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The Starlit Wood

(The Universe of Xuya #Pearl)

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  1,667 ratings  ·  406 reviews
An all-new anthology of cross-genre fairy tale retellings, featuring an all-star lineup of award-winning and critically acclaimed writers.

Once upon a time. It’s how so many of our most beloved stories start.

Fairy tales have dominated our cultural imagination for centuries. From the Brothers Grimm to the Countess d’Aulnoy, from Charles Perrault to Hans Christian Anderson, s
Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Published October 18th 2016 by Saga Press
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Average rating 3.79  · 
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 ·  1,667 ratings  ·  406 reviews

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Elena May
Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This short story receives my vote for first place in the 2017 Hugo Awards.

A twisted fairy-tale with a great message.

Two heroines, each trapped in her own tale. One is a prisoner on a glass hill, the other – doomed to walk the world in iron shoes, until she had worn down seven pair. But no one cursed them to this fate – each chose it herself. It’s supposed to be an atonement, or a way to protect the world. The world tells them it is their fault, and they believe it. It is Amira’s fault men can’t
Winner of Nebula and Hugo Award for Best Short Story 2017

Ironically, this was the last story I read in my Nebula short story marathon.

The story introduces two women and their own unique issues and situations. The story is set in a medieval fantasy world filled with mysterious magic and elements. The underlying theme is about letting go and moving forward(?) even though it is a scary thing to do. It is also about finding love(?). I am really not very sure. This is one of those tales which tells
Althea Ann
Jan 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Available to read, here:

The message overtakes the story a bit, in this allegorical piece. We're introduced to two fairytale tropes. One woman is cursed to have to wear out seven pairs of magical iron shoes. The other sits at the top of a glass mountain, while uncouth suitors attempt to scale the summit. Friendship and female empowerment will free them both from the unfair demands of men.

Merged review:

**** In the Desert Like a Bone • Seanan McGuire
Apr 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-shelf, fantasy
Reading to prepare myself for the '17 Hugo Nominations, this nom is available online.

It's a story of two females locked into rather interesting mythological stories, both of them trapped in both painful and degrading situations and eventually finding solace and freedom in each other.

The mythos, itself is a curious blend of old tales, such as having to wear out seven pairs of metal shoes before being able to break her husband's bear-curse or in the other case, having being forced upon a mountaint
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Having now read the whole book - the original review was for one story whose record was merged with the book - I can safely say that this definitely lives up to the promise of that first story.

There's some great writers here: Naomi Novik, Kat Howard, Seanan McGuire, Daryl Gregory...and so on. They've all brought an inventive eye to putting a new spin on some of our oldest stories; even the stories I wasn't enjoying were at least creative.

Some of my favourites; The super ultra duchess of fedora f
Sara Saif
Feb 08, 2018 rated it liked it

It's hard to enjoy a retelling for what it is when you either only vaguely recognize the name of the fairytale or have never heard of one in your entire life. Which was the case with more than half of the fairytale retellings in this book. Killed it for me.

I know only the most popular ones and I haven't read the complete works of the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson. My general expectation from this book was fun retellings like Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver of the famous fairytales lik
In the introduction, editors Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe express their desire to revisit the wonderful, strange, and alien of fairy tales. "In keeping with that original model of composite storytelling," they say, "we decided to run fairy tales through a prism, to challenge our authors to look at stories from an unusual angle, to bring them back into different genres and traditions, to--if you will--return them to their cross-genre roots." And they've certainly done this in this collection. ...more
Ellie (faerieontheshelf)
↠ 4 stars

I love fairytale retellings/the retelling genre overall, so I was super excited to finally get around to The Starlit Wood. On the whole, I do generally enjoy short story collections (I know some people don't and I understand why; short stories can sometimes be underdeveloped and frustrating), and I freely admit I had high hopes for this one. It certainly helps that this book is gorgeously designed, fashioned with an imitation old-style spine that would be at home in an old library, an
I've read a thousand fairy tale retellings, and I would have said that genre had been mined fairly extensively. This is a brilliant reinvigoration. Not every story was a hit with me, but even when I didn't love a story I loved the author's note afterward explaining their inspiration. My favorite was probably Amal El-Mohtar's Seasons of Glass and Iron, but all in all it's an excellent anthology.
Bonus points for the stunning cover.
This book was a rather fun collection of fairy-tale retellings. Though I didn't enjoy every story equally, I find that I'm now thinking kindly about this anthology as a whole. Bracketed by good, very enjoyable, stories and with at least two great ones in the mix, I really enjoyed the time I spent with this book. :-)

