Oh, man, the punctuation in that title sets my teeth on edge. It also bothers me that it’s part of a series but there’s no numbering for said series which, as of writing, consists of a novel and two short story collections. I suppose it doesn’t matter if the books are read out of order, but there’s value in knowing at a glance what was written when in an author’s career, without having to research publication years.
That said, the content of this book is a lot of fun. Ana Mardoll grabbed a bunch of Grimm’s Fairy Tales straight from Project Gutenburg and re-wrote them to be inclusive of trans and queer characters, while excising anti-Semitic and other questionably religious messaging. The introduction talks about how fundamental fairy tales often are to the early career of a reader, and the importance of seeing yourself represented within their pages. To that end, this book succeeds tremendously. Whether it be having the classic tale of Cinderella feature an AFAB boy named Cinder who enthralls the King’s son during local festivities, to the Brave Little Tailor being a young cis woman who understands the power of marketing, the selection is well-curated for all genders, with significant disability rep as well. I was also pleased that the villains aren’t predominantly female either, with a good balance of evil parents and rulers as foils for our protagonists.
Helpfully, there are content warnings (which I far prefer as a term to the oddly reader-blaming slant of “trigger warning”) and guides to pronouns at the beginning of each story. While I freely admit to finding many neopronouns cumbersome and arbitrary — and, to be clear, I strongly believe in using people’s preference of he/she/they/no pronouns altogether — this collection is helpful in rubbing the edges off of my dislike and making said neopronouns easier to assimilate into one’s reading.
What I would like to see in the very near future is for stories like these to be included side by side with heteronormative fairy tales in more mainstream collections, so that young readers are exposed to how very normal and loving — even banal!– non-hetero, non-cis relationships can be. Ofc, that’s outside the scope of this collection, which on its own is a very good step in the right direction, and a really valuable resource for the young readers in your life, especially those who don’t find themselves represented in your average fairy tale. I also greatly appreciated the interior illustrations by Alex Dingley, even in their black and white versions, for capturing the charm and whimsy of these tales with diverse character personifications.
Cinder The Fireplace Boy: And Other Gayly Grimm Tales (Rewoven Tales) by Ana Mardoll was published January 4 2022 by Acacia Moon Publishing and is available from all good booksellers, including this comprehensive list.