Surprise book review – Endless Worlds Volume II: A Collection Of Dark Faerie Tales

Endless Worlds Vol. 2

‘A DARK FAERIE TALE ANTHOLOGY featuring eight short stories by well-received and upcoming authors, delivering new Faerie Tales, and dark twists on inspired tales.’

Authors: Peter Koevari, Matthew Wright, Ken Mann, James Peters, N R Marxsen, Anita Templer, Francis Burns, Renee Marski

Publisher: Endless Worlds Publications

First things first: I was given a review copy by one of the contributors to this book (who is a friend of mine) with no obligation to write an actual review – they just wanted my opinion. But I’m a reviewer. When you want my opinion on something, it doesn’t stop at one sentence. There are tangents. And ruminations. And possibly philosophy. So you better build a pillow fort right now to hide yourself, because there’s also the desire to share those ramblings.

I’ll go over the book itself first; most of the stories are based on/inspired by old fairy tales, and that is my bread and butter. However, the authors are a mix of relative unknowns and already-published authors, and along with that is often a rather uneven quality amongst the stories – although it wasn’t always where I expected. For example, one of the relatively experienced writers was behind my least favourite and most problematic tale (it chose for some reason to amp up a nonsensical and frankly misogynistic aspect of its original fairy tale, where a small and simple change would have made it more sensible for modern readers – especially considering it’s already an adaption written in a modern voice). Outside of that, I only had minor quibbles with the stories; the occasional unwelcome trope or slight jilt in the storytelling from either inexperience or struggles to keep to the short story format. There’s obviously violence, but if you know classic fairy tales you know they’re not like the Disney versions and this won’t surprise you. Some of the best myths and fairy tales know full well that fear of mortality and violence hang over us, so dark twists aren’t necessarily darker so much as different. What I love is that the fairy tale aspect has created many interesting stories though, some weaving a wonderful narrative flow similar to their story-telling roots, and others creating modern voices involved in or based on those old stories. The tales they’re based on include classic Brothers Grim, Baba Yaga and her chicken-footed house, a Chinese tale of a magical quill, and even Beowulf.

This book isn’t self-published, but I can’t help but acknowledge that I feel like it definitely owes its existence to the awesome ease of self-publishing that the internet has ushered in. You can absolutely find a printer to make physical copies of your book, but if you can’t afford it/don’t feel like it then digital publishing is great in this age of e-books and Amazon. And it means opportunities for up-and-coming writers aren’t only accessible through big publishers these days. It’s great if you can get signed with a big publisher and can utilise the kind of reach and resources they have, but it’s not your only path to readers anymore. You can often tell the works of the self-published from the professional in the difference that a good editor would make (one of the great unsung heroes of publishing once you realise what some writers are without them). But with the ease of digital publishing (Endless Worlds Publications only does digital from as far as I can tell), an anthology like this can be open to newcomers. Throw in an editor to ensure the writing is smooth and less uneven than a group of short stories from various authors usually is.

I want to share with you the words of Stephen Donaldson about short stories (from the introduction to the 1987 edition of Daughter of Regals):

‘ . . . a collection of short stories is attractive because it allows the writer to approach a wide range of subjects with a variety of disparate skills. For example, very few novels can discuss intelligently the moral implications of both genetic engineering and witchcraft. And a similar number can successfully combine the techniques of first- and third-person narration. But all of that can be done in only two short stories. In a collection of, say, eight tales, a writer can even go so far as to tackle the same theme more than once without appearing either impoverished in imagination or destitute in seriousness.’

While these eight tales are from different authors, I think a similar feeling applies. I recommend anthologies, short story collections, supporting authors both up-and-coming and established (as long as you like their writing, but you have to give them a chance before you know), and especially fairy tales and different takes on them. Endless Worlds II is only available digitally through Amazon.com.au

Endless Worlds Publications

A round-up of the stories included in the anthology (supplied blurbs):

The Last Citadel Of The Innocent – Matthew Wright
‘While trying to rescue his parents from the clutches of city Enforcers, the young soldier finds himself trapped in a war of ancient powers – and has to find the strength in himself to make a terrible choice.’

Lorelei – Ken Mann
‘Hunting a banished sorceress, a kingdom must find a way to revoke a curse that thrusts neighbouring realms on a collision course for war.’

The Liar’s Tale – James Peters
‘A travelling bard tells the tale of a selfish, petulant prince who is granted his birthday wish, trapping him in the midst of a battle between a tyrannous beast and his new friends.’

Gil And The Mystic Quill – Peter Koevari
‘A talented young artist is given a quill with magical properties, and must face an evil tyrant who desperately wants to obtain his powers and use it to further enslave and dominate the lands.’

Ravendark – N. R. Marxsen
‘King Edmund is finally gifted with a daughter and condemns his twelve sons to death, the brothers escaping and discovering their sister, Princess Raven, is their only hope in lifting a treacherous curse.’

The Blacksmith and The Beast – Anita Templer
‘A young man in service to his king journeys to slay a dragon threatening a scorching destruction of his country.’

The Witch’s Song – Francis Burns
‘A young woman must uncover the truth behind her nightmares, in order to stop a witch’s curse that threatens her village.’

Fairy Tale Hunters – Renee Marski
‘A princess joins a team destined to rid the world of its hidden evils while bound by magic that gives them the ability to do so at a price.’

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