A Feast of Sorrows: Stories by Angela Slatter
Prime Books, 2016
Available: Paperback, Kindle edition
Australian author and World Fantasy and British Fantasy award winner Angela Slatter’s A Feast of Sorrows is her first U.S. collection and contains fourteen dark fairy tales. This collection includes stories full of strong girls and women, fairy tale retellings, and Gothic themes. Her stories are a blend of horror and fantasy, and it is hard to pick a favourite out of this collection.
In “Light as Mist, Heavy as Hope,” a maiden leaves her home after her father strikes a bargain with a member of royalty whose coffers are drying up quickly. The lovely maiden, whose mother is long dead, is rumored to be able to spin straw into gold, but her mother is the key to her salvation. “Bluebeard’s Daughter” melds the traditional Bluebeard story with Snow White and Hansel and Gretel. “Sourdough” gives us the tale of Emmaline, who bakes pieces of art for a living. She and her mother are called upon by to compete with another bakery in town to supply a wedding with baked goods. The groom, Peregrine, is smitten with Emmaline and they begin a clandestine affair. Peregrine’s fiancé, who garnered the nickname the fox bride, is not pleased and makes her stance on their relationship known. In “The Jacaranda Wife,” an estate owner finds a mysterious woman sleeping under the jacaranda tree on his property. They eventually wed, but he becomes jealous of the grove she spends so much time in and has all of the lovely trees cut down. She’s in agony without the trees, and eventually returns home after the housekeeper leads her to the lone jacaranda tree that the master missed. A coffin maker, haunted by the ghost of her father, takes on a job to bury a widow’s husband in “The Coffin-Maker’s Daughter.” She is in love with the young widow, and thinks the feelings are mutual. They are not, but the coffin maker ensures their ties will be difficult to undo.
Slatter’s storytelling is fascinating and gripping. From the first tale to the last, I couldn’t put this book down. It becomes clear throughout that all of the stories take place in the same universe, as we see familiar characters or settings make an appearance in other tales. Highly recommended
Reviewed by Lizzy Walker