When I first got this anthology I was simultaneously excited and nervous, the title and cover had me concerned that I would be in for over 200 pages of sappy romance and happily ever afters but luckily I was wrong. Instead, the stories in this book blend two of my favorite things, bondage and an interesting twist on classic fairy tales. Not only that, but the authors often (though not always) manage to avoid being totally cheesy, which something that is difficult to do in any erotica, I thought it would be near impossible in a fairy tale themed anthology. Instead of making it cheesy, I found that the theme managed to make the anthology even more compelling. I was excited to get to the next story and see which characters the authors would decide to take on, and I loved picking through each story for clues and references to the tales that inspired it.
I was even happy to see that there were even some stories inspired by fairy tales that I hand’t heard before such as The Dancing Princess which is based on which was based on the Twelve Dancing Princesses. Elizabeth L. Brooks chooses to examine what happens after the old soldier is given his bride at the end of the tale, and explain the real reason he chose the eldest sister. While I really enjoyed the story I feel it can be a bit lacking if you weren’t familiar with the tale it was based on, I myself went and looked it up halfway through.
Another story I didn’t recognize was The Seven Ravens which actually shares it’s name with the tale that inspired it. Ariel Graham borrowed only the premise of the Grimm story about seven brothers who are turned into ravens, and used it to create her own interesting and highly erotic story of a girl and her journey of finding seven different men, each demonstrating a different trait. Admittedly the ending on this one is a little cheesy but I’ll let it go because the rest is so incredibly creative and captivating.
Red and the Big Bad Wolf was another story that decided to re-tell a classic, but this time one that was much more recognizable. I was incredibly impressed with the unique and engrossing tale that Poetic Desires spins, a tale that is reminiscent of it’s inspiration while at the same time completely different. Sure it’s hot, but it’s also a fantastic story with a well thought out and engrossing story.
Some other stories decided that instead of focusing on a specific tale, they would instead feature a mythological character as their fairy tale element. Mine Until Dawn is the tale of a modern day witch who uses the power of her magic to woo herself the perfect prince, if only for one night. The magic gives her the beauty and the control to captivate him the way she has always dreamed of, until things turn in a way she never expected.
Out of the Waves on the other hand decided to try to tackle the age old question, how exactly do mermaids have sex? While I did enjoy the story, it had me a little conflicted in the realm of consent. Yes everyone involved was enthusiastically agreeing to what happened, but they were not able to communicate that consent, and one of them didn’t seem hyper-concerned if that agreement was there or not. Luckily this was the only somewhat problematic story in the anthology, something bound to happen in any anthology involving kink, even one as mild as this one. I am also happy to say that while it may be mildly triggering for some, it is not over the top and those who enjoy play with consensual non-consent and powerful masculine figures will enjoy this story.
My favorite story in the whole anthology was by Kathleen Tudor titled The Smith Under the Hill. It was another story that took place in the “real world” but with a twist. While attending a renaissance faire, Jules quite literally gets sucked down the rabbit hole of faerie mythology on a quest to rescue her brother. Oh and to seduce the stunning faerie prince (as you do) into some of the hottest sex I’ve had the pleasure to read in a very long time.
I was impressed to see that none of the stories in this book were plagued with coy innuendos the way erotica sometimes can, especially considering the theme I thought this was a problem I would be seeing quite a bit of. My only complaint about this book is that it is incredibly heteronormative, featuring mostly stories involving men and women, and almost always in very typical power dynamics. The few times a woman in is power it is almost playful where the man is being willingly seduced, but not submitting per-say.
While I will always miss a degree of diversity in books, I can’t bemoan this book too much for it because for all the kinky, queer, non-conforming erotica and porn out there, there does have to be some for the straight folks too. This is absolutely an anthology for the more mainstream audience, mostly vanilla and straight women who have a passing interest in bondage. The restraints are usually just a garnish on top of the already hot sex that they are having rather than the elaborate bondage that can be seen in the kinkier scene. I was happy to see I two different stories feature two women, The King’s Cousin and The Witch’s Servant, and both were mild enough to not be intimidating for women exploring their sexuality but their inclusion was a nice touch for women who do not find themselves exclusively attracted to men.
While this book was a departure from the queer things I typically enjoy, the unique theme and strong writing made it an incredibly pleasurable read. I would highly recommend this anthology to people with an interest in fantasy who also enjoy depictions of heterosexual sex. I would love to see a continuation of this series in the future featuring darker stories or queer stories because the departure from erotica based in reality was incredibly interesting and a great change of pace. It made me more interested in the plot of the story than I usually am, and when you separate a story from the rules governing reality the possibilities for what can be done grow exponentially and I would love to see that explored further.
***Many thanks to Cleis Press for sending me this book free of charge in exchange for a fair and honest review.***