Whether they begin “Once upon a time…” or “Mukashi, mukashi…,” fairy tales all begin some time a long time ago, quite often in places without real names. The kingdoms are feudal, evil mostly comes in the form of magic and/or giant beasts that must be defeated and slayed. And, as so many people have commented so many times, they usually star a young man who achieves greatness…and gets the girl as a reward. If you’re an active, self-willed young lady, this can become irritating over time. You start looking around and you find the story of Vasalisa, who uses wits and luck to overcome the witch Baba Yaga, read Barbara Walker’s Feminist Fairy Tales or more contemporary stories like Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch. In fact, it’s hard to not roll one’s eyes at the idea of reworking fairy tales as, by now, it seems to have been done to death. If you’re a gay girl, there’s even Melinda Lo’s Ash, to give Cinderella a much cooler lover than a prince with a shoe fetish.
In Valor, a Kickstarter funded anthology, 24 creators take a look at stories that we know, unravel them, rethink them, revamp them, reweave them and sometimes just create something wholly new and amazing. The collection spans multiple cultures, with both prose and graphic stories.
Some of the stories are merely riffs on well-known tales, such as the above-mentioned story of “Vasalisa,” retold by Kadi Fedoruk or the “Crane Wife,” rendered here by Alex Singer and Jayd Ait-Kaci, and some are wholly original tales, such as the prose “Finette” by Megan Lavey-Heaton and Ran Brown or the gorgeous no-text graphic “Nautilus” by Ash Barnes and Elena “Yamino” Babarich.
Several stories are reworkings of timeless and well-known stories. Of these, my two favorites were “The Steadfast Automaton” again by Alex Singer and Jayd Ait-Kaci, which was a steampunk/scifi version of the Constant Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Anderson with heavy shades of Offenbach’s opera, Tales of Hoffman…and “Goldie Locks,” by Joanne Webster and Isabelle Melançon, a clever and fun riff on the classic tale of breaking and entering.
So, while it may seem that this anthology has “been done,” I’d argue that there can never, ever be enough versions of timeless tales. Heck, I wrote a series of Sailor Moon/Arthurian Legend mashups. How can there *ever* be too many reworkings of archetypes?! And in the case of Valor, we have certainly not seen this version of these fairytales done this way before.
There is a nice selection of sexualities in the collection, as well. Some of the heroines get a prince, others get a princess and all get themselves which, in many ways, is the best ending of all.
Overall – 9
You can buy Valor online, and frankly, I think you should. It’s an entertaining collection full of things you’ve never read before – even if you have read them before. ^_^