This anthology is made up of 17 fairytales, some original and some retellings, all set during the dark of a cold, snowy winter.
Like all anthologies, some stories spoke to me more than others.
The first story is The Biting Cold by Josie Jeffrey, an ecological dark fantasy cautionary tale told in second person narration.
Rebecca F Kennedy’s Little Match Girl retelling – The Match Girl – comes next. This story is well written and imaginative, but lacked the charm and pathos of the original.
Bharat Krishnan’s Christmas themed horror is the third story in the anthology. Santa Claus is Coming to Town has some nice ideas, and I liked the Indian characters, but I found the plot predictable.
The next story was outstanding. A Pea Ever After, by Adie Hart. A colorful, magical, super imaginative retelling of The Princess and the Pea that was a lot of fun.
The Snowdrop by the anthology editor, H L Macfarlane, was another story I enjoyed. It’s a very sweet tale about an encounter between the fairy folk and a 7 year old boy named Toby, with echoes of Thumbelina.
My favorite story of the bunch was Silverfoot’s Edge by Ella Holmes. Maeve is tasked with a seemingly impossible quest in order to save her beloved. I loved the fairy folk in this tale, as well as the protagonist, and the imagery brought to mind the wonderful aesthetics of Ridley Scott’s Legend. It’s a clever story, reminiscent of Sleeping Beauty, with great themes.
The Storm Hags by Caroline Logan introduces a character – Catriona Grant – who must decide whether to save herself or the kingdom from suffering.
The Boggart of Boggart Hole Clough by Jake Curran-Pipe is a horror story with an interesting idea, but I struggled to get into the writing style.
Around the Hawthorne Tree by Jenna Smithwick is a lovely Celtic story about tradition and love, with a sweet ending. Another story I particularly liked.
The Best Girl this Side of Winter by Laila Amado, is a golden apple retelling that introduces an interesting fantasy world I would love to read more about. One of my favorite stories in the anthology.
My least favorite story in the anthology, The Snow Trolls by S Markem, is a comedic tale you will either love or hate, depending on your sense of humor.
Lord of the Forest by Katherine Shaw is another story that appealed to me, with its themes about escaping brutality and prejudice.
Queen of the Snows by Joyce Reynolds-Ward had some interesting Norse inspired imagery and a couple of cool weapons in the form of a knife called Icestar and an axe named Iceshatter.
I struggled to connect with M J Weatherall’s story about a coven of witches in Long Meg and the Sorcerer’s Stones.
Like a lot of the stories in this collection, A Frost of Mercy by A J Van Belle has an environmental message incorporated in this tale of two dryads.
I’ve a lot of experience with the sparks depicted in Winter Cast by R A Gerritse, although I usually call them Imposter Syndrome or Self Hate.
The final story in the anthology is You Can’t See Me by Kate Longstone, a well meaning story that reminded of an after school special teaching children to be kind to nature.
The anthology is nicely presented, with a beautiful cover image and little illustrations at the beginning of each story.
Unlike a lot of themed anthologies, Once Upon a Winter has huge variety in its stories, with very little repetition in imagery or themes, despite their wintery fairy tale settings.
However, while the stories are pleasant, there are few that will stay with you after finishing the book.
I award Once Upon a Winter…
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an ARC. I am voluntarily leaving an honest review.