Book Reviews

[review] Rags and Bones – Edited by Melissa Marr & Tim Pratt

17310066Release Date: October 22, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 356
Format: Hardcover
Source: ARC provided by publisher for honest review

The best writers of our generation retell the classics.

Literature is filled with sexy, deadly, and downright twisted tales. In this collection, award-winning and bestselling authors reimagine their favorite classic stories, ones that have inspired, awed, and enraged them; ones that have become ingrained in modern culture; and ones that have been too long overlooked. They take these stories and boil them down to their bones, and then reassemble them for a new generation of readers.

Tell Me More: The novel is a literary form that can be quite generous to its writers, with only a minimum number of words (usually around 50,000) to qualify it as such. The short story, on the other hand, is much more limited, without the benefit of over a dozen or more chapters to let characters develop. Short stories require deft handling, and a confident writer. Rags & Bones is a daring anthology in that it takes twelve short stories generally agreed to be some of the best in the genre, and it asks authors to reimagine and retell those stories. While there are some true gems that emerge, I find myself hesitant to call Rags & Bones a complete success.

I was only familiar with about half of the original short stories handled in this anthology, so I didn’t have any expectations for those retellings. When I knew the original work, it was easier to jump right into the story and not have to figure out who the characters were or what kind of journey they were going to take. When I didn’t, it was mostly a toss-up. Carrie Ryan’s “That the Machine May Progress Eternally” enriches “The Machine Stops” and gives that story a new perspective. She retains the clinical tone of the original piece, and succeeds in illustrating how much of an influence technology continues to have on the world. “Losing Her Divinity” is a chilling reimagining of The Man Who Would Be King, and Garth Nix’s writing style blends in perfectly with that story’s unreliable narrator. “The Birth-mark” gives rise to an emotional walloping in “When First We Were Gods,” written by Rick Yancey.

On the other side of the coin, Melissa Marr’s selkie story “Awakened” holds no surprises for readers, and it offers very little chance to form an emotional attachment to the protagonist, who tells and tells and tells but doesn’t show how she really feels. “Sirocco”, a retelling of The Castle of Otranto, might have worked better as a full-length novel, as the complex premise feels constrained by the 17 pages it takes up here. And even as I enjoyed reading “The Cold Corner,” I found myself wondering about the original piece instead of losing myself in this new take.

My favourite stories:

“That the Machine May Progress Eternally,” Carrie Ryan
“Losing Her Divinity,” Garth Nix
“Millcara,” Holly Black
“The Sleeper and the Spindle,” Neil Gaiman
“When First We Were Gods,” Rick Yancey

The Final Say: Budding short story aficionados will greatly appreciate this anthology, and seasoned readers may also be surprised by the quality to be found in Rags & Bones.

Rags & Bones features the following authors: Melissa Marr (editor), Tim Pratt (editor), Saladin Ahmed, Kelley Armstrong, Holly Black, Neil Gaiman, Kami Garcia, Garth Nix, Carrie Ryan, Margaret Stohl, Gene Wolfe, Rick Yancey. The book also includes six illustrations by Charles Vess.

Order Rags & Bones on Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters

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1 reply »

  1. Yeah, short stories tend to be hit or miss for me, too. It’s a shame more of this collection didn’t grab you, but interesting that we’re seeing more delving into retellings. 🙂

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