At Midnight: 15 Beloved Fairy Tales Reimagined – Book Review

Fairy tales have been spun for thousands of years and remain among our most treasured stories. Weaving fresh tales with unexpected reimagining’s, At Midnight brings together a diverse group of acclaimed YA writers to breathe new life into a storied tradition.

I’ve read a fair bit of re-imaging’s the last few years, and regardless of whether I liked them or not, it’s always significant to me when storytellers of today, challenge the issues of the past. Authors write in the time in which they exist, often holding up a mirror to reflect the current state of things, that can be valuable, and that can also be discomfiting. When you write what you see outside your window, the end result can be foreboding, because not everything is sunshine and rainbows.

As we all know too well, the world can be a mean and nasty place, and fairy tales of old, certainly anything from The Brothers Grimm catalogue, tends to lean that way, dark. With any luck, and often times is the case, the stories are more cautionary that anything else, showing you the results of poor decision making or bad behavior. Thanks to Author/Editor/Superhuman Dahlia Adler, At Midnight: 15 Beloved Fairy Tales Reimagined offers up a list of re-imagined fairy tales that do just that. By providing examples of teachable moments, this anthology implores us to be more empathetic, more considerate, and most of all, more careful through a modern (sometimes futuristic) lens.

I enjoy the self-appointed auspicious task of ranking things, and anthologies offer the opportunity to do just that. But whether it’s by quality or enjoyment, I’m not here to make enemies, so instead here are my short thoughts on each story in the order in which they appear.


“Happily ever after was the period at the end of a sentence, but life only ever gives an ellipsis…”


by Anna-Marie McLemore

I love Anna-Marie’s writing, which always has a beautiful sense of not only the world around them, but always with an infusion of magical realism. Since most of their characters are a beautiful spectrum of pain, fear, anxiety, and love, this ability to look inwards, to disassociate, to escape the sometimes-brutal reality of life for a more fantasy infused astral plane, is a powerful storytelling device that evokes both pathos and reprieve. Sounds like a fairy tale, doesn’t it? Sugarplum is a take on The Nutcracker and Mouse King, the 1816 E.T.A. Hoffman story, and Anna-Marie does what they do best, illustrates a bit of their own truth for us privileged readers.

Easy to spot the evil on display here, as our nameless main character is the annual entertainment at Mr. and Mrs. Stahlbaum’s holiday party. Each year she is expected to perform ballet for an inebriated crowd of white folks, and it’s especially important to her Mexican parents, who are trying to stay in the good graces of their employers.

It gets even more grotesque when Mrs. Stahlbaum trots out the children to enjoy the show, further instilling a certain aberrant phenomenon in a child’s head. The composition and subtleties at play here greatly inform us that all is not right in this seemingly hedonistic world. This not-so-subtle regime allows racial fantasies to be expressed through this gross performative type of “doll play”.

Her anesthesia, her only respite, is spending time with Petey, the Stahlbaum’s daughter who is hiding in her room, having broken an arm playing curling. To pass the time, they read The Nutcracker together, and through a mostly unspoken assurance, a quite truth, a whispered promise, they reach a place of sybaritic peace where no one can hurt them anymore. It may be the least overtly gruesome of the lot, but it is one of the most frightening because Anna-Marie teaches us monsters come in all shapes and sizes.

In this case, the call is definitely coming from inside the house.

Also check out: The Mirror Season


by Gita Trelease

Based on the Brothers Grimm tale, the Fitcher’s Bird, this short is for all the enthusiasts out there who ever wondered if you could taxidermy a dead human.

*Quick side note…. you can’t, it’s illegal, so don’t even try it. Seriously.

Okay, the backdrop for In the Forests of the Night is a series of missing girls in and around a village in India, where our lead character Lili lives with her family. Girl-eating tigers are to blame (allegedly) so they call in a mysterious English lawman named Fitcher who, besides being good at and enjoying hunting wild animals (gross), is also an entrancing hit with the ladies. When Lili’s sister (Maya) and friend (Gayatri) go missing, having last been seen leaving a party with Fitcher all googley eyed, Maya gets suspicious and goes to his house to see what’s what.