There was one line in this book that startled a laugh out of me: In "Giants in the Sky" by Max Gladstone, on page 195, the narrator says, "I'm not asking you to solve quantum gravity
Jan 06, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tadiana
For all the Big Name authors whose stories are included, this anthology proved to be surprisingly mediocre. I could only find a couple retellings that were interesting: Howard's story and Novik's short story version of what'd later be the novel Spinning Silver. Quite unfortunate, as I suspect readers that might come to know the authors for the first time through this collection will be disappointed and get an incorrect impression of them, as these aren't by any means their best work.

Although it
Jun 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hugo, fantasy, fairy-tale
Simply the most brilliant story I've read this year.

I refuse to tell you anything about it, because I think everybody should approach it with no preconceptions beyond "most brilliant story I've read this year."
Feb 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting fantasy short story about women working out the world's unfair expectations of them. It's free here:
More reviews available at my blog, Beauty and the Bookworm.

It recently came across my radar that Naomi Novik, of the breaktaking Uprooted, would be putting out a book later this year called Spinning Silver, which would be an expanded take on the 30-page short story of the same title in this collection. That was enough for me to snap it up, and other stories by the likes of Garth Nix and Max Gladstone were extra treats.

A few notes about the collection as a whole. First, these are not "new" fairy
This 2016 anthology of 18 fairy tale retellings boasted plenty of recognizable names in fantasy and/or YA (Seanan McGuire, Charlie Jane Anders, Garth Nix, Margo Lanagan, Marjorie Liu, Catherynne M. Valente), but the reason I sought it out was because it featured the short story version of Naomi Novik's "Spinning Silver." I read her book Uprooted earlier this year, and it's become one of my favorite fantasies ever. A genre book that transcends genre. And if you have to read one fairy tale retelli ...more
Jul 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
A strong 3.5 stars.

Beautifully written, both moody / dream-like and very palpable at times. The imagery was great (particularly the apple). I guess a part of me would have liked it to be a little more explicitly queer/a little less didactic, but then, aren't fairy-tales didactic by default? So in a way, it fits.

Jul 25, 2020 rated it liked it
A decent compilation of fairy tale retellings, and one of few in which I read (or attempted) all the stories. As usual with anthologies, some of the stories worked for me and others really did not. Some brief reading notes on the more memorable stories:

Seanan McGuire, "In the Desert Like a Bone": McGuire's strengths - atmosphere, creativity, and crystalline prose - are perhaps best displayed in her short fiction. In her novels, I find myself unconvinced by her characters and annoyed a
A nice collection about fairytale retellings, with an adult and often dark tone.

I didn't enjoy all the stories, some were difficult to enter or too much strange or boring for my tastes. On another hand, some were delightful or very well thought, with original settings (space, wild west, drugs, etc) or insights about society problems, giving some fun to the read and adding twists to the stories. On average, my rating should be 3.5stars, but it's a satisfying collection with a not so easy choice
Jun 05, 2017 rated it liked it
“What’s strong is the shoes women are made to wear: shoes of glass, shoes of paper, shoes of iron. Heated red hot; shoes to dance to death in.”

Good story. Well-developed. A finalist for 2017 Hugo Award for short stories.

“Magic is magic is magic and there is always a stronger magic.”

Contrary to the tag, not a “gay” story. It’s a story “about two women reaching out of their respective tales,” the author says in her notes. “The enormity of what friendship means.” I try to read stories cold--that is
Artur Nowrot
What interested me the most about this collection was the range of approaches to the main theme: new fairy tales. The first part is full of what in my creative writing-studying days would be called “critical-creative re-writings”, stories that are simultaneously essays about the originals (every story in the anthology was inspired by one of the classic fairy tales), with digressive passages making the themes explicit. About 1/3 of the way through this changes and what follows is regular short st ...more
Perhaps, she thinks, what’s strange is the shoes women are made to wear: shoes of glass; shoes of paper; shoes of iron heated red–hot; shoes to dance to death in.

The two female protagonists of this story are both bound by their fairytale curses, and they must decide whether it's worth leaving them behind. I loved how this story was a classic fairytale and yet the opposite of one, and it also referenced many other stories about women and curses.

