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From author T. Kingfisher comes a collection of fairy-tale retellings for adults. By turns funny and dark, sad and lyrical, this anthology draws together in one volume such stories as "The Wolf and the Woodsman," "Loathly," and "Bluebeard's Wife," along with an all-new novella, "Boar & Apples." Author's Note: Many of these stories have appeared in various forms on the autho From author T. Kingfisher comes a collection of fairy-tale retellings for adults. By turns funny and dark, sad and lyrical, this anthology draws together in one volume such stories as "The Wolf and the Woodsman," "Loathly," and "Bluebeard's Wife," along with an all-new novella, "Boar & Apples." Author's Note: Many of these stories have appeared in various forms on the author's blog.


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From author T. Kingfisher comes a collection of fairy-tale retellings for adults. By turns funny and dark, sad and lyrical, this anthology draws together in one volume such stories as "The Wolf and the Woodsman," "Loathly," and "Bluebeard's Wife," along with an all-new novella, "Boar & Apples." Author's Note: Many of these stories have appeared in various forms on the autho From author T. Kingfisher comes a collection of fairy-tale retellings for adults. By turns funny and dark, sad and lyrical, this anthology draws together in one volume such stories as "The Wolf and the Woodsman," "Loathly," and "Bluebeard's Wife," along with an all-new novella, "Boar & Apples." Author's Note: Many of these stories have appeared in various forms on the author's blog.

