To Spin a Darker Stair is a collection of two short stories, the first is a reprint of Catherynne M Valente’s, A Delicate Architecture and an original short, Oracle’s Tower, by Australian author Faith Mudge. The cover and and internal illustrations are by Kathleen Jennings (who was interviewed by Galactic Chat here).
I was lucky enough to get the book for $5 during Fablecroft’s World Fantasy Awards special offer – Kathleen Jennings has been nominated for her work across a number of projects, including many local and international small presses and Fablecroft have been an active supporter of her work. You should still be able to get it at the all inclusive price here.
The two stories are fairytale inversions or alternates, a growing fave genre of mine. I like works that examine the often simplistic, often conservative morals of fairytales and either examine and reinterpret them or show the other side of the story.
A Delicate Architecture is the first Valente I have read and the writing is as good as I would expect it to be from her reputation. The writing is rich and poetic which suits the subject matter of the story perfectly – a girl purportedly made from confectionary seeks the glamour of the Imperial capital. This story is heartbreaking.
Oracle’s Tower, while less consciously rich in its prose manages to create a beautiful fairytale ambience. It feels more consciously fairytale like to me. Valente charms you with her command of language. Mudge rearranges the fairytale building blocks and tropes so that the work has a familiarity but the reader is not sure where they are being led. I don’t want to say much more about the stories themselves. I had no knowledge of the fairytales they were to riff off beforehand and I think a clean reading approach to the stories is the best way to experience them.
Thematically the stories fit well together and I appreciate the effort Fablecroft went to create this book. They can’t be making too much on this offer and yet we get a very rich deal in the bargain -Valente, Mudge and Jennings in a bound book for less than the coffee and croissant you could enjoy while finishing it.
If you like fairytale retellings and you want to see two skilful proponents with different approaches and styles I think you’ll like it.