That being said... I roll my eyes at the Wikipedia s
Jan 17, 2019 rated it liked it
I read eight out of eightteen stories. Of those I read most were good-very good. There were two that I disliked. I read this anthology because it was a BOM on one of my groups.

My favorite story was the Sleeping Beauty re-telling "The Briar and the Rose" by Marjorie Liu. It was an interesting premise and I loved the protagonists.

Special mention of "The Badgirl, The Deadman and the Wheel of Fortune" by Cathrynne M. Valente for being the only fiction by this author that I've read in which I thought
Sep 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a collection of fairy tales and folklore. All 18 stories are short and easy to finish in one sitting. The settings are widely varied from the old west to modern day and the genre are science fiction, horror, fantasy and common place fiction. I enjoyed most of the stories, a couple I didn't care for but that's the great thing about anthologies, there is something for everyone. I'd recommend this for short story fans as well as fantasy lovers. ...more
Oct 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Got to read an ARC for this one. There was one or two stories I didn't much care for, but overall it's a solid anthology full of new takes on classic fairytales. I can't be too specific without giving away spoilers, so I'll just say that my favorite stories in this anthology were ones where the "princesses" were able to save themselves or save each other.
River Song
⭐️⭐️ In the desert like a bone
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Underground
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Even the crumbs were delicious
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The super ultra duchess of Fedora Forest
⭐️ Familiaris
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Seasons of glass and iron
⭐️⭐️ Badgirl, the Deadman and the wheel of fortune
⭐️⭐️⭐️ Penny for a match, Mister?
⭐️⭐️⭐️ Some wait
⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Thousand Eyes
Mar 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories, horror
Normally I adore fairy tale retellings, but I really struggled with many of the stories in this book. There were some fantastic pieces, but I bounced off more than I immersed in, which is really unusual for me for this type of story.
Anna Nesterovich
I picked up this book just for one story, the very last one in the book, by Naomi Novik. And it certainly didn't dissapoint. But there is a reason why I don't like collections of short stories. How do I rate the whole collection? Based on the best story? Does the most fantastic one make up for all the rubbish, making the book worth buying? Or maybe based on the worst story? Then all my ratings of such collections would reflect my dislike of them. Or maybe an average? Or a median?

I was reading st
Dec 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"From the woods to the stars, join us on eighteen extraordinary journeys into unexpected territories, uncharted lands, and unforeseen experiences. Welcome to an adventure that's strangely familiar and startlingly different at the same time. You're likely to emerge changed, but isn't that the way it is with all the best stories?

An excellent anthology with lovely, intricate illustrations. (Take a peek at a few on the illustrator's website.) Most times with collections I'm prepared to trudge th

Way before I joined Gr's, reading anthologies was a favourite _ well sometimes only _ way to discover new authors; now, not so much. Now, my TBR list has reached such an unmanageable dimension that most times I don't even go looking for new books.
But... as most of you know, I may have a slight obsession with fairy tale retellings; that means that when a book with a title and cover such as this one, is released, I read it. And hope for the best.

In the Desert Like a Bone by Seanan McGuire 3.5
Jerry Jose
May 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Congratulations on Nebula, and congratulations on tricking me into reading Fantasy.

This story in its essentials, felt like a modern day retelling of two Brothers Grimm fairy tales - Bearskin and Old Rinkrank that I barely remember from my childhood (my memory might as well be wrong here). What I loved about the narrative was the ambiguity that followed Tabitha and Amira, like they were already part of a well expanded universe, the details of which readers are free to imagine. In this retell
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Dominik Parisien is an editor, poet, and writer. He is the co-editor, along with Navah Wolfe, of The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Robots vs Fairies, and The Mythic Dream. With Elsa Sjnunneson-Henry, he is the co-editor of Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction.

His work has appeared in The Fiddlehead, The Humber Literary Review, Arc Poetry Magazine, Quill & Quire, Uncanny Magazine, Strange Hori

Other books in the series

The Universe of Xuya (1 - 10 of 45 books)
  • Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight
  • The Jaguar House, in Shadow
  • Asimov's Science Fiction, July 2010 (Asimov's Science Fiction, #414)
  • Space and Time, Summer 2010
  • The Lost Xuyan Bride
  • Interzone 213, December 2007 (Interzone, #213)
  • The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Sixth Annual Collection
  • Asimov's Science Fiction, August 2012
  • Anthology of European SF
  • Asimov's Science Fiction, February 2011

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