30 review for Toad Words And Other Stories

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    4.5 stars for this fine collection of folk and fairy tale-based fantasy short stories by Ursula Vernon (T. Kingfisher). (Reorganizing this review to fix the mess the GR librarians made when they - incorrectly! - merged some of my reviews here.) Review first posted on Fantasy Literature: T. Kingfisher is the name used by author Ursula Vernon for her adult fiction, although some of her T. Kingfisher works fall into the young adult category, like The Seventh Bride, and some of her Ursula Vernon work 4.5 stars for this fine collection of folk and fairy tale-based fantasy short stories by Ursula Vernon (T. Kingfisher). (Reorganizing this review to fix the mess the GR librarians made when they - incorrectly! - merged some of my reviews here.) Review first posted on Fantasy Literature: T. Kingfisher is the name used by author Ursula Vernon for her adult fiction, although some of her T. Kingfisher works fall into the young adult category, like The Seventh Bride, and some of her Ursula Vernon works are adult works, like her wonderful Nebula award-winning short story Jackalope Wives. Regardless of the name she uses, I’ve been searching out her fiction ever since reading “Jackalope Wives.” T. Kingfisher writes lovely fairy tale retellings and other folk and fairy tale-flavored fantasies, usually with a twist, sometimes dark and disturbing, always thoughtful. In Toad Words and Other Stories, T. Kingfisher has collected many of her folk and fairy tale-based short stories. This collection includes eight stories based off of old tales such as “Toads and Diamonds,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Peter Pan,” and others, including one that was entirely new to me, the “Loathly Lady.” Three short original poems, also fairy-tale themed, are included in this collection. The title story, “Toad Words,” is a very brief tale in which the sister who was cursed to have amphibians fall from her lips every time she speaks (the result of speaking rudely to a fairy), tells how she unexpectedly discovered some hidden benefits of her curse.“You’ll grow into it,” the fairy godmother said. “Some curses have cloth-of-gold linings.” She considered this, and her finger drifted to her lower lip, the way it did when she was forgetting things. “Mind you, some curses just grind you down and leave you broken. Some blessings do that too, though.”“Toad Words” is a short but impactful tale that will particularly resonate with readers who are concerned about endangered species. “The Wolf and the Woodsman” is a twisted version of “Little Red Riding Hood,” where a girl named Turtle ― who actually doesn’t wear a hood of any color, let alone red (“that was added later because it alliterated”) ― helps her grandmother and a kindly wolf take care of a problem with an overly familiar woodsman. Though the story veers away from the classic tale, there are several humorous callbacks to some of the time-honored lines in the original. “Bluebeard’s Wife” This story is another, very different take on the Bluebeard folk tale, from the point of view of Bluebeard’s wife. In this version, Althea, the wife, has two prying sisters who have annoyed and badgered her all her life. As a result, Althea has a deep sympathy towards her husband’s demand for the one room at the top of the tower in their manor to remain private. So when he entrusts her with the key to the room, she informs him she really has no interest in peeking in his room, and drops the key in an urn … and just leaves it there. Ursula Vernon (aka T. Kingfisher) commented on her blog, where she originally published this story: “I am honestly rather sympathetic to Althea here, because I would be the woman on camera going ‘No, I had no idea he was a serial killer!’ that nobody believes. You get used to things, you don’t have a suspicious mind, and…well. … Knowing someone has done horribly evil things doesn’t neatly replace all your knowledge of living with someone, does it? What are you supposed to feel, and what do you really wind up feeling instead?” The twist here is an intriguing one, as Kingfisher explores the ramifications of Bluebeard’s wife having this type of personality, but otherwise this version of the tale is very quick and one-note. Kingfisher’s later retelling of Bluebeard, her YA novel The Seventh Bride, is much more imaginative and memorable. Free online on T. Kingfisher's website: http://tkingfisher.com/?page_id=212 “Loathly” is based on the medieval “Loathly Lady” stories, which now have fallen into obscurity, but are based on the motif of a woman who is enchanted to appear physically repulsive, and is transformed into a beauty when a man desires her in spite of initial ugliness. In this story, Kingfisher takes a very dark (and adult) view of the woman’s enchantment, which forces her to make untenable demands of traveling knights, and kill them when they refuse to comply … and of the way that various knights react to the situation, as well as the woman herself. It is a grim and rather gruesome tale, but also a poignant one. “The Sea Witch Sets the Record Straight” is another brief, amusing twist on the classic tale. Ursula, the sea witch, explains that she really didn’t want the mermaid’s voice for herself, but took it to protect the secret of their underwater society:No, I took her voice for two simple reasons ― she was a twit and she was in love. I took one look at her and knew that she’d spill everything she knew in that pretty human boy’s ear, and then where would we be?So Ursula gives the mermaid’s voice to an albatross who has ambitions of being an opera star. It’s not her fault that the prince isn’t really interested in an odd mute girl who’s rather ditzy, however beautiful! “Never” is another very dark story, based on the Peter Pan tale. The Lost Boys and the occasional girl stolen by Pan to live with him in Neverland actually lead a wretched existence. There are reasons no one ever gets old in Neverland. It’s a disturbing and melancholy tale, with a few haunting revelations, and one of the most memorable stories in this collection. “Night” is a one-page vignette about the cast members who put on the eternal show of starry nights, eon after eon, for very slowly evolving life forms. It’s an imaginative and humorous tale, so brief that it’s not particularly notable, but it makes a nice amuse-bouche preceding the final tale in this collection. Boar & Apples, my favorite in this collection, is a novella-length retelling of “Snow White,” in which Snow hangs out with seven talking boars and feral pigs, rather than dwarves. I loved that twist, along with a few others in this novella. Snow is a very pale, generally biddable girl with a stubborn streak. Her mother, the queen, is a cruel woman with no love at all for others, including her own child.The queen’s witchblood came from an ancestor many years removed, who had loved a troll and been loved in return with little thought for the consequences … The queen’s blood ran hot and cold, and when she had found the mirror, she had no thought but to use it. The demon did not have to seduce her with words or visions; she came essentially pre-seduced. This offended the demon’s notion of its own craftsmanship, but it did save time.When the neglected Snow turns seventeen, the demon in the mirror tells the now-aging queen that Snow is fairer than her ― mostly just to stir up trouble. The queen orders the huntsman to kill Snow; he takes her far from the castle, where they run into a group of wild hogs that are interested in having a human stay with them and help them with their needs (preparing meals and helping them sell the truffles they gather). The hogs have distinct and often amusing personalities. And Snow slowly comes to “the end of what being quiet and biddable could do for her” … which is a very good thing, once the queen is finally told the truth by the gleeful mirror. I love Kingfisher’s voice in these tales ― they’re filled with dry humor and whimsical details that make reading them a delight, and they’re often quite insightful about human nature and life. If you’re a fan of fairy tale retellings, this collection shouldn’t be missed, especially since it’s only $3.99 for the ebook. Several of the short stories in this collection are available to read free online; Kingfisher generously lists her online short fiction here on her website, including more that aren’t included in this Toad Words and Other Stories collection. I received a free copy of this ebook from the author in exchange for a review. Thank you!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lois Bujold

    I'd read the title story from this author (aka Ursula Vernon, for her kids' books) some time ago online, and it made an indelible impression. It sets a high bar for its companion stories to get over, but they stand up well even in comparison, especially "Never" and "Boar and Apples". Especially "Never". Oh my yes. On so many levels. Mode/subgrenre is fairy tales retold for 21st C. grownups of all ages, interrogating the text with a lot of skiffy-minded logical questions, sometimes hilarious, somet I'd read the title story from this author (aka Ursula Vernon, for her kids' books) some time ago online, and it made an indelible impression. It sets a high bar for its companion stories to get over, but they stand up well even in comparison, especially "Never" and "Boar and Apples". Especially "Never". Oh my yes. On so many levels. Mode/subgrenre is fairy tales retold for 21st C. grownups of all ages, interrogating the text with a lot of skiffy-minded logical questions, sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking. Underpriced for the value, frankly. Highly recommended. Ta, L. Later: Also read Nine Goblins. Great fun mainly for the protags, especially the elvish veterinarian, although the goblin sergeant runs him a close second. A gruesome bit toward the end. But a fascinating take on wizards. And an appreciation of the exhaustion of responsibility that must have come from real-life experience, in whatever form. Ta, L.

