Review: 'How To Fracture a Fairy Tale' by Jane Yolen

Fairy tales were my first love. In the house where I grew up there was a specific bookshelf dedicated to fairy tales from all over the world. African, Hebrew, Asian or Native American fairy tales, all were collected there and I just loved opening those books and entering a different, more magical world. I have fallen in love repeatedly with fairy tales in different guises, whether it is through novel adaptations or through re-workings. And now this has led me to Jane Yolen's How to Fracture a Fairy Tale. Thanks to Tachyon Publications and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Pub. Date: 15/11/2018
Publisher: Tachyon Publications

 “Jane Yolen facets her glittering stories with the craft of a master jeweller.”—Elizabeth Wein, author of Code Name Verity 
“One of the treasures of the science fiction community.” —Brandon Sanderson, author of Mistborn
 “[Yolen is] the Aesop of the twentieth century”—The New York Times

Fantasy icon Jane Yolen, adored by generations of readers of all ages, returns with this inspired collection of wholly-transformed fairy-tales, legends, and myths. 
Yolen fractures the classics to reveal their crystalline secrets: a philosophical bridge who misses its troll; spinner of straw as a falsely-accused moneylender, the villainous wolf poorly adjusting to retirement. Each offering features an intimate new author note and poem, allowing readers to discover stories old, new, and beautifully refined for the complicated world in which we live.  
 I have to admit I hadn't heard of Jane Yolen before this collection. Just how I have managed to miss her will remain a mystery but I was immediately drawn to How to Fracture a Fairy Tale on its premise alone. I have always thought of fairy tales as a mirror. They reflect our reality but twist it ever so slightly, thereby revealing deeper truths we can't see in our own lives. Sometimes the morals of these fairy tales are very clear, sometimes fairy tales have been so twisted to make them more "appropriate" that hardly anything remains of them. Authors like Jane Yolen, or for example Angela Carter, take these tales we all think we know so well, and fracture them. Suddenly the mirror shows us all kinds of other sides we had never considered. Suddenly the Beauty and the Beast tale has a different meaning, and suddenly Snow White isn't half as innocent as she seemed. This is how fairy tales continue to have meaning in different ages and for different people. Also, fractured fairy tales are very often bad ass!

'With their basis in well-known fairy tales, ;legends, and myths, the stories contained here are familiar, but only to a point. Some have been altered in ways that are subtle, yet profound. others have been smashed into pieces and glued back together. They have been reimagined, reworked, and, now, retold.
The result?
Poetry. Wishes. Heartache. Dreams.'
Thus describes Marissa Meyer the fairy tales in How to Fracture a Fairy Tale and I couldn't agree more. Each story in this collection feels oddly familiar, as if you've met it before, and yet it shows itself to be a completely different creature than you'd thought. 'Snow in Summer' is a modern take on the Snow White tale where our heroine sees the old lady for who she is.'The Moon Ribbon' is a magical take on the Cinderella story that feels both mystical and slightly horrifying. 'Happy Dens or A Day in the Old Wolves' home' tells us not to trust blindly in the stories handed down to us, especially if they're about wolves. One of my favourite, although that is hardly the right word, stories in How to Fracture a Fairy Tale is 'Granny Rumple'. Yolen uses the Rumpelstiltskin story to do many difficult things. She shows us how stories are used to explain history, how prejudices underlie stereotypes, and how pervasive anti-antisemitism is. In stories like 'The Foxwife' and 'One Ox, Two Ox, Three Ox, and the Dragon King' Yolen explores Asian fairy tales, while 'Sun/Flight' is a fascinating take on the tale of Icarus. 'Allerleirauh' is a truly tragic tale and 'Wrestling with Angels' made me want to cry. How to Fracture a Fairy Tale has something for everyone and shows Yolen's range. The tales are followed by a 'Notes and Poems' section, with each tale linked to a poem and explanation. Usually this doesn't really do much for me, but I enjoyed seeing Yolen combine story themes across prose and poetry, especially because she seems delightful in her Notes!

Jane Yolen is an icon of fantasy writing, as I realized once I started reading. She has written and edited hundreds of novels and stories throughout her long career. In How to Fracture a Fairy Tale Yolen employs all the necessary tools to keep readers engaged. Her stories are funny, outrageous, epic, dreamy, and everything in between. Yolen moves almost seamlessly between these different atmospheres and each story is solid in its own right. Yolen writes with joy and that joy infects the reader as well. In a number of stories Yolen uses her own family history and Jewish heritage to fracture the tales. Although that doesn't make them any easier to read, it does show just how intrinsic fairy tales are. They are elemental, in a way. We all grow up with stories and they are intensely personal and widely universal all at once. In each story in How to Fracture a Fairy Tale Yolen's love for stories comes through and that is what kept me exploring each new story. Not all of the stories necessarily clicked for me, perhaps it showed me a fracture I wasn't interested in seeing. But each story nonetheless taught me something interesting about its foundation story, let me look at these characters and themes anew.

I give this collection...

4 Universes!

I really enjoyed the wide variety of stories in How to Fracture a Fairy Tale. Yolen is a pro and handles each in such a way it shines anew. Some of the stories are cheeky fun, the others are beautifully tragic. In the end, there is a story for everyone in this collection. I am now off to explore Yolen's other work. Apparently there are books about wizards!


  1. Great review! I'm aware of Jane Yolen, but I'm not sure that I've read anything by her :O I'll have to check this out.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts