Monday, 19 November 2012

Review: Two and Twenty Dark Tales: Dark Retellings of Mother Goose Rhymes

This collection of short stories reimagines the nursery rhymes we all grew up with, giving them a "dark" twist. I was expecting some pretty dark stories, considering how creepy some of the original rhymes are (there's lots of talk of falling and breaking bits and missing limbs and all sorts of fun). Some of the tales really delivered, and I was loving the anthology for the first half of the book, but by the end I have to say I felt rather unsatisfied.

My favourite tales were those that adapted the rhymes in really creative and refreshing ways. These included "Sing a Song of Six-Pence" by Sarwat Chadda, a gritty, fantastical take on the "four and twenty blackbirds";
"Those Who Whisper" by Lisa Mantchev, which had a whimsical, fairy-tale feel to it;
"Tick Tock" by Gretchen McNeil, a great horror story that I wanted more of; and
"Sea of Dew" by C. Lee McKenzie, an incredibly bleak modern take on "Winkin, Blinkin and Nod."

Unfortunately, some of the other stories seemed a bit of a stretch in relation to the original rhyme they were based on; they seemed to have been written first, then tied to one of the rhymes almost as an afterthought. Plus far too many of the stories relied on the "mysterious boy" trope, with the female protagonist's life suddenly turned upside down when she meets a strange (and gorgeous, natch) guy. They just felt really unoriginal, not only in the context of the other stories in the anthology, but also in the general YA landscape that's rife with insta-love and perfect, paranormal boys.

The collection as a whole was entertaining enough, but for me it just didn't live up to its amazing potential.

Rating: 3.5/5

Fine Print
Published: October 2012, Month9 Books
Source: I received a review copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley.
Get It: Amazon


  1. Oh no, what a shame. That premise sounds brilliant AND look at that cover.

    It's always a risk with short story collections, isn't it? :(

    Great review, Belle!

    1. Thanks Jo. Yeah it's one of the reasons I tend to steer clear of short stories, but this one just seemed to good to pass up. I don't regret reading it, but... it was just ordinary.

  2. I have this one for review, too, but I haven't read it yet, so it's good to be forewarned by your review. So many short story anthologies seem to be so uneven, which is a shame! I hate it when a theme isn't executed well enough and feels like an afterthought.

    Thanks for your review, Belle.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

    1. I'd love to know what you think, Wendy. I don't read a lot of short stories, mainly for that reason.

  3. I also thought the first half was better with Mantchev's story being an especial standout for me.

    1. I think that was probably my favourite too.