  3. 5 out of 5

    karen

    WELCOME TO DECEMBER PROJECT! last year, i carved out my own short story advent calendar as my project for december, and it was so much fun i decided to do it again this year! so, each day during the month of december, i will be reading a short story and doing the barest minimum of a review because ain't no one got time for that and i'm already so far behind in all the things. however, i will be posting story links in case anyone wants to read the stories themselves and show off how maybe someone WELCOME TO DECEMBER PROJECT! last year, i carved out my own short story advent calendar as my project for december, and it was so much fun i decided to do it again this year! so, each day during the month of december, i will be reading a short story and doing the barest minimum of a review because ain't no one got time for that and i'm already so far behind in all the things. however, i will be posting story links in case anyone wants to read the stories themselves and show off how maybe someone could have time for that. here is a link to the first story in last year's project, https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... which in turn links to the whole monthlong project, in case you wanna do some free short story reading of your own! links to the stories in this year's advent-ure will be at the end of each review. enjoy, and the happiest of decembers to you all! DECEMBER 13 There was a girl who died every morning, and it would not have been a problem except that she kept bees. so, although i have loved ursula vernon/t. kingfisher's stories so far, this one just didn't do it for me. it's too short and too... uneventful, maybe? i dunno, i guess i need more than 736 words to reel me in. tadiana's review is worth checking out - it sure helped me with context. i live in queens, not brooklyn, so i don't know anything about bees and i was grateful for the info about traditional beekeeping customs as they appear in this story. if you like very short stories about bees, go get it! read it for yourself here: http://strangehorizons.com/fiction/te... DECEMBER 1 DECEMBER 2 DECEMBER 3 DECEMBER 4 DECEMBER 5 DECEMBER 6 DECEMBER 7 DECEMBER 8 DECEMBER 9 DECEMBER 10 DECEMBER 11 DECEMBER 12 DECEMBER 14 DECEMBER 15 DECEMBER 16 DECEMBER 17 DECEMBER 18 DECEMBER 19 DECEMBER 20 DECEMBER 21 DECEMBER 22 DECEMBER 23 DECEMBER 24 DECEMBER 25 DECEMBER 26 DECEMBER 27 DECEMBER 28 DECEMBER 29 DECEMBER 30 DECEMBER 31

  4. 4 out of 5

    Marquise

    T. Kingfisher is quickly becoming one of my favourite Fantasists merely because of how much I've enjoyed her fairy tale retellings, all of them so lovely, whimsical and that always manage to elicit a smile. She's so imaginative and at times irreverent, but always delivers it with a good dose of humour. This anthology wasn't different from expected, if shorter than normal. It contains 11 short stories that retell classic fairy tales and one Arthurian-style legend. Not all of the retellings are sho T. Kingfisher is quickly becoming one of my favourite Fantasists merely because of how much I've enjoyed her fairy tale retellings, all of them so lovely, whimsical and that always manage to elicit a smile. She's so imaginative and at times irreverent, but always delivers it with a good dose of humour. This anthology wasn't different from expected, if shorter than normal. It contains 11 short stories that retell classic fairy tales and one Arthurian-style legend. Not all of the retellings are short stories, three of them are poems, but all do take inspiration from a tale or legend. For me, the best ones were "The Wolf and the Woodsman" (A Little Red Riding Hood remake with a twist: Red isn't as oblivious as she is usually painted), "Loathly" (the one knightly tale with a rather dark twist; it's a sort of Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady retelling from the perspective of the Loathly Lady. Tragic story.), and "The Sea Witch Sets the Record Straight" (The Little Mermaid from Ursula's point of view, comical all round).

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nicky

    If you’ve been following my reactions to T. Kingfisher’s longer retellings, it’s probably no surprise that I enjoyed this collection of short stories. Despite the stated belief that she can’t write short stories, this should make it very obvious that she can: with wry humour, with tenderness, with care, with cleverness. Each of these stories has its own spin on the original fairytales; each has its own voice and shape, and sometimes it goes quite far from the original — but always in a way that If you’ve been following my reactions to T. Kingfisher’s longer retellings, it’s probably no surprise that I enjoyed this collection of short stories. Despite the stated belief that she can’t write short stories, this should make it very obvious that she can: with wry humour, with tenderness, with care, with cleverness. Each of these stories has its own spin on the original fairytales; each has its own voice and shape, and sometimes it goes quite far from the original — but always in a way that I really enjoy. For example, the talking boars in ‘Boar & Apples’, which is a skewed retelling of Snow White. If you’re not reading T. Kingfisher yet, this would make a good introduction; there’s plenty of bang for your buck here, because the stories give you a taster of all the author’s talents (rather than being a single story like Bryony and Roses or The Raven and the Reindeer). Mind you, it’s not like the other books are very expensive either; I totally recommend going for it and having a binge, if you enjoy fairytale retellings. Of course, not all the stories were 100% to my taste, but that always happens, especially with short stories — I’m picky. It’s a strong enough collection that I think what appeals to me less could well be someone else’s favourite. (My favourite story was ‘Loathly’; though it doesn’t explicitly reference Arthuriana, I enjoyed this take on the Loathly Lady a lot.) Originally posted here.

