Back at it again with another Amazon Original Series! My brain is totally fried with year-end nonsense, but this series has given me nice little breaks while going about my day-to-day chores and adventures. I didn’t need any convincing to give this collection a “go”; I love a good fairytale retell or folklore restructure- no one will ever come close to Angela Carter, but I certainly won’t leave them out in the cold!
The Prince and the Troll 3/5
I know that YOU know this, but y’all, Rainbow Rowell is a delight! Why did I wait so long to give her a try? Things start out pretty cruddy for our Prince; he starts his day by dropping his new phone off of a bridge and into the muck…but wait! There’s someone down there! That someone might be a she and she might be a Bridge Troll, and might be the best thing to happen to the Prince in quite some time. Fantasy tropes mash with a meet cute, and fairytale folklore is dissected over copious amounts of Starbucks. Will they, won’t they, can they? You’ll have to read to find out! The audio performance by Rebecca Lowman was a treat as well; her Prince was perfect and her Bridge Troll was delightfully arch yet innocent. Lovely.
Hazel and Gray 2/5
You know who these two are! Hansel and Gretel are lovers, and thankfully not siblings this time. Don’t get too comfortable, though- there are plenty of evil stepparents, murderers, grossly forward older men, and a sex club full of slaves to boot. Yikes. Hazel, I mean Gretel, talks about her “swollen ladyparts” within the first 5 minutes. Oof. Poor Hazel has no agency; she does what Gray tells her to do, she’s trapped under the gaze of her evil step father, and the only time she cuts loose is when she does so after getting roofied. Double yikes. There is no magic in this one, other than the extremely lucky (and suspect) interventions of Gray. Gray is the fixer, the dealer, and the sneak- Hazel is at his whim throughout. Even during her daring escape he is still the rescuer, and even at the end he is still keeping secrets from her. Hazel may wield a weapon by the end, but it was put into her hands by men to be used against men. Ugh.
The Princess Game 2/5
This piece works really well as an audiobook, as it is a collection of “voice recordings” cobbled together by a 21 Jump Street-esque detective. He’s been undercover at a high school; playing lacrosse, puking in pools, and replying “hilarious” to group chats (from teens!) full of porn. So many lines have been blurred, crossed, and destroyed- but someone at the high school is murdering girls and setting their bodies up like fairy tale princesses. Icky acts call for icky measures, I suppose! Oh, and he’s pursuing a relationship with the Principal’s daughter- which “totally ok” as she is “totally 18”. Yikes. This tale tries to be a commentary on toxic masculinity wrapped up in a high school murder mystery, but just listing terrible things does not examine or comment on them in any meaningful way. Also- now I’m just being pedantic, but whatever: the whole rouse of this story is that girls are being killed in “Fairy Tale Princess” ways, but two girls are killed and set up in fairy tale tableaus outside of the Princess cannon; Alice and Pinocchio are not/were not princesses. The author really wanted to make this a Disney lens, but his view was apparently blocked.
The Cleaners 4/5
A little Cinderella and a lot Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In Ken Liu’s world, all objects are imbued with the memories and experiences of everyone who has handled them in the past. Some people are incredibly sensitive to these memories, and some are unable to feel at all. Some work to sell important memories: phones owned by celebrities, notebooks from famous authors, manuscripts from the greatest minds in history- and some work to scrub them away. Some toil away in factories erasing the despair of those who toil in other factories while building smartphones, and some work as Cleaners. A Cleaner can scrub your life of memories: a dead relative, an ex, an abuser- poof! They can literally clean everything you own with a scrub brush and vinegar. I would love to spend more time in this world. It was a lovely slice of melancholy. I was reminded, in a way, of Never Let Me Go.
The Wickeds 4/5
This collection finished strong with The Wickeds; Gayle Forman’s Wicked-esque dive into the lives of “wicked” fairytale foes. We join the tormenters of Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White as they attempt to seek vengeance on those who have done them wrong. This piece is a reflection on the relationship between mothers and daughters, as well as an examination of the power of men over women. There are shades of the Me Too movement moving in harmony with Sondheim’s Into the Woods. The Princess Game and Hazel and Gray both struggled with cramming too many ideas into too little space, but The Wickeds has the perfect amount of space to bloom and grow. Although, like The Cleaners, I wouldn’t mind an entire novel set in this world!
A solid 3-star average marks this collection. I also recommend listening to all of these; nothing like toiling away on housework while fairy tale folk work along side you!