What she finds is veritable house of animal rights horrors, plus a few other things I won’t mention. Gita does a great job here, manufacturing anxiety through consent, getting Lili to a point where control of her own body may not be her’s anymore, which a horrifying premise. This opportunity creates choice, demanding a response, fight-flight-or-freeze, and what characters choose of course will ultimately decide if they are heroes, cowards, or victims. Which one Lili is dictates the second half of this short.

Agoraphobia, cleithrophobia, and claustrophobic induced fear are definitely on the menu along with body autonomy in this anxiety ridden yarn. But similar to Sugarplum, there’s a not so furtive allegory here as the story is the set during the British Raj, where imperialism created real-world horrors for the colonized, in particular the Anglo Indians. And aside from the usual racist aggressions, rapacity, exploitation, and appropriation were also everyday occurrences.

You’ll realize by the end that girl-eating tigers aren’t the worst thing roaming the world.

Recommend: The Enchantée Duology


by Dahlia Adler

Okay, it’s now time for the book’s editor to chip in, and Dahlia Adler uses Rumpelstiltskin as her high-school inspired entry into what I call the AdlerVerse. Seriously, in my head canon, all of Dahlia’s books occur in the same universe, that’s just the way it is. You can’t tell me Lara or Amber didn’t roam these same halls.

Anyways, high-schooler Ren loves two things really, coding, and her best friend/hopeful girlfriend Lissa Haynes, who also wants to be a coder but is more boastful about it. Ren would do anything for Lissa, and it’s this counter-dependency that leads her down the path of blackmail. When their undeserved rival Bridgette lands a spot in a prominent coding competition (that’s Lissa’s spot!!!) thanks to nepotism, Ren goes into full scheming mode. She contacts Bridgette online using a fake profile (LanaGintur69…lol) and pretends to want to help her achieve her immediate goals. Ren’s hopeful prize is the love of her life and another night in a hot tub with champagne, and what she calls “wandering hands”.

Riffing on another Grimm tale, Say My Name doesn’t resemble the original so much but if you know the tale, then you’ll pick up on a couple of the Rumpelstiltskin homages that are definitely in play. I won’t say what they are necessarily, it’s more fun if you can pick them out, and Dahlia has a lot of fun with them, but like all the shorts in this book, being intimate with the original is needless, enjoyable perhaps, but unnecessary. Dahlia’s writing transcends relatability, meaning it’s accessible and entertaining regardless of your base knowledge, so you could have told me nothing about this being a re-imagining and I would’ve bought that.

The ending will leave you with more questions than answers and Dahlia’s prose, breezy as ever, makes for a quick read, but the AdlerVerse fan in me kinda dug this one. And don’t forget to check out

Also check out: Cool for the Summer


by Stacey Lee

Of all the tales used for inspiration here, and I have a good/great cursory knowledge of about half of them, this one I knew about going in thanks to a 2006 Disney short-film adaptation. To put it plainly, The Little Matchstick Girl by Hans Christian Andersen is sad as fuck. You won’t find the merciful yet quietus ending necessarily happy so much as just pure relief from a life of suffering, the plight of childhood poverty and abuse.

The original story was set in Denmark, but Stacey Lee’s take is set in an 1892 New York City. That date/locale is significant as you’ll find out at the end and is one of the many changes Lee makes to the original. For instance, in the original, the story begins with the girl’s grandmother already dead, here, her Amah is alive but suffering from more than few ailments. And not only matchsticks, but the girl sells custom drawings as well, hoping to earn a few extra cents outside the Metropolitan Opera House.

Mostly ignored, they make a penny or two from those exiting the building, earning just enough to survive, the owner of the Opera House unfortunately does pay them some mind. He is a NOT sympathetic man and chases them away if/when he catches them peddling their wares. A confrontation is inevitable, and her Amah, who is prone to wild statements about her past connections to the Opera House, feels his wrath. It’s then we learn things that have been kept hidden for far too long and the story goes from very good, to fucking great, but the less I say the better.

I absolutely loved this take and is one of a few that could’ve easily been given the novella/novel treatment, it’s that rich. Poverty, classism, and bigotry are all present and accounted for as we are reminded that the New World for many immigrants wasn’t the land of opportunity they were sold on. The Chinese Exclusion Act kept many immigrants from even entering the United States, and the ones that were permitted were in large part male. So, as hard as things were for male Chinese immigrants, it was even harder for their basically non-existent female counterparts. Lee also infuses the story with her own rich and beautiful culture and mythology, with the Legend of Hou Yi even making an appearance.

