Everyone thinks they know the real story behind the villains in fairy tales--evil, no two ways about it. But the villains themselves beg to differ. In Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's new anthology for younger readers, you'll hear from the Giant's wife ("Jack and the Beanstalk"), Rumplestiltskin, the oldest of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, and many more. A stellar lineup of authors, including Garth Nix, Holly Black, Neil Gaiman and Nancy Farmer, makes sure that these old stories do new tricks!
There are times when I think the marketing and product descriptions of books do them a disservice. Troll’s-Eye View: A Book of Villainous Tales, is a perfect example. The Booklist review lists the intended audience as grades 5-8. However, editors Datlow and Windling are best known for their yearly anthologies of science fiction and horror for adults.
I’m not saying that the book is inappropriate for younger readers: anything but! As we know, though, children have a pretty high tolerance for the sinister (just see the popularity of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and The Graveyard Book!). This book will appeal to anyone and everyone. I argue that it should be put in both the children’s AND adult sections at the bookstore and library. There are definitely enough dark themes and balancing humorous incidents to make any child or adult shiver and scream with laughter.
The credit goes to the editors for rounding up such a stellar list of contributors and to the über-talented authors included in the line-up. The author list is what drew me to the book initially: I’d heard no buzz, but any text that unites my favorites (Neil Gaiman! Garth Nix! Delia Sherman! Kelly Link! Jane Yolen! Too many others to name!) can’t be bad. And it was the complete opposite of bad. It was so awesome I’m still buzzing a little bit. So go, find it, read it to your child(ren), read it for yourself, buy it for friends. It has a gorgeous and creepy cover, and there are gorgeous and creepy stories inside to match.
My favorite bit: Ellen Kushner dedicated her story, “The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces” (based on The Twelve Dancing Princesses tale) “to all oldest children everywhere, who are responsible whether they want to be or not.” As an oldest child in a large family, I can definitely appreciate that!
Complete list of contributors: Peter S. Beagle, Holly Black, Michael Cadnum, Nancy Farmer, Wendy Froud, Neil Gaiman, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Ellen Kushner, Kelly Link, Garth Nix, Delia Sherman, Midori Snyder, Joseph Stanton, Catherynne M. Valente, and Jane Yolen.
Datlow and Windling also have a couple of other anthologies for young readers: A Wolf at the Door and Swan Sister. I read Swan Sister last year and wasn’t nearly as enchanted by it, though that’s perhaps due to the fact that the Troll’s-Eye stories are unbeatably and wondrously dark, original and humorous. Villains have so much natural potential!