How to Fracture a Fairy Tale is a compilation of the world’s greatest hits, matching old tales with new characters and settings. Yolen is a master of the fairy tale form – you’ll find her writing style both enchanting and enticing as you wind through these modern adaptations to discover her unique perspective. The collection is a masterpiece of fairy tale storytelling, one that should be read by lovers of fairy tales and those new to the genre.
NOTE: I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest, unbiased review. I only publish reviews of books I enjoy, and this novel meets that criterion.
HOW TO FRACTURE A FAIRY TALE
By Jane Yolen
Quick Summary: This short story collection weaves fairy tales we’ve known and loved into alternate realities, breathing life into their worlds with modern retellings and plot changes. You’ll find tales from many different cultures, giving this collection a worldly reach in addition to a diverse set of lessons.
I’m a lover of fairy tales. I’ve long collected various editions of the Grimm and Andersen stories, reveling in their intricate illustrations and terrifying tales meant to scare children into behaving. Our culture has changed these stories since their inception, their modern retellings meant to enchant in lieu of fear.
How to Fracture a Fairy Tale is that rare addition to the genre – a modern take on the tales that doesn’t seem forced, that sticks with the enchanting cadence of fairy tale storytelling while still feeling fresh. I was delighted by the changes made to tales I know well, and fascinated at the stories I had never read.
It’s a collection to be enjoyed by all ages, though admittedly many of the tales do shy away from the modern tendency to paint fairy tales as joyful stories. Here are a few of the things I loved about this wonderful book:
It’s definitely not new to take fairy tales and re-write them for modern day audiences. Yolen’s collection toes the line between enchanting and terrifying, giving us a little bit of both elements throughout. We see an enchanting retelling of Snow White where she doesn’t need a handsome prince to save the day. We also see a tragic retelling of a Jewish folktale in a concentration camp. The tales are adapted with care, keeping the principles in tact, no matter their modern renditions.
Yolen’s mastery of the fairy tale form is admirable. While it might seem easy to write in the sing-song way of many fairy tales, doing so in modern day is quite difficult. It takes a writer who knows what she’s doing, who can effortlessly use the cadences to her advantage. Yolen is that writer.
There are a few spoilers in this, so skip if you haven’t read!
I absolutely loved the clever retellings of the classic Grimm and Andersen fairy tales. Most brilliant was the compilation of fairy tales involving wolf villains into a retelling in an old wolves home where they complain about the lies told to smear their names. Yolen goes against the concept of “winners writing history” by sharing the villain’s perspective many times throughout the collection. Nothing is what it seems and we shouldn’t be so quick to assume that a character seen as a villain by one protagonist is actually evil to the core.
This aspect was the most welcome part of the collection. I haven’t gone far beyond European fairy tales, and this collection opens a whole new set of storybooks that I wish I’d discovered sooner. We see Jewish folktales, Eastern legends, and lesser known fairy tales that were overshadowed by the Grimm/Andersen obsession. I’ll be going off on a few tangents over the next few months in hopes of learning more of these fascinating tales, and I thank Yolen for giving them the spotlight they deserve.
Don’t skip the essays at the end of the collection! Yolen goes into detail on her inspiration for each of the adaptations, sharing thoughts on their origins versus her modern tellings. There’s also a sprinkling of poetry that is both delightful and profound.