Stars: 5 out of 5.
Now this is a fairy tale retelling done right! It doesn’t try to outdo the original, just takes that inspiration and creates something new and very readable with it.
I loved the village of Greymist Fair and the atmosphere of mystery and even foreboding the author created for this place and the villagers. Imagine a village in the middle of a dense forest with only one road leading to it and back out. That’s already claustrophobic enough. But now add to that the fact that there are rumored to be monsters in the forest, and those who wander under the trees rarely come back alive. Oh, and that road to the village? It can take hours, or it can take days to travel, and some travelers never find Greymist Fair at all.
The author managed to convey the magical feeling that I absolutely love in fairy tales, and she also understands the cardinal rule of those tales – no matter how fantastical the world or the events happening in it, there must be internal rules to that world that everything follows. And if those rules are broken, there must be an explanation as to why and how. Like the ever-flowering tree branch that protects the wearer from Death, or the shoes instilled with magic that allow the person to outrun Death and its wargs.
The characters are less important here than the story they are part of, but I still had fun following along with them. The story is also not told in chronological order, with subsequent stories often going back in time and shedding more light on events mentioned or implied in previous stories, but the whole paints a fascinating canvas of a village at war with Death, even if the villagers don’t realize that. See, the forest around the village is Death’s domain, and so was this village at one point, until something happened and Death was denied entrance.
I loved the fact that this conflict was resolved not with violence, but with forgiveness and acceptance. The main message of this story is that we are all social animals, and that even entities like Death can be lonely and long for companionship. And that it is always better to show acceptance and love to others instead of prejudice and violence. That’s a message we should hear more often today.
It’s a well written and heartfelt story with a beautiful message, and I would highly recommend it.
PS: I received an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.