  6. 5 out of 5

    K.J. Charles

    I glommed an absurd amount of T Kingfisher on my holidays, basically consuming her entire adult backlist, and I regret nothing except that there aren't more. This is a delightful collection of stories, as imaginative and elegantly written and readable as one would expect from this author. I find her combination of humour, sharp insight and kind-heartedness incredibly soothing to my soul. I glommed an absurd amount of T Kingfisher on my holidays, basically consuming her entire adult backlist, and I regret nothing except that there aren't more. This is a delightful collection of stories, as imaginative and elegantly written and readable as one would expect from this author. I find her combination of humour, sharp insight and kind-heartedness incredibly soothing to my soul.

  7. 4 out of 5

    heidi

    It's really difficult for me to review short story anthologies, because I am TERRIBLE at stopping and letting one story rest and germinate a review in my head before I start the next one. It's like... did you know that many books have CHAPTER BREAKS, where average mortals STOP READING AND GO TO SLEEP? That is also not my strongest concept. So instead the stories all end up happening in the same world for me, even when they obviously aren't. Oops. But happily, because this book had a folk-tale the It's really difficult for me to review short story anthologies, because I am TERRIBLE at stopping and letting one story rest and germinate a review in my head before I start the next one. It's like... did you know that many books have CHAPTER BREAKS, where average mortals STOP READING AND GO TO SLEEP? That is also not my strongest concept. So instead the stories all end up happening in the same world for me, even when they obviously aren't. Oops. But happily, because this book had a folk-tale theme, at least it worked out ok for me. Maybe I'll do it like a middle school awards assembly? Creepiest goes to The Wolf and the Woodsman, for a really excellent and bone-chilling depiction of stalking. Never gets the award for Most Heartbreaking because there's no way out. Boar and Apples wins for Most Satisfying. It has everything I didn't know I wanted, including a charming pun as a central premise. Bluebeard's Wife gets Most Wistful, for depictions of just wanting a little respect and privacy. Loathly was in the running for Most Wistful, but will have to settle for Most Misandrist. In a good way. Magic is terrible, kids. As for the poetry, I think that poetry is arrows shot at a smaller mark than prose, but I really enjoyed Bait for the way it required reading through and then listening to. Poetry, man. It's wicked hard. Vernon's writing style is wry, and detached, and observational. It keeps a lot of things from becoming overly sentimental. And once in a while she hits a turn of phrase that makes me wish more people could do what she does. ~He had apparently been a very evil man, but not actually a bad one.~ And sometimes it's so funny and true that you can't help but sort of huff out a laugh. ~(I wish I could do salamanders. I would read Clive Barker novels aloud and seed the streams with efts and hellbenders. I would fly to Mexico and read love poems in another language to restore the axolotl. Alas, it’s frogs and toads and nothing more. We make do.) ~ (Clive Barker WOULD produce salamanders. Then I had to think about what amphibians other writers would produce. Imagine the sad little mudskippers you'd get from reading Clive Cussler instead.) ~(The seamstress had always had a great desire to sew something with puffed sleeves, and the fact that Snow stared at them with great astonishment and mild indignation did nothing to diminish her moment of glory.) ~ AHAHAHAHA PUFFED SLEEVES. Read if: You, too, grew up on retold fairy tales and Anne of Green Gables. And if you like people who keep their authorial wits about them instead of getting carried away. Skip if: You are a nice earnest person who will not appreciate realizing that this whole beautiful story was probably born as a late-night pun. Also read: Seas of Venus, for a MASTERFUL construction of an entire novella leading to a TERRIBLE pun. And, um, The Girls of the Kingfisher Club for another narrator not afraid to let you know she's there. Oh! And Jane Yolen's Sleeping Ugly. You should certainly read that, too. Yup.

  8. 5 out of 5

    E.

