At this time of year I’m always on the lookout for winter or holiday themed books, and being someone who primarily reads fantasy and science fiction, there aren’t that many to be found unless someone specifically sets about putting together a themed anthology. So when I found out about Once Upon a Winter: A Folk and Fairy Tale Anthology, I was thrilled! Even more so as it has a story from one of my favourite authors, Caroline Logan, and a few other authors on my TBR 🙂
This book was provided for free by the publishers in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to McFarlane Lantern Publishing for the opportunity to read this book!
A few stories are dark, horror-esque fairytales like the original Grimm fairytales and involve death (‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ by Bharat Krishnan and ‘The Boggart of Boggart Hole Clough’ by Jake Curran-Pipe). One of them (‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ by Bharat Krishnan) involves the death of a child/tween.
Other stories have themes of grief, depression, and other negative themes, however, nothing that I would say is particularly triggering but as this is a fairytale anthology I want people to be aware that there are darker themes present in quite a few of these stories in one way or another.
Once Upon a Winter: A Folk and Fairy Tale Anthology is the first of four planned seasonal anthologies from Macfarlane Lantern Publishing, and if this first anthology is anything to go by you’ll want to ensure you check out the other three too! This beautiful anthology pulls together a variety of stories with the core themes of winter, folklore and fairytales, and the result is an incredible mix of talent. This is an anthology that draws on every essence of folklore and fairytales, from the magical to the downright terrifying, so while there are some stories in here that are perfect for sharing with the family during the holidays (The Snowdrop by H. L. Macfarlane springs to mind) there are also some that are not child-friendly (such as ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ by Bharat Krishnan and ‘The Boggart of Boggart Hole Clough’ by Jake Curran-Pipe). These two lean towards the traditional Grimm fairytales where things aren’t all sugar and spice…
As with all anthologies, some stories resonated with me and some didn’t. The only one that failed to completely, and I admit I had to skip it, was the first one; ‘The Biting Cold’ by Josie Jaffrey. I suspect the choice to put this one first was to get the reader into the right frame of mind, however, I’m not a fan of second perspective stories (where the writer uses the pronoun “you” to address the reader rather than “I” or a gender pronoun) and instead of helping me identify with winter it only alienated me as a reader. Thankfully, after that one story, everything else was a vast improvement.
Only one other story stuck out as feeling a bit odd, and that was ‘Queen of the Snows’ by Joyce Reynolds-Ward. It was a good story, very interesting premise, but it felt as though it was a chapter of a larger story that had been cut out and repackaged as a short story. As a short story, it didn’t make sense, and it didn’t feel as though it had an actual ending, which was a shame because it was so good.
Normally I find the humorous story in an anthology like this to be infantile and terrible, so I feel that I have to give ‘The Snow Trolls by S. Markem‘ a nod for being exactly what it was supposed to be; silly and fun. It had me groaning and facepalming, but that was the point of the story. Thank you for remembering that humour is about being fun and not laughing at someone (the snow trolls not withstanding…).
Another win for me with this anthology was that the publisher, Macfarlane Lantern Publishing, is very local to me. It was a pleasure to read an anthology by a local Scottish publisher which included Scottish writers too.
The full list of stories in Once Upon a Winter: A Folk and Fairy Tale Anthology is as follows. I’ve marked my favourites with a *
The Biting Cold by Josie Jaffrey
The Match Girl by Rebecca F. Kenney *
Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Bharat Krishnan
A Pea Ever After by Adie Hart *
The Snowdrop by H. L. Macfarlane *
Silverfoot’s Edge by Ella Holmes
The Storm Hags by Caroline Logan *
The Boggart of Boggart Hole Clough by Jake Curran-Pipe
Around the Hawthorne Tree by Jenna Smithwick *
The Best Girl this Side of Winter by Laila Amado
The Snow Trolls by S. Markem
Lord of the Forest by Katherine Shaw *
Queen of the Snows by Joyce Reynolds-Ward
Long Meg and the Sorcerer’s Stones by M. J. Weatherall
The Frost of Mercy by A. J. Van Belle
Wintercast by R. A. Gerritse
You Can’t See Me by Kate Longstone *
Over to you
Thanks for reading my review for Once Upon a Winter: A Folk and Fairy Tale Anthology!
Do you like to read something wintery or festive at this time of year? Let me know in the comments 🙂
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