Fire and Rhinestone feels like a superhero origin story to me…seriously great stuff. Also, Stacey has one of the best author website homepages I’ve ever seen!

Also check out: Luck of the Titanic


by H.E. Edgmon

Our third Grimm-inspired tale, Mother’s Mirror, is based on Little Snow-White (or just Snow White), obviously one of the more famous fairy tales ever written.

So, how do you re-imagine something so well known all around the world? You don’t, not if you’re H.E. anyways. What he’s done here is take something conceptual and make it a powerful allegory, destroying any notion that trans people are theoretical fiction, that the spectrum they want us to be afraid of is not real, that’s its imagined. But not only is it real, not only is it quantifiable, but it’s also vital to our very existence as human beings.

“…we seek out people who reflect the parts of ourselves we’re still too afraid to face in the mirror.”

Living vicariously through your children, hoping you’ll tap into that fountain of youth, stay forever young, is a strange duality. I’m sure it can be a free-spirited and harmless act between a loving parent and their child, but sometimes, it can be the opposite. Are you doing this because you have a zest for life and a healthy relationship with your child? Or are you imparting a life’s worth of perceived failures onto them, the hope that they will live a life less ordinary than your own, and that will somehow reflect positively on you? I don’t think I need to tell you that this is a dangerous presupposition, one that can lead to a whole host of bad things.

Instead of silicon dioxide, silver, and aluminum put through a silvering process and imbued with a magical realism, we are instead presented with a living breathing mirror in the form of a high-school student. The teens unyielding and overbearing mother values appearance above all else and sees in her child, her mirror, a genealogical opportunity to uphold societal standards of feminine beauty. Not so fast mother dearest.

Listen, the numbers are overwhelmingly proof-positive that when a trans person is surrounded by support, love, and affirmation, the chance of them living a happy life as the person they were born to be is sky-high. This can/should come from family, found or otherwise, but a tightknit circle of caring and like-minded friends will certainly do, say, seven of them? That’s one of the many Snow-White beats you can expect here as H.E. very cleverly infuses Mother’s Mirror with a handful of tropes. My favorite, grabbing the binary we’re presented in the original, the capable and hyper-masculine Hunter, and the forlorn super-feminized Snow White, and making it rightfully bimodal. Genius.

Also check out: The Witch King


by Rory Power

For this re-imagining of Sleeping Beauty, Rory chose the Grimm version Little Briar-Rose published in 1812, and of all the shorts, this one strays the furthest from the original. One of the more surprisingly PG versions of Sleeping Beauty, the Grimm version doesn’t look all that different from modern day iterations. The OG version is much, much darker and Rory taps into that darkness in Sharp as Any Thorn.

In a nondescript indistinct time and place, we meet sisters Mel and Aurora who live very meagerly with their mother and abusive father. Seven years her senior, teenage Mel loathes Aurora’s existence, not only for being an annoying tag-a-long, but for other reasons I won’t say. This started the day her parents brought Aurora home from the hospital, with Mel cursing her baby sister a certain doom. Was this done out of spite, jealousy? Or was it a harbinger of things to come, to save her sister from a certain eventuality?

Both the original and this versions’ overriding theme is the power of love, just from different points of view, and minus any notion of romantic love. Aurora thinks the world of her sister, and after Mel leaves home, it’s all she can do to be reunited with her. Love is her driver, and despite the grim reality of her situation, her determination outweighs any and all fear she might have.

To be frank, this short is a huge bummer and even though a dark cloud hangs over the events on the page, it hints at something even darker. It speaks to trauma induced fantasy, resilience in the face of distress, a salve for emotional wounds.

Powerful themes to be sure and written very, very well by Rory.

Also check out: Wilder Girls


by Darcie Little Badger

This is an in-universe take on the Charles Perrault version of The Master Cat, or Puss in Boots, a fairy tale about a down on his luck young man and the clever speech enabled cat he inherits, bringing him good fortune. It also inspired the title of this book so keep your eyes open for that little easter egg.