    3,5* I like bees and I like stories about girls so a short story about a determined beekeeping girl was quite entertaining. Read here. __________________________ insta | twitter | blog | booksirens | duolingo 3,5* I like bees and I like stories about girls so a short story about a determined beekeeping girl was quite entertaining. Read here. __________________________ insta | twitter | blog | booksirens | duolingo

  9. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    I read this very short story free online at: http://tkingfisher.com/?page_id=212 Great retelling of Bluebeard from his last wife's perspective. I read this very short story free online at: http://tkingfisher.com/?page_id=212 Great retelling of Bluebeard from his last wife's perspective.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tasha Robinson

    So good to have so many of Ursula Vernon's smart, down-to-earth, slyly funny fables in one place, and with a new novella (casting the seven dwarves as intelligent, principled boars!) to boot. I haven't seen rewrites of the familiar fairy tales this interesting and creative since Tanith Lee's Red As Blood. So good to have so many of Ursula Vernon's smart, down-to-earth, slyly funny fables in one place, and with a new novella (casting the seven dwarves as intelligent, principled boars!) to boot. I haven't seen rewrites of the familiar fairy tales this interesting and creative since Tanith Lee's Red As Blood.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jana

    I have never yet been disappointed by T. Kingfisher/ Ursula Vernon, and I don't expect that I shall be. This is a very short story, quick to read, but the imagery and language stuck with me. I have never yet been disappointed by T. Kingfisher/ Ursula Vernon, and I don't expect that I shall be. This is a very short story, quick to read, but the imagery and language stuck with me.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    Yes. Get this book. It's a charming and delightful collection of short stories and poems, mostly retellings of classic fairy tales. Get this. It's well worth it. Yes. Get this book. It's a charming and delightful collection of short stories and poems, mostly retellings of classic fairy tales. Get this. It's well worth it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    This was a collection of short stories based on different POV in certain fairy tales. They were clever and amusing and lovely to dip in to.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kara

    Toad Words is a collection fairy tales retold in such a way that they are instantly recognizable, but motivations are reexamined, antagonists and protagonists switch places, and shifting things just slightly puts everything in a completely new light. It has been brought to my attention – A poem about how there is more than one way to examine fairy tales. Toad Words – An excellent retelling of Diamonds and Toads, in which the ‘toad’ sister puts her ‘curse’ to excellent ecological use. Also, loved Toad Words is a collection fairy tales retold in such a way that they are instantly recognizable, but motivations are reexamined, antagonists and protagonists switch places, and shifting things just slightly puts everything in a completely new light. It has been brought to my attention – A poem about how there is more than one way to examine fairy tales. Toad Words – An excellent retelling of Diamonds and Toads, in which the ‘toad’ sister puts her ‘curse’ to excellent ecological use. Also, loved seeing how different spoken words would create different animals. The Wolf & The Woodsman It flips the story on its head, puts modern day stalking in a fairy tale context, and perfectly shows without getting preachy how victims get conditioned to blame themselves. Bluebeard’s Wife – A very A different version of the tale that dances on the edge of giving too much sympathy to the devil. But I loved how sensible the last wife was in this version. Loathly It shows how impossible it is to simply move on after a curse has been removed when you can remember all the horror the curse caused. The Sea Witch Sets The Record Straight – In which we learn that the sea witch had some very sensible, environmental reasons to keep the mermaid from talking. Never – Peter Pan really is a horror story when you start to question the details… Bait – No pun intended, but it’s a chilling suggestion about what was the Snow Queen’s true goal all along. Night – A rather hilarious comparison between the Cosmos and your average theater troupe. Boar and apples – This retelling of Snow White started out very strong but somehow became the story I thought worked the least in this collection. For me, what didn’t work was the switch in the type of fantasy story that occurs about halfway through. I’m not sure what the proper terms are (please let me know if you do), but the first half of the story is the Tanith Lee style that has lots of lyrical descriptions of the settings and actions and is sparse on dialogue, creating a dreamy, speculative, almost metaphorical feeling of the fantasy setting. The second half of the retelling was heavier on dialogue with a more solid, down to earth setting; a more realistic approach to world-building a la Tamara Pierce. The two styles smashed together made for a more awkward story, but I still loved the creative recasting of the dwarves and Snow’s ability to spot a lie at 50 paces, like fresh fruit in winter. Overall, a great collection of new ways to look at age old fairy tales. Merged review: She packs a lot into less than 1,000 words, exploring the consequences of curses, to be dead but not dead, and to long to still be part of life. This might be a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, if you tilt your head and squint.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Fantasy Literature

