Lacey Louwagie's Reviews > Once upon a Dyke

Once upon a Dyke by Karin Kallmaker
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Aug 16, 08

bookshelves: retelling, lgbtqi
Recommended for: open minded fairy tale fans
Read in August, 2008

So, I could get all mathematical and do an average of the 4 stories in this book, some of which were 1-star material, others of which were 4-star material, but I took the easy way and just gave it a simple 3. But I'm going to review the stories independently because it seems most fair. Although, to speak of the book as a whole: I didn't realize until this book arrived that it was classified as erotica. With that said, most of the stories were character-driven enough that the sex didn't steal the show. Which is good because the sex wasn't really my cup of tea; clearly I find different activities sexy than these four authors. So, without further ado:

Story 1 - La Belle Rose by Julia Watts: This story was incredibly light on the sex and the most "innocent" of the four stories here, with its main character fairly innocent about love and sex and not really getting corrupted in the course of the story. I appreciated the reinterpretation of "the beast" as a bearded woman at a carnival. Beauty and the Beast set amongst a cast of carnies? I could get down with that. (***)

Story 2 - A Butch in Fairy Tale Land by Therese Szymanski: This was the most sex-driven and least story/character driven tale, and it was super lame. I would've put up with it if the sex was hot, but an orgy with the 7 dwarfs isn't really my ideal fantasy. Basically, this story leads a butch lesbian through a series of fairy tale dreams in which she gets to rescue and screw a lot of fairy tale characters. Then she wakes up and, hm, maybe I shouldn't give away the lame ending to this lame story in case someone actually wants to read it? (*)

Story 3 - Charlotte of Hessen by Barbara Johnson: This is a retelling of Cinderella, although you have to read fairly far in before realizing that because it starts before the stepmother and stepsisters arrive and there's nothing recognizably "Cinderella-ish" in it before that. I liked the premise of Charlotte falling in love with the prince's sister instead of him. But the whole victimhood / persecution part of this story grated on my nerves. When I was a kid, I remember Jessica asking, "Why doesn't Cinderella just tell them off?" and I've sort of wondered that ever since. But now as an adult, I know, of course, that there are all sorts of psychological factors at play in an abusive relationship. But in this particular take on Cinderella, it wasn't an examination of victimization, it was a romanticization of it, and that's annoying. (**)

Story 4 - A Fish Out of Water by Karin Kallmaker: This one is a retelling of The Little Mermaid. And at first I was annoyed that the writer used the names Ariel and Erica in it and gave them similar physical characteristics to the Disney versions, because the Disney version is a retelling in itself, so I like other retellings to stay closer to the source material. But, once I got over that (and the fact that the merfolk all had legs, but lived underwater, and the fact that the underwater scenes didn't feel like they were taking place underwater), it became clear that in this anthology, they'd saved the best for last. Karin's examination of Ariel's and Erica's attraction as a result of a "curse" laid by mersong and her gentle coaxing of them from lust and despair into love over the course of one voiceless year was really beautiful. And once Ariel was out of the ocean, this was the most visceral of the stories, with the strongest and most compelling sensory details. Out of all four authors, Karin Kallmaker is the one I'd consider reading again. (****)
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Shay Caroline I agree that three of the stories were wonderful, especially the last one, but Therese Szymanski's was just awful. And hers always are that same teenage-boy kind of nonsense. So guess who signed my copy? Uh huh. LOL.


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