As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

November 14, 2012


Designed for gift giving, an illustrated collection of classic fairy tales, rendered in modern prose by such celebrated authors as A. S. Byatt and John Ashbery, explores the battle of good and evil and the endless quest for love. (Amazon)

Reviewed by Kate, book aficionado

I have to say I was happy to purchase WONDER TALES. I read some fairy tales (or here they are wonder tales) that I've never heard of before. They also pushed the boundaries. Thus proving that before many were sanitized, fairy tales held heavier adult themes for both entertainment and warnings. Be warned here come a few SPOILERS. I rated them separately out of 5 stars (per tale) as follows:

*Introduction-Good beginning telling how these stories came to be, and their social commentary for their time in France. There could have been a little more examples, as well as humorous bits. 3/5 stars

*The White Cat-A much more detailed version than prior ones I've read of for this d'Aulnoy story. This included more on the cat's back story at the near end (maybe too much). But with so much detail throughout, I felt less surprise build-up for the ending. But this could be biased, since I did read other translations. Also I am not sure which is more authentic now of the 3 versions I've read (1. Dealt with leisure, 2. Dealt with a fight not mentioned elsewhere, 3. Dealt with back story). 3/5 stars

*The Subtle Princess-My favorite tale I'd never read before. I loved the characters in the books, particularly the clever Finessa and rakish Richcraft (I enjoyed their battle of wits). This tale is not a little kiddie's story. It deals with a ladies' man, trusts and mistrusts, character flaws, a clever heroine, gruesome deaths, and revenge. I do declare that if this was made into a revamped YA NOVEL, I would read it in a heartbeat (seriously someone get to it). 4.5/5 stars

*Bearskin-I liked this story, which I also had never read before. Another great story of transformation. I have one nit-picky thing about it, though. It is dealing with the details of how the people living, dead, and missing through most of the story appear at the end (slightly a deus ex machina moment). 4/5 stars

*The Counterfeit Marquise-Another interesting one now dealing with gender roles. I found it not really a fairy tale as more of a "wonder" tale. Nothing really magical occurs, except for fate seeming to intervene in these characters' lives. I like to see that back in that time there weren't such rigid guidelines, as in other eras on how a lady or man should depict themselves. It is more like commentary in that men of the era could wear heels, powder, and wigs and not be chastised for it. They too "dolled" themselves up. Interesting turn of events at the end for our heroine/hero. 3.5/5 stars

*Starlight-Another lovely fairy tale, that if revamped today it surely would be a large novel. I enjoyed the main characters and creatures that appeared. I do comment though that the island of Quietlife seemed to sidetrack from the lover's story. Though I do also see some necessity in it by helping the Prince Izmir become a more capable ruler. I also found the transformation slightly unnecessary at the end. Mainly because the fairy nor Starlight were detailed as to being on the watch for pursuers after Starlight. I guess it was more or less meant to surprise Izmir at the end. 3/5 stars.

*The Great Green Worm-Another new tale introduced to me about transformations. This one looking at how curiosity can be a downfall, and how the best beauty is in the soul. I enjoyed the twists and turns for our heroine, Hidessa, and her search for happiness and love. My only problem is that I felt Hidessa got off a little easy on her curiosity crime. But then again she has a fairy godmother. 3.5/5 stars

Market: Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Anthology, Folklore
Language: Mild, if anything
Sensuality: Moderate, more implied off behind the written scenes
Violence: Moderate, with medieval torture moments that the Grimm Brothers would love
Mature Themes: Kidnapping, Murder, Death, Seduction

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