    Featured in our Short Fiction column: http://www.fantasyliterature.com/revi... Merged review: Reviewed in our Short Fiction Monday column: http://www.fantasyliterature.com/revi... Merged review: 4 stars from Tadiana, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE Disclaimer: just so you know, some of the books we review are received free from publishers T. Kingfisher is the name used by author Ursula Vernon for her adult fiction, although some of her T. Kingfisher works fall into the young adult category, Featured in our Short Fiction column: http://www.fantasyliterature.com/revi... Merged review: Reviewed in our Short Fiction Monday column: http://www.fantasyliterature.com/revi... Merged review: 4 stars from Tadiana, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE Disclaimer: just so you know, some of the books we review are received free from publishers T. Kingfisher is the name used by author Ursula Vernon for her adult fiction, although some of her T. Kingfisher works fall into the young adult category, like The Seventh Bride, and some of her Ursula Vernon works are adult works, like her wonderful Nebula award-winning short story “Jackalope Wives.” Regardless of the name she uses, I’ve been searching out her fiction ever since reading “Jackalope Wives.” T. Kingfisher writes lovely fairy tale retellings and other folk and fairy tale-flavored fantasies, usually with a twist, sometimes dark and disturbing, always thoughtful. In Toad Words and Other Stories, T. Kingfisher has collected many of her folk and fairy tale-based short stories. This collection includes eight stories based off of old tales such as “Toads and Diamonds,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Peter Pan,” and others, including one that was entirely new to me, the “Loathly Lady.” Three short original poems, also fairy-tale themed, are included in this collection....4 stars from Tadiana, read the full review at FANTASY LITERATURE

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jasmine

    This is an ASTONISHINGLY good set of fairy tale and modern-mythos retellings. Funny, bloody, serious, heartbreaking. One of the hallmarks of T. Kingfisher's work (including writing as Ursula Vernon) is a kind of very sensible, now-what-do-we-do-about-this mindset, and it runs through all the stories and poems here. Her heros and heroines never take too much time googling about the situation. It is what it is, I speak toads into existence/peter pan is always surrounded by children and I'm growing This is an ASTONISHINGLY good set of fairy tale and modern-mythos retellings. Funny, bloody, serious, heartbreaking. One of the hallmarks of T. Kingfisher's work (including writing as Ursula Vernon) is a kind of very sensible, now-what-do-we-do-about-this mindset, and it runs through all the stories and poems here. Her heros and heroines never take too much time googling about the situation. It is what it is, I speak toads into existence/peter pan is always surrounded by children and I'm growing up/the queen my mother wants to kill me, so now what should I DO about that? What's the sensible thing to do here? This is very calming to read about, and is wonderfully juxtaposed with the absurdity of fantasy fiction. Of course, sometimes that means calmly staring into your oncoming death as much as it means you sometimes calmly finding a way out of the situation by bartering truffles with peddlers, which is why I read this in very small bites and occasionally forgot I had it on the go. (oops.) But yeah, astonishingly good and should be taught in classrooms studying fairytales and retellings.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    I loved Digger, but I am *madly* in love with this story collection. It honestly reminds me a lot of the best of Connie Willis' short fiction, and it has a sensibility similar to that of Terry Pratchett. Go, read this. Now! I loved Digger, but I am *madly* in love with this story collection. It honestly reminds me a lot of the best of Connie Willis' short fiction, and it has a sensibility similar to that of Terry Pratchett. Go, read this. Now!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Carl

    I totally didn't cry at "Boar & Apples" and I'm not tearing up now thinking about it. So there. Very highly recommended. I totally didn't cry at "Boar & Apples" and I'm not tearing up now thinking about it. So there. Very highly recommended.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mir

    That was a nice first page of a story that I would read if the author got around to writing it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kir

    Comparison is the thief of joy. I discovered T Kingfisher/Ursula Vernon a few months ago and loved some of her short stories that I read online. I went for the Toad Words collection rather than Jackalope Wives as I thought there'd be more new to me stories, and indeed I hadn't read any of these. Unfortunately, I preferred the stories I'd previously read. The stories in this collection are closer fairytale retellings, and I found some of them to read as a slice-of-thought, which isn't my style. T Comparison is the thief of joy. I discovered T Kingfisher/Ursula Vernon a few months ago and loved some of her short stories that I read online. I went for the Toad Words collection rather than Jackalope Wives as I thought there'd be more new to me stories, and indeed I hadn't read any of these. Unfortunately, I preferred the stories I'd previously read. The stories in this collection are closer fairytale retellings, and I found some of them to read as a slice-of-thought, which isn't my style. Thus, shockingly, Boar and Apples, the longest story in here, was probably the one I enjoyed the most, and until then the collection was hovering closer to 2 🌟 for me.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tiakall

