Strange and Wonderful

Rags and Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales

Edited by Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt

Illustrated by Charles Vess

What a wonderful collection of new takes on well-loved stories.  The reader must think about what classic story is being retold, and then ponder whether the author’s new version really complements the message of the original story.  “When First We Were Gods,” Rick Yancey’s story inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark,” was quite different from this reviewer’s take. Hawthorne’s tale is of a beautiful baby born with a small birthmark on her face. Everyone thinks the mark just enhances her beauty, but the man she marries feels it diminishes her perfection.  He devises a chemical solution to dissolve the birthmark and leave her flawless. Unfortunately, as the mark fades, so does she.  Mr. Yancey’s view is that science can run amok, but the reviewer thought the story meant God doesn’t allow perfection to exist in our world. Mr. Yancey’s story focuses on a wealthy, upper-class man, made immortal by science, who falls in love with his wife’s maid who is mortal. The man wants to make the maid immortal, but she feels robbed of her destiny.  Either way, both stories are worth the read.

Sprinkled throughout the book are six magical pen and ink drawings depicting the spirit of various stories.  All the drawings bring to life the stories Charles Vess is picturing, making the stories worth perusing.  This book is full of wonderful, twisted stories and variations on literary themes.  Some of the stories bring back memories of the originals, but most don’t ring a bell in my aging brain. Pick it up to capture the essence of these classics and let the stories stir your imagination. Lots of room for the discussion not only on the comparisons between the versions, but also an exploration of the differences. The anthology includes twelve written stories and six drawings, which teachers and students will happily read before reading the stories that inspired them, allowing for much classroom discussion.

After each story, the author offers comment on what drew him or her to the story, and why the author wanted to rewrite it.

I have included a list of what stories were included and what the original ones were.

Carrie Ryan wrote The Machine May Progress Eternally, inspired by E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops.”

Garth Nix, wrote Losing Her Divinity, inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s “The Man Who Would Be King.”

Neil Gaiman’s take on “Sleeping Beauty,” is entitled The Sleeper and the Spindle.

Inspired by Henry James’ “The Jolly Corner,” Tim Pratt wrote The Cold Corner.

Holly Black did her take on Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, naming her story Millcara.

Sirocco is Margaret Stohl’s version of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto.

Following in the footsteps of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, Melissa Marr wrote Awakened.

Kelley Armstrong’s New Chicago, paid definite homage to W. W. Jacob’s “The Monkey’s Paw.

The Soul Collector, Kami Garcia’s version of the Brothers Grimm’s strange tale, “Rumplestiltskin,” is just as creepy.

Saladin Ahmed was inspired by Sir Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queen in his story, Without Faith, Without Law, Without Joy.

Such an anthology as this couldn’t be complete without a werewolf story, so this volume ends with Uncaged, by the appropriately named Gene Wolfe, which is inspired by William B. Seabrook’s “The Caged White Werewolf of the Saraban.”

Be sure to read Charles’ Vess’ drawings closely to see the stories he is telling. The King of Elflands’s Daughter, Kai Lung’s Golden Hours, Figures of Earth, The Shaving of Shagpa, The Wood Beyond the World, and Goblin Market.

BIBLIO: 2013, Little, Brown and Company, Ages 14 +, $18.00.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-316-21294-6

ISBN: 978-0-316-21292-2

 

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