It starts out with Nadia coming home from robotics camp only to see a moving truck parked outside of her neighbor’s house, the home of her best friend Roberto. Nadia knew his family had fallen on hard times but moving wasn’t in the cards prior to her leaving for camp. Understandably distraught, Nadia rushes over to see what’s what only to find a smirking Roberto on a hammock in the backyard. To alleviate her worries and confusion, Roberto breaks into a story, well, stories actually, explaining to her the steps that led not only to his family staying in the neighborhood, but also being more secure financially.

So, how did he do it? Well, Roberto gets some help from an unlikely ally, a clever speech enabled coyote only he can hear and who is surprisingly resourceful when it comes to scheming. This manifestation, real or not, is important for two reasons. First, the self-confident coyote instills in Roberto a sense of savor-faire, self-assuredness, tools he’ll need if he’s to be successful here. Two, coyotes are very important both symbolically and spiritually to the Apache people, which Roberto is, appearing when a leap of faith is required, courage, and when a community is in need of support. This metaphysical relationship to the Earth and its denizens, provides a discernable understanding that we are all connected in some way, some can see it, and some can’t.

And when you start to understand the generational impacts of colonization, you learn that movements like “Land Back”, are about more than just economic sovereignty, it’s about re-establishing and preserving languages and traditions. It’s about a people re-inserting themselves into an ecological system that should’ve never been taken from them in the first place.

This fairy tale might not have that much in common with the original, but certainly they both have it where it counts. And more importantly, Darcie uses the seldom-seen-but-no-less-clever-format, story within a story within a story within a story; to infuse Coyote in High-Stop Sneakers with some strong themes and morality. This is one of those canon building shorts and I would gladly read a middle-grade series following the adventures of Nadia, Roberto, and their coyote companion.

Also check out: A Snake Falls to Earth


by Melissa Albert

This is the only original tale of the lot with Melissa Albert thinking the best way to write a modern fairy tale is to go Meta. Yes, The Sister Switch is a fairy tale within a fairy tale as a harmless night out at an immersive stage production goes, let’s just say, unexpectedly?

We meet Nate, who’s a bit of a roué, and who has put together this plan to dump his current girlfriend Miriam and hook up with her best friend Case a week or so later. It’s a maneuver his friend calls “The Sister Switch”, where you break up with someone with the intention of dating their best friend. In his mind, this all makes sense and is the ideal situation for all involved, what could possibly go wrong?

He’s invited to a local production of The Silent Sisters, a sort of famous fairy tale (in-universe) that is being put on at a nearby abandoned warehouse. So, he goes with Miriam, Case, and a new guy named Kevin, a kid from a neighboring school. He’s hoping to get some quality time with Case, feeling their eventual hookup is foreordained, but instead Miriam dumps as soon as they arrive, telling him the gig is up, and that she and Case think he’s pathetic.

The play is immersive, and they are each asked to pick a mask to wear during the show’s run, each one designated with an archetype or trope, things like “Old Soldier”, “Maiden”, and “Seventh Son”. Then, as the action and scenes move about the warehouse, dressed up to look like a renaissance type of period, the crowd is expected to follow along. Then, things start to get weird as the lines between reality and fantasy begin to blur, Nate starts to experience what can only be described as a mental breakdown, trying to rationalize the things he’s seeing. After being separated from Miriam and Case, and as the story of The Silent Sisters heads towards its conclusion, Case might be running out of time.

What’s great about this short is not only do you get two original fairy tales for the price of one, but they’re both pretty good! They complement each other obviously, both leaning into important themes which are just as applicable today, as they were in the fictional time Melissa presents. Check out the Author’s Notes for some pretty good insight into writing an original fairy tale nowadays.

Also check out: Our Crooked Hearts


by Hafsah Faizal

I’m not going to lie; I read this one first only because not having read Eternally Yours (a recent anthology), it’s been a spell since I’ve read anything from Hafsah Faizal, not since she wrapped up her Sands of Arawiya duology and well, I missed her!

“There’s a notion that Muslims have to be saints.”

This modern take on Little Red Riding Hood, where Hafsah swaps a red hood for a red hijab, and instead of delivering food to her sickly grandmother, the main character, “Red”, is trying to make a quick buck to pay her grandmother’s mounting hospital bills.