    I'm a fan of twists on fairy tales, so this became my first purchase of this author. Overall, this is a good collection of subversions and retellings that explore the fairy tale world and tropes without necessarily being fairy tales themselves. Individual stories: "It Has Come To My Attention": Was surprised to see poetry in a short story collection. Poetry isn't really my thing, so it took me a couple of reads to understand what was going on, but once I did, its punchline made me smile. "Toad Wor I'm a fan of twists on fairy tales, so this became my first purchase of this author. Overall, this is a good collection of subversions and retellings that explore the fairy tale world and tropes without necessarily being fairy tales themselves. Individual stories: "It Has Come To My Attention": Was surprised to see poetry in a short story collection. Poetry isn't really my thing, so it took me a couple of reads to understand what was going on, but once I did, its punchline made me smile. "Toad Words": A take on Diamonds and Toads. Why are my favorites always the first story? Great subversion, using the POV of the toad-spitting daughter. "The Wolf and the Woodsman": A take on Little Red Riding Hood. It mostly follows overall structure - all the subversions are in the details (for example, who would dye a child's hood red?) Strong, enjoyable characters (and the name/nickname "Turtle" is adorable.) "Bluebeard's Wife": I wasn't familiar with the Bluebeard fairy tale, but this was a pleasant read even without the background info. This story in particular highlights the author's ability to humanize the "villains" of various fairy tales. "Loathly": Based off a trope called "Loathly lady". this is one where I think some basic familiarity with the trope helps the reader appreciate the story more. It takes a little while for this one to get going, but the ending is satisfyingly appropriate. This one has a warning at the front for "hard, ugly things, including sexual assault": (view spoiler)[several animals are killed through the course of the story and eaten by the POV character, though not in an overly gory fashion; toward the end of the story, the POV character is raped, though not violently. (hide spoiler)] "The Sea Witch Sets The Record Straight": A Little Mermaid take. Like the story before it, it meanders a bit in its subversion (though the (view spoiler)[reasoning behind the vocal theft is amusing (hide spoiler)] ) but it's another satisfying ending. "Never": A Peter Pan take. Wow, this one's kind of dark. "Bait": Another poem. Again, poetry isn't really my thing, but I liked the punchline. Would've liked a prose version of this one. "Night": Here, the subversion is (view spoiler)[making a fairy tale out of the night sky. (hide spoiler)] How fun! This one makes me smile. "Boar and Apples": A Snow White take. This one feels similar to The Wolf and the Woodsman in that the story structure is similar and the subversions are in the details. I really liked the titular boars, as well as the expanding of the huntsman's role. I also appreciated that (view spoiler)[Snow is not dumb enough to actually eat the poisoned apple. (hide spoiler)] . The ending prompts one of my favorite lines in the whole work: (view spoiler)["My life comes down to two things. Knowing that truffles are worth more than potatoes, and knowing that you don't get ripe apples in spring." (hide spoiler)] . "Odd Season": The last poem. This one didn't really do it for me. In the introduction, the author confesses initially being worried that no one would actually pay for their short story collection because writing short stories wasn't something they did. Hopefully by now, those fears have been assuaged, since I not only bought this but will buy the next one as well. Tl;dr: A solid, satisfying set of subversions.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Miss Susan

    what a lovely collection this is a set of adult fairy tale retellings wherein adult means thoughtful and complicated rather than HBO style 'just add sex and blood!!!!' adult i read them all in one long bus ride so i don't have much to say about individual stories per se but as a whole i found them very down-to-earth and sympathetic to their characters. also this has what is maybe my favourite bluebeard retelling? possibly because most bluebeard retellings i've seen follow in the tradition of angel what a lovely collection this is a set of adult fairy tale retellings wherein adult means thoughtful and complicated rather than HBO style 'just add sex and blood!!!!' adult i read them all in one long bus ride so i don't have much to say about individual stories per se but as a whole i found them very down-to-earth and sympathetic to their characters. also this has what is maybe my favourite bluebeard retelling? possibly because most bluebeard retellings i've seen follow in the tradition of angela carter and are heavy on the ~aesthetic~ and vernon is more into sensible protaganists and using the story to think about privacy 4 stars

  23. 4 out of 5

    Karina

    Tear-wrenching and hilarious stories, often at the same time, this was so lovely and now I need every single thing written by Vernon/Kingfisher. Felt quite Diana Wynne Jones-esque, but certainly brought its own apples to the table. (And impossible not to think of Seanan McGuire's Indexing, but that's just because these are fairytales, after all.) Tear-wrenching and hilarious stories, often at the same time, this was so lovely and now I need every single thing written by Vernon/Kingfisher. Felt quite Diana Wynne Jones-esque, but certainly brought its own apples to the table. (And impossible not to think of Seanan McGuire's Indexing, but that's just because these are fairytales, after all.)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Elentarri

    Cute and funny fairy tale stories.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Maija

    Retold fairytales by Ursula Vernon's pen name. My favourites: Toad Words, Bluebeard's Wife, Never. Retold fairytales by Ursula Vernon's pen name. My favourites: Toad Words, Bluebeard's Wife, Never.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lavi

