Review: Rags & Bones

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Rags & BonesRags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales by Melissa Marr, Tim Pratt
on October 22, 2013
Genres: Anthologies, Retelling, Short Stories
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book Depository

The best writers of our generation retell the classics.

Literature is filled with sexy, deadly, and downright twisted tales. In this collection, award-winning and bestselling authors reimagine their favorite classic stories, ones that have inspired, awed, and enraged them; ones that have become ingrained in modern culture; and ones that have been too long overlooked. They take these stories and boil them down to their bones, and then reassemble them for a new generation of readers.

With anthologies, the reading experience is always going to be a mixed bag. Rags & Bones is one I’ll remember as a favorite anthology. Typically, I struggle a bit with short stories, but the good solidly outweighed the rest in this one. The concept, too, is delightfully original. Rather than retelling fairy tales (for the most part), these authors tackle lesser-known classic tales to great effect.

“That the Machine May Progress Eternally” by Carrie Ryan, based on E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops”: As I have not read the inspiring work, I can judge Ryan’s retelling solely on its own merits. A brother and sister, exploring the mysterious world underground ruled by the machine, become separated. The brother ends up in a room controlled by the machine. At first he fights it, but he comes to believe in the machine and little else. Ryan’s story is dark, intellectual, and not really young adult so far as I can tell. The establishment of what was going on above, which is apparently a post-apocalyptic scenario according to Ryan’s comments at the end, was shaky, but otherwise this was a solid, if somewhat dry, effort. 3.5/5

“Losing Her Divinity” by Garth Nix, based on Rudyard Kipling’s “The Man Who Would Be King”: Yet again, I’m not familiar with the original story. However, Garth Nix’s retelling definitely is not for me. He uses second person narration, which is pretty much the only narrative style I’m highly opposed to. The main character, the one talking to you, is a pompous windbag, who I find incredibly boring. The story itself, of a dual-natured goddess determined to become human, is compelling, but the way in which Nix told it didn’t work for me. 2/5

“The Sleeper and the Spindle” by Neil Gaiman, based on “Sleeping Beauty”: Without doubt, this is my favorite Neil Gaiman work to date. Of course, I’ve not read everything he’s written, but, of the ones I have, this one really blew me away. Now, the anthology lists his inspiration as “Sleeping Beauty,” which is true, but not the whole story. This is, in fact, a mashup of “Sleeping Beauty” and “Snow White,” and, lo, it is beautiful. The story has LGBT undertones and puts unique twists on the unraveling of the classic tales. 5/5

“The Cold Corner” by Tim Pratt, based on Henry James’ “The Jolly Corner”: Pratt’s tale, again based on a story I do not know, considers the roads not take, the alternate paths which one life could have taken. A young man, older than a teenager, returns home, his dreams of opening his own restaurant temporarily crushed in the wake of embarrassment in a reality television cooking show and getting fired from his job as a chef. At home, he encounters visions of himself had he done something else. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the food, the concept and the bisexual main character. 4/5

“Millcara” by Holly Black, based on Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Carmilla”: Apparently a retelling of “Carmilla” with a perspective swap. It’s sort of like a paranormal Heartbreakers. Runs more to gothic than outright horror. 3/5

“When First We Were Gods” by Rick Yancey, based on “The Birth-Mark” by Nathaniel Hawthorne:Yancey’s tale takes place in a future where a cure for death has been found, by the means of growing replacement bodies. Only the wealthy can afford this, and they marry and divorce throughout eternity. When a wealthy eternal falls in love with his wife’s assistant, who has but one life to live, certain realities of an eternal life must be confronted. The plot has some strong elements, but the characters are almost all entirely facile, to a point, yes, but still frustratingly so. Also, the story goes on and on, the longest in the collection, and by no means the best. This never bodes well. The real kiss of death for me with this story is that I’ve read something similar but much better done: The Postmortal by Drew Magary. It may not be fair that this colors my reading of Yancey’s short story, but so it goes. 2/5

