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Swan Sister: Fairy Tales Retold
edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
Simon & Schuster, 165 pages

Swan Sister: Fairy Tales Retold
Ellen Datlow
Ellen Datlow was the fiction editor of OMNI from 1981 until it folded in 1998. She now works as the fiction editor of SCIFI.COM. Her well-deserved reputation as an editor for both this series and for the Fairy Tale Anthologies series (both with Terri Windling) has garnered her numerous awards.

SCIFI.COM
ISFDB Bibliography

Terri Windling
Terri Windling is a five-time World Fantasy Award winner, a consulting fantasy editor at Tor, the author of The Wood Wife (winner of the Mythopoeic Award) and other fiction, and writes a popular folklore column for Realms of Fantasy magazine.

Terri Windling Website
ISFDB Bibliography

SF Site Review: The Green Man
SF Site Review: The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, 14th Annual Collection
SF Site Review: Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, 13th Annual Collection
SF Site Review: Black Heart, Ivory Bones
SF Site Review: Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, 12th Annual Collection
SF Site Review: Silver Birch, Blood Moon
SF Site Review: Black Swan, White Raven
SF Site Review: Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, 11th Annual Collection
SF Site Review: Year's Best Fantasy & Horror: 10th Annual Collection
SF Site Review: Fairy Tale Anthologies

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Alma A. Hromic

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I confess to a soft spot for all things fairy-tale. I cut my teeth on Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, and I had access to all kinds of versions, even the older ones, less sanitized than the later incarnations which were so carefully cleaned up for the sensitive children of the new ages. There is a raw power in the fairy tale, a great truth hidden behind the silver tissue of lies. Be it Cinderella or something from Scheherezade's tales, the fairy tale has a Presence with a capital P.

The classics will always be with us, but the classics, to Datlow and Windling, are not so much a final destination as the starting point of a journey which can take the reader to places quite unexpected. Swan Sister is a collection of 13 stories from such luminaries as Jane Yolen, Tanith Lee, Midori Snyder and Neil Gaiman. (Is there an anthology out there without a Gaiman story in it right now?) Some of the stories (Yolen's "Greenkid", for instance) left me with the impression that they were somehow truncated -- the story was nice and complete and all that but there were things in it that were crying out to be developed further rather than just left stuffed willy-nilly into a tale as fairy-story window dressing. But I loved the old-fashioned feel of Christopher Rowe's "The Children of Tilford Fortune", and Gregory Frost's "The Harp That Sang" is a story with true fairy-tale grimness in it however well it lies disguised -- this is a story in the tradition of the original Cinderella, the one where real blood comes dripping out of the glass slipper. The Neil Gaiman offering is actually a poem, and in true Gaiman style -- the man is a born storyteller, that's all there is to that -- it's almost perfect.

But the real gift of this collection is the title story, "Swan Sister" by Katherine Vaz. This is a writer I had never heard of before I saw this story -- fittingly the last in this collection -- but if the rest of the stuff listed in her bibliography is half as powerful as "Swan Sister" then I want to read all of it, right now. There are writers out there who can make you smile; there are writers who can make a lump come to your throat; but with this story Katherine Vaz joins that rare group of writers who can make you cry real tears, and have your heart smiling with the joy of it. This story alone is worth buying the collection for, even if the other twelve stories it contains weren't enough as and of themselves.

Long live the fairy tale, in guises old and new. The children who live in us all will never stop needing them.

Copyright © 2003 Alma A. Hromic

Alma A. Hromic, addicted (in random order) to coffee, chocolate and books, has a constant and chronic problem of "too many books, not enough bookshelves". When not collecting more books and avidly reading them (with a cup of coffee at hand), she keeps busy writing her own. Following her successful two-volume fantasy series, Changer of Days, her latest novel, Jin-shei, is due out from Harper San Francisco in the spring of 2004.


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