Publication date: November 23rd, 2021 Links:  Amazon  |  Goodreads A  shape-shifting spirit haunts a family in England during the depths of ...

Review || Once Upon a Winter: A Folk and Fairy Tale Anthology

Publication date: November 23rd, 2021

A shape-shifting spirit haunts a family in England during the depths of winter.
A woman must locate a snowflake for a magical trickster to save her frozen true love.
A witch knocks upon a young man’s door to take his life on Christmas day.
A small boy meets a faerie housed within a snow drop.

Once upon a time stories travelled from place to place on the tongues of merchants and thieves and kings alike. Under the blanket of night they were exchanged between children, and passed on to their children, and their children after them. Details were altered from one generation to the next until thousands of tales existed where once there were few.

In the spirit of these age-old stories comes Once Upon a Winter, a seasonal anthology of folk and fairy tales from 17 authors across the globe. It covers the Gothic, the romantic, the whimsical, the frightening and everything in-between, and features both intriguing twists on classic tales and exciting original stories.

The first of four planned seasonal anthologies from Macfarlane Lantern Publishing, Once Upon a Winter is sure to have a story for just about everyone. Grab your copy in time for Christmas today!

Inside this anthology:

The Biting Cold by Josie Jaffrey
The Match Girl by Rebecca F. Kenney
Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Bharat Krishnan
A Pea Ever After by Adie Hart
The Snowdrop by H. L. Macfarlane
Silverfoot’s Edge by Ella Holmes
The Storm Hags by Caroline Logan
The Boggart of Boggart Hole Clough by Jake Curran-Pipe
Around the Hawthorne Tree by Jenna Smithwick
The Best Girl this Side of Winter by Laila Amado
The Snow Trolls by S. Markem
Lord of the Forest by Katherine Shaw
Queen of the Snows by Joyce Reynolds-Ward
Long Meg and the Sorcerer’s Stones by M. J. Weatherall
The Frost of Mercy by A. J. Van Belle
Wintercast by R. A. Gerritse
You Can’t See Me by Kate Longstone 

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I absolutely adore folktales and fairytales, whether they are variations of the original stories, simply influenced by the classic tales or completely brand new imaginings. I didn't hesitate to say yes to Once Upon a Winter. What's even more exciting is that Once Upon a Winter is the first of four planned seasonal anthologies from Macfarlane Lantern Publishing. Obviously, this one starts with the colder season of the year and all the stories within containing the cold bite of winter's wind and snow.

As with all anthologies, there are stories that will resound more with the reader over others, which is the beauty of an anthology. While there were a couple of the stories that didn't work so well for me, the vast majority did. The atmosphere of the stories varies from sweet and romantic like "The Snowdrop" by H. L. Macfarlane, in which a boy meets an unexpected faerie friend, to the humorous "The Snow Trolls" by S. Markem where the edict is "Don't eat the yellow snow" and then there are those much, much darker, which are always going to be my personal favorites. 

That's not to say I still didn't enjoy the other stories. "A Pea Ever After" by Adie Hart is a feminist tale that is on the lighter side of the retellings in the anthology but I loved this take on The Princess and the Pea by Hans Christian Andersen. A fairy godmother has gathered four princesses together to compete for the hand of the prince. It was a welcome change to see smart, capable princesses that had no need of rescuing. In fact, the princesses had no interest in marrying the prince at all. Not that he's not perfectly handsome or refreshingly educated or even remarkably kind and funny because he is, they just aren't interested or have better things to do with their lives. 

Once again on the darker side of things is "Silverfoot's Edge" by Ella Holmes. In this tale, a trickster freezes a woman's love in a small pool and tasks her with finding one special snowflake in the midst of so many. This story starts in winter but spans the following months as well. It's everything that I love about fairytales. There's the peril of her loved one, the riddle to solve, a clearly defined baddie, and a determined and cunning heroine.  Not to mention that the little-folk creatures sent with her to "weigh" the snowflakes—the only way she'll know she's found the correct one—are adorable. My favorite passage of the entire anthology is here: 
        My mother once said to me love is an edge you will fall over, and she was right. 

        I think about it often as I walk the woods. She is dead and shrouded in the earth, and I feel her with every bare-footed step throughout the dirt. 
Landing among my favorites as well were two others in the collection: "The Best Girl this Side of Winter" with its undead, poisoned claws, and impossible quest and Katherine Shaw's "Lord of the Forest" which introduced me to the Leshii, a Slavic forest protector spirit. Don't let the fluffy bunnies on the cover fool you, there are wolves within these pages. 

If you love the stories by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Charles Perrault, and Hans Christian Andersen, there's a story here for you. Unlike the aforementioned authors, this anthology sees a more diverse authorship being primarily comprised of female and LGBTQ+ authors from various countries. Grab yourself a copy and a fuzzy blanket and expect a little magic for those long dark winter evenings.