“Sirocco by Margaret Stohl, based on Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto: Stohl’s contribution to the anthology lives up to my expectations in that it isn’t very good. A mysterious murder occurs on the set of the filming of a movie of The Castle of Otranto. Shocking! A boy and girl investigate and flirt with a complete lack of chemistry. A number of pop culture references are made that won’t be relevent a decade from now. 1.5/5

“Awakened” by Melissa Marr, based on Kate Chopin’sThe Awakening: Marr turns The Awakening, for which I am now spoiled but also intrigued, into a selchie (or selkie) story. Wow, I’ve enjoyed Marr’s work before, but this was a lot darker and more resonant than the others. Her comments after the story, which go into women’s rights and politics, really solidified this one as a favorite in the anthology. 5/5

“New Chicago” by Kelley Armstrong, based on W. W. Jacobs’ “The Monkey’s Paw”: I remember reading “The Monkey’s Paw” in sixth grade and how creepy it was. That story has rather haunted me, much like the movie version did Kelley Armstrong. The theme of being careful what you wish for isn’t a new one by any means, bit Armstrong infuses it with some nice characterization and a post-apocalyptic setting. 4.5/5

“The Soul Collector” by Kami Garcia, based on The Brothers Grimm’s “Rumpelstiltskin”: Surprisingly, I enjoyed this one. Garcia’s take on Rumpelstiltskin is dark and gritty, set in an underworld of drugs and mobsters. Two things annoyed me, though: 1) View Spoiler » 2) The ending, which deviates from the story, where the rest was pretty consistent to the original. View Spoiler » 3/5

“Without Faith, Without Law, Without Joy” by Saladin Ahmed, based on Sir Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queen: Another one that really just doesn’t work for me. Ahmed’s story is about a bunch of brothers whose names have been taken by a godlike figure and the quest to get them back. 2/5

“Uncaged” by Gene Wolfe, based on William Seabrook’s “The Caged White Werewolf of the Saraban”: A man goes to Africa, gets married, and then discovers his wife might actually be a leopard-woman. This, friends, is the reason for long engagements. Interesting enough idea, but I wasn’t really feeling it. 2.5/5

Though I’m sure Rags & Bones has even more of an impact on those who are familiar with the original tales, this anthology is full of delightful reimaginings in a wide range of settings. Many of the stories don’t particularly read like YA, but they’re enjoyable just the same.

3 responses to “Review: Rags & Bones”

  1. Meg says:

    I have conflicting feelings about anthologies (one the one hand yay! lots of stories! on the other, boo! they’re short!) but I love retellings and anything Neil Gaiman gets involved in is at least worth consideration, especially if it involves fairytales in any way, shape or form. Plus, these sound kind of awesome so I’m definitely adding it to my wishlist.

    This review had the added bonus of reminding me that I really want to read The Postmortal by Drew Magary because he is hilarious and I love his GQ profiles. The one he did of Justin Bieber had me crying due to extreme hilarity.

  2. I’m very excited about this book, because I’m a fan of fairy tales. I can’t wait to read the story from Neil Gaiman and Kami Garcia. I haven’t got much luck with anthologies in the past, but I’m looking forward to see how this one turns out 🙂 Great review!
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted…Early Review 205. Julie Kagawa – The iron traitor.My Profile

  3. I’ve been reading a lot from anthologies in my spare time — I try to do one short story a day, but usually end up forgetting so then they take me forever to get through.


    The point of this is to say I am excited about Rags & Bones and yay you liked and also I cackled over the this lived up to my expectations in that it was terrible. LUL.

    Also. My knowledge of the monkey paw comes from the Treehouse of Horror episode of the Simpsons where they get the monkey paw and mess everything up and aliens come but then Flanders has the paw and has like the best life ever hahahaha.
    April Books & Wine recently posted…Allison: All The Truth That’s In Me | Julie Berry | Book ReviewMy Profile

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