    Folklore written with a sensible, irreverent kind of narration. There are, 7 short stories that comprise of the first 50% of the book. The last story (Boar & apples) takes up the entire second half of the book and is my favourite because of how wholesome the characters of that story were. Though closely followed by 'The sea witch sets the record straight'. I didn't think there were many Ursula sympathisers out there, but this is the second short story about her I've come across in days! The stories Folklore written with a sensible, irreverent kind of narration. There are, 7 short stories that comprise of the first 50% of the book. The last story (Boar & apples) takes up the entire second half of the book and is my favourite because of how wholesome the characters of that story were. Though closely followed by 'The sea witch sets the record straight'. I didn't think there were many Ursula sympathisers out there, but this is the second short story about her I've come across in days! The stories in this book are ones you've heard before, like (no order in particular, btw) 1. Toad words- I know this from Grimm's fairytales, the one about the two sisters, nice one's blessed to have gold falling out of her mouth everytime she speaks and the other cursed with toads instead- the title of which escapes me. Only she makes a good thing out of a shitty superpower and populates every swamp with dying breeds of slimy bois 2. The wolf and the woodsman- little red riding hood. The twist here is predictable, we get a good wolf with dubious motivations for his friendliness. 3. Bluebeards wife- self explanatory. It's her POV, explaining her lack of curiosity. It was just alright 4. Never- a delightfully dark Peter Pan, taking Peter Pan syndrome to another height, 5. the sea witch sets the record straight- Ursula with good intentions ™ it's a pretty good character study, i liked the logic the author came up with 6. Boar & apples- Snow white and the seven talking pigs. It's weird but it worked A couple of these stories though, were completely new to me, 7. Loathly- which is apparently a common medieval tale about uh.. beastiality... It wasn't graphic or anything but basically an enchanted bear needed to get laid to turn back into a human... Now that I think about it, it's kind of like a really messed up Beauty and the beast huh? 8 Night- I thought at first was about Creationism, but then realised is about night time. Probably. I didn't care for it but it could just be that it was too deep for my little mind to fathom.hah There were a few poems too, I think three but they were largely forgettable. I don't really remember anything that stood out. If you like folk stories with fleshed out characters- Especially for the thoughtfully reimagined folk stories in the shoes of secondary characters, you will probably like this one. I'm still not sure if it's a 3 or a 4 star book for me. Normally if I'm indecisive like that, I'll go with the lower of the two but because it's a short story collection I don't want to be unfair to the stories that I really enjoyed even if I was absolutely indifferent to half of them. Take my 4 stars, Ursula Vernon.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Laurie

    I feel like I keep using the word delightful, but this short story collection is delightful. Mostly retellings of fairy tales with a perfect mix of humor and emotion.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lana Barnsley

    You know, I never really thought of how "Snow White's" heart would realistically just decay in the box and smell fucking awful. Yum. You know, I never really thought of how "Snow White's" heart would realistically just decay in the box and smell fucking awful. Yum.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Heidi Vlach

    Wonderful, inventive work in all of these stories. The titular Toad Words was worth the price of admission for me, with its whimsical, old-style magic — a girl who produces amphibians from her mouth when she speaks — used for both a charming character sketch and an uplifting concept of bettering the world. I also absolutely loved the novella Boar & Apples, which is an inventive, well-fleshed retelling of Snow White. A family of sentient boars and pigs replace the classic tale's dwarves, to excel Wonderful, inventive work in all of these stories. The titular Toad Words was worth the price of admission for me, with its whimsical, old-style magic — a girl who produces amphibians from her mouth when she speaks — used for both a charming character sketch and an uplifting concept of bettering the world. I also absolutely loved the novella Boar & Apples, which is an inventive, well-fleshed retelling of Snow White. A family of sentient boars and pigs replace the classic tale's dwarves, to excellent effect: they're delightful characters and I'd love to meet them (and cook dinner for them). Actually, all of Kingfisher/Vernon's non-human characters delighted me. They're not the simple, twee "talking animals" that mainstream cartoons have taught us to expect in fairy tales. The wolves and bears and boars are very supernatural, with their own ways and worldviews, and it's often acknowledged that a huge, dangerous, pungent-smelling wild animal is even more unsettling when it speaks English to you. This anthropomorphic fan approves. And a factor I'm surprised I liked? Was the darkness in all of these stories. I'm the first to rail against grimdark just for the sake of grimdark in fantasy, but even the grimmest of these stories (the Peter Pan one, in my opinion) has an actual idea to explore. If you cherish your Disney movies and can't stand the thought of their innocent concepts being tarnished, this isn't the short story collection for you. But if you like the practical attitudes of traditional fairy tales — or if you just watch cartoons and wonder where everyone's food and clothing comes from — then the dark edges of the Toad Words collection are a treat, like bitter chocolate.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    A retelling of Little Red Riding Hood that does not make the woodsman look good.

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