The Compulsive Reader: Rags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales

Friday, June 26, 2015

Rags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales

In the past year or so, I've really gotten into short story anthologies. I really love the interesting concepts and themes of a lot of the YA short story collections that are out there, broad or very precise, and how writers tie their stories into the themes in unique and unexpected ways. Rags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales, edited by Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt, is a book I picked up solely because of the subtitle. 

Retellings are an endless source of fascination to me, whether they're retellings or fairy tales, classic pieces of literature, or grand oral traditions. I think they offer some interesting insights into how people interpret the original stories and it's surprising and cool to see what resonates with the re-teller when it appears in the retold form. It's like catching a glimpse into the brain of the re-teller, which I really like since I am a nosy person.

Rags & Bones includes stories from the editors Pratt and Marr, and Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Carry Ryan, Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl, Rick Yancey, Saladin Ahmed, Kelley Armstrong, Gene Wolff, and Garth Nix, plus six illustrations by Charles Vess. The design of this book is lovely, and it's all about looking at classic tales through new and surprising lenses. The Post-Apocalyptic/Futuristic seems to be the most popular lens in this collection (no big surprise), but Neil Gaiman's "The Sleeper and the Spindle," a gender-bending (and fairy tale bending) take on Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, has all of the classic trappings of fairy tales, and it's gorgeous and surprising and probably (no, definitely) my favorite in the collection and makes this book worth purchasing, in my opinion.

I also enjoyed Garcia's retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, set in gang culture. Combining gritty, brutal realism with just an edge of magic was super fascinating, and she pulled it off magnificently. The fairy tale retellings weren't my only favorites: Pratt's version of The Jolly Corner was haunting and nostalgic, and Yancey's version of Hawthorne's "The Birth-Mark" was weird and tragic. I love that the writers aren't afraid to explore tragedy and hubris and unhappy endings--something that we see a little less of in YA novels.

This is probably not the most read-able anthology of YA fiction out there, but it is one of the more literary, interesting ones. It's one that you might not be able to power through, but will enjoy sifting through slowly. Even the illustrations offer playful twists on known tales and legends, making it a great one for teens who are interested in literature. You don't have to know every tale that is retold here, but it might inspire you to seek out a few. If you enjoyed The Curiosities by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff, this is a book for you!

Book purchased at Bear Pond Books, the most charming bookstore in Montpelier, VT.

1 comment:

LinWash said...

Sounds like a great group of authors. I like the subtitle as well.
It's interesting that Yancey's story has a happy ending. That's in keeping with many folk tales. Many of Hans Christian Andersen's stories have bittersweet endings.