Collections by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling are my absolute favorite sources of fantasy literature these days, so when I heard of A Wolf at the Door, I knew I had to read it. Our library doesn’t have this collection, so I used a gift card I won in a writing competition to purchase the book online. I’m very glad that I did, too, because not only was it a great read, it will also be a wonderful book for my daughter to read in a couple of years.
Favorite authors like Tanith Lee, Neil Gaiman, Gregory Maguire, and others are included in the book—as are retakes on favorite fairy tales, such as “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” and “Hansel and Gretel.” The latter, in fact, may be my favorite retelling in the entire book—as well as the darkest story in the collection.
Fear not, however, when giving this book to a young adult or even a middle schooler as a gift, as most of the stories within are not fear-inducing. In fact, the element of fantasy is their only unifying quality. Some are sort of love stories, while some are funny. Some are just plain silly, while others have you going for a minute thinking something awful is going to happen when, in fact, everything is okay.
A take on “The Ugly Duckling,” for example, had me dreading that the title character was going to go all Red Dragon on us, but she thankfully did not. As I stated before, the most disturbing tale would be the retelling of “Hansel and Gretel,” also known as “Hansel’s Eyes” in the book. That said, readers will be satisfied with the happy ending—and what fairy tale didn’t have a grisly moment in its original version anyway? With the exception of one or two other dark tales (none as dark as this one, I think), most would be stories that most parents would probably be okay reading to their children.
People interested in these editors and their wonderful fantasy collections might also want to check out Troll’s Eye View, my other favorite collection from them specifically for younger readers. However, it is their fiction for adults—also retellings of fairy tales, though they are far darker and more disturbing, and sometimes more beautiful—that many older readers will be sure to enjoy. I would start with Silver Birch, Blood Moon and go from there.