An architecture student, she finds a help-wanted ad with little to no details, just an address, and when she arrives at an unmarked warehouse, she meets a small group of similar-aged folks and a handsome yet mysterious man who calls himself “Wolf”. He inherited the building and wants to remodel it with a specific motif in mind, but he needs a specific set of architectural plans to see his vision come to life. It just so happens she has access to those plans at her school’s archive, but it would require “borrowing” them for the night, definitely not halal.

It’s not a spoiler to say the “Wolf” character isn’t someone you can necessarily trust, but whatever his intentions are, “Red” feels like she has no other choice. And the “path” she’s told not to stray from in this case isn’t a physical one, but the one Muslims pledge to be guided to at least seventeen times a day while reciting Surat Al-Fatihah. This eats up a fair bit of space, Red coming to terms with the type of Muslim she is supposed to be and are the choices she makes in line with that. Once she sorts this out, and with the help of a handsome friend, she goes into full ass-kicking mode.

This is one of those shorts that creates a world bigger than what is presented, unsurprising coming from Hafsah, who world-builds just about as good as anyone out there. As is, you get a lot of bang for your buck with Once Bitten, Twice Shy, and the “heist” theme is of course a popular one, but you know what else is a popular theme? Revenge. After all, who would suspect a good hijabi girl of such haram actions?

Also check out: We Hunt the Flame (Sands of Ariwaya #1)


by Malinda Lo

Simply put, Frau Trude is a signature Grimm story about what happens to children who disobey their parents, but Malinda turns her version into a broader statement about not only the treatment of the LGBTQIA+ community (misunderstood, hated, feared), but how for hundreds if not thousands of years, women, who acted against the good graces of Puritan leaders or who were deemed anti-societal, were branded witches, often times never to be seen or heard from again. The Salem Witch Trials were a real thing after all, where “dissenters” aka women, judged inherently sinful and more susceptible to damnation, were executed after committing no crimes whatsoever.

Obedience Burcham is what you call a bit of restless spirit, and despite the name, isn’t always the dutiful daughter. And when her neighbor, Goodman Strong, brings home a mysterious wife (Trude) from the old country, Obedience is immediately taken with her. This is much to the chagrin of Obedience’s sister, Silence (who is of marrying age), but the union is short lived as Goodman suddenly dies from fever, and along with other strange occurrences, Obedience goes from simply curious, to obsessed. And despite her parents’ orders that she stay away from this “witch”, Obedience can’t help herself, there’s some unexplained phenomena that’s drawing her to Trude Strong.

There’s a really sensible and wonderful thing Malinda does here with the ending of this tale, twisting ever so slightly a lot of the original language, which can be quite literal, to great effect. She bends it to her will, taking a more metaphorical approach, altering the final scene while staying true to it at the same time. I don’t want to spoil it because her prose is so beautiful, but she changes what is a dark and dreary cautionary tale into something more intimate, more meaningful, something else entirely. Awesome stuff.

Also check out: Last Night at the Telegraph Club


by Tracy Deonn

As I’m writing this, Tracy’s second book in the Legendborn series, Bloodmarked, debuted a bestseller, so congrats to Tracy!

The second of three Hans Christian Andersen’s tales in this book, The Emperor and the Eversong is based off of his 1843 story, The Nightingale, where the Chinese Emperor at the time falls in love with the music from a nightingale in his gardens. Things take a turn after that, but I won’t go there.

There are enough themes in The Nightingale to shake a stick at, so it’s easy pickings really for someone of Tracy’s particular talents. The idea of immortality, the obsession, has been around as long as mankind has walked the earth. The fountain of youth is after all not a real thing, although many have found ways to leave an enduring impact, a legacy, through both righteous and self-righteous means. For this Emperor, who claimed the crown through ill-begotten means, that meant creating paradise, a society where all their needs are met. And biblical connotations aside, he’s created a land of plenty, “…a place of rest and refreshment in which the righteous dead enjoy the glorious presence of God.” And talk about your backfires!

“The great works were no longer, great, because they had become ordinary.”

