes ticked and is actually a tale I feel I would love to read as a full length novel, I have to also give kudos to Henry for not making the Step mother evil, which is such an outdated viewpoint. “Henry and the Snakewood Box” was another stand out and I enjoyed how it flipped with ingenuity, I’ve not read any M.R. Carey before but I think I might off the back of this. I also loved how Jen Williams was able to weave such weariness and resignation into her storytelling, giving the reader a true sense of the toll of the curse in “Listen.” I found myself unexpectedly liking “New Wine” when I started I felt that it was too contemporary with a heavy dose of angst, but actually it really pulled me in with a sense of foreboding.
There are a lot of tough topics covered most of which you would expect to find in an anthology of this type, by which I mean darker malevolent twists but there are some truly dark stories which some readers may find troubling. I always struggle with depictions of child loss, so I found “Wendy Darling” a tough read, and those that are triggered by self harm may want to give “Little Red” a miss as it’s depiction is pretty graphic. I also struggled with the depiction of what can be deemed as a controlling relationship in “Skin” that even after being treated abysmally by her ex partner the protagonist still felt that she was the one that needed to atone for the curse she placed upon him, maybe there was a point there, if there was it didn’t translate well.
I’ve also tried the website mentioned repeatedly in Charlie Jane Anders’s “Fairy Werewolf Vs Vampire Zombie” and i’m kind of gutted there isn’t a comedy page set up!
I’m not going to call out the stories that weren’t for me, the writing and ideas are sound in their execution, and for the most part I found lots to enjoy in many of the tales. Editing this type of collection must be much like a band preparing an album playlist, keeping the rhythm and pulse steady in order to keep people listening to the end, and for the most part this was achieved. The diversity across the stories must have made this quite tough to put together so on that basis a good job was done.
Because there were so many stand out stories I feel that it’s fair to give this collection 4*