Another less prevalent idea here is that perfect things, beautiful things cannot and must not be caged. And alchemy aside, trying to manufacture that, mastering digitally what was meant to be analog, will never have the same affect, it will never move people the same way. Life is always changing, it can’t be contained or put into a box either, something Tracy looks at in both a literal sense, and a metaphysical one. In the end, the Emperor learns his fair share of lessons, the most important being “One cannot witness eternity unless one is alive to do so.

The Emperor in this story is really a victim of his own ignorance, his basic misunderstanding of humanity and all its faults. But will he learn these lessons too late?

Also check out: Legendborn


by Alex London

There are so many versions of Cinderella at this point throughout history it seems highly unlikely you’ve never heard of it. Each country has its own version and its oral history vastly pre-dates the first published version, which occurred 1634. For practicality reasons and Disney iterations aside, the version, which is most known to westerners, was written by Charles Perrault in 1697.

Meet Asher Brockmeier aka Phoenix Ashes, social media drag celebrity with 9.2 million followers and a stepmother (Barb) for a manager. His mother died when he was very young and he fell into the drag scene, heavily influenced by a host of drag stepmothers. We find him days before the Met Gala, an annual prestigious fundraising event where the eyes of the fashion world are focused on New York City. But, feeling like it’s all getting to be too much, Ash throws on a hoodie and escapes through his bedroom window instead of attending the fashion event of the year.

He heads to a local coffee shop and meets a cute barista, the judiciously named Mirza (means Prince), and they flirt their way to a pizza date. Unfortunately, Barb intercepts Ash and whisks him away, getting to the Met Gala just in time, looking fabulous of course. Even though he wasn’t truthful with Mirza about who he really is, his celebrity, he can’t get the boy out of his mind, even as his spray-tanned limo driver, “face blank as an enchanted pumpkin”, drives him home, back to reality.

In an anthology that tends to be a little dreary, Hea is dripping saccharine and I’m all here for it. Everyone knows the significance of the glass slipper in Cinderella, and how the Prince went about tracking her down, but this is 2023, things work a little differently now and I enjoyed the fun way Alex modernizes these beats.

“People see as much beauty as they let themselves.”

There’s a wonderful not-so-furtive lesson from Alex here, about no matter what others have to say, how we see ourselves in the mirror at the end of the day is what counts. Understanding that we are all beautiful in our own way, and that if we focus on the goodness within, love and acceptance aren’t too far behind.

Oh, and that sometimes, grand gestures of love are the best kind!

Also check out: Black Wings Beating (Skybound #1)


by Meredith Russo

I wonder how many terpeople would know that Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid written in 1837 even exists. And even though it’s perhaps one of his most famous tales, the 1989 Disney film version is so immensely popular that I doubt there are few who care to even admit something supersedes it. Well, lucky us I suppose because not only has Meredith heard of it, but she’s written a pretty damn good version of own.

Listen, how we treat others is the basis for how we are judged as a society, and I suspect (hope) future generations will look back on us with disgust at the things we never tried to disallow. How we allow (and yes, we allow it) the horrific treatment of the Trans community for example by those hate-filled monsters is to our great shame, and that’s one of the many important issues of our time that Meredith injects into this cleverly 1st person POV short.

“Aria’s life had been difficult, and too many people she relied on had been vicious to her for too long.”

In this version, Aria starts out as a terperson (human), not a mermaid, and we are told how a life on land for her was a difficult one, being a termaid (trans) who lost that support system that is absolutely fucking VITAL if someone transitioning is to live a long and happy life as the person they were meant to be. It’s heavy shit but surprisingly uncomplicated as Meredith doesn’t convolute the main theme, which is love. And this is all told in-universe so expect lots of fun and familiar mermaid beats like turning into seafoam, sharp teeth, talons, and even the day-to-day boring living under the sea type stuff, but don’t look for a singing crab named Sebastian.

The Littlest Mermaid delivers on two fronts and delivers them well. One, it’s a breezy and romantic “How I Met Your Mother” type of recounting, only draped in a tropey and spot on Mermaid ethos. And two, a damning testimonial to how other species might view us, as supposed stewards of the Earth. How we’ve claimed dominion over the oceans and seas and all those who call it home, treating it with such recklessness, such wanton disregard, it brings into question the purpose our very existence.

This duality is seamlessly woven pretty damn tight by Meredith, and I suspect she’s spent a fair bit of time not only thinking about mermaids, but the important role we have to play in the future of the planet.

Probably the most plainly spoken and allegorically strong short of the lot, but no less insightful, no less impactful, and less engaging.

Also check out: If I Was Your Girl


by Roselle Lim

The second last short, and another Grimm, tackles one of the more famous fairy tales in existence, Hansel and Gretel which was first published in 1812, ruining gingerbread cake for generations.

While driving North of Toronto, through a lovely Canadian winter (it’s not lovely), siblings Hank and Gigi would rather be almost anywhere else than going to remote chalet to spend their holidays. They are joined by their father and stepmother, who they have a less than loving relationship with, when they pull off to the side of the road. With the kids stretching their legs in the freezing cold, the parents inexpiably take off, leaving them stranded the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, freezing their asses off…oh, and of course with no cell service. This, along with the “coming-of-age” theme, tracks with the original, which many think speaks the mass abonnement of unwanted children in Europe at the time.

With no other choice, they make their way back down the highway towards a restaurant they passed a while back, praying it’s still open. They arrive at the “Appetite”, an upscale steakhouse where they serve fancy pant wearing types and Tesla owners. The hostess must sense their desperation, so she offers them a ride to the nearest town and a free meal if they’re willing to help out in the kitchen. Out of options, they begrudgingly accept.

We all know how the original goes, and I’m sure you’ll figure out what the deal is here very, very early, and if not, Roselle doesn’t keep it a secret for too long. But that doesn’t spoil the surprise, nor does it ease the tension as you’re not likely to root for two kids more.

Listen, this takes place in my backyard of Ontario, Canada, in fact, I’ve been to the Muskoka’s many times and never once did I hear anything about children being eaten! But let me tell you this, the next time I go there, I’ll be on the lookout for a fancy looking steakhouse with EV charging stations out front.

And like I’ve mentioned a couple of times already with some of the other tales, Just a Little Bite feels like an origin story and ends in a way that will leave you hungry (!!!) for more.

Also check out: Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune


by Rebecca Podos

The last entry in the book and the fifth Grimm inspired short, The Robber Bridegroom, gives us another “tale within a tale” scenario, and another one of those shorts that makes for a perfect origin story. You’ll certainly agree once you get to this ending, predictable as it is, that you’ll not only want more, but that Rebecca does a great job implying a much larger world than what’s presented here. And for what it’s worth, A Story About a Girl is one of a few of the shorts that I read more than once.

The Robber Bridegroom has a few things going on but look to Proverbs for perhaps the most glaring, the idea that no wicked deed goes unpunished. Rebecca grabs a hold of this, injects with some storytelling steroids, and comes up with two pretty great takes. One happening in a modern-day Connecticut, the other in an 1822 Voloshsky, Ukraine.

Dani is walking into the belly of the beast, if that beast were her father’s boss, Mr. Glowinski, and the belly was his megamansion, the site of a “play date” with the prodigal son, Aleksandr Glowinski. Much to her chagrin, this was arranged by her father at a company barbecue, and ever the dutiful daughter, she does him this favor. If first impressions are everything, then Aleks fails miserably as he plays the “rich creepy asshole” exceedingly well as they head to the basement to watch a movie. Weighing their options, she begins to recite to him the plot of an older monster movie, a favorite of hers set in the 1800s, and as she does this, the narrative goes back and forth, the two slowly melding in one another.

“…nobody cares for most of the girls who go missing. Not Jewish girls in the Pale, not Black girls or trans girls or poor girls in America.”

As a literary (and film) device, the embedded narrative is quite commonplace, and when used effectively makes for great storytelling…and A Story About a Girl uses this device VERY effectively. Rebecca does several things well here to accomplish this, technical proficiency, historical relevance, swapping of gender roles, and a not-so allegorical look at the continued dehumanization of women in society. I loved this short.

As an aside, and this would take a lot more words, so instead I would encourage you to google the “Pale of Settlement” if you’re little to dive a little deeper…let the monster hunting begin!

Also check out: Like Water

To order a copy of At Midnight, click HERE!

Cover art by Jon Contino

Have a safe and happy holiday everyone!

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