Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.
When I was but a young little Book Hog (or, should I say, 'Piglet'), I loved to sit off by myself and read fairy tales. I gorged myself on the stories written by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson. Little did I know that those stories would follow me every day of my life. When I hear about a new movie based on, say, Beauty and the Beast, or Cinderella, or my favorite, Little Red Riding Hood, I have to run to the theater and see it. But I always end up disappointed, although I did enjoy 'The Brother Grimm' with Heath Ledger and Matt Damon. It was clever, yet terrifying. 'Enchanted' starring Drew Barrymore, was a wonderful take on the Cinderella story. Two of my favorite television series are 'Grimm' and 'Once Upon a Time'; I love the way that fairy tales are rewritten for our modern world, with moral lessons still ringing true.
And I run to books that are based on fairy tales. A wonderful example is the Young Adult novel, 'Cinder', by Marissa Meyer. Although her story is modernized to engage young adults, the message is still the same: Girl meets Boy; Boy loses Girl; Evil Queen tries to kill Girl. But this time, the Boy doesn't save the Girl. She saves herself.
'Something Red', the wonderful new novel by Douglas Nicholas, seems, at first glance, to be based on Little Red Riding Hood. But don't be deceived. It is full of mythology, beasts, and the magic/terror of a fierce winter storm in Great Britain in the 13th century.
Molly, a formidable Irishwoman, is leading her makeshift family across treacherous mountains when the strongest storm in memory breaks out. Molly, Jack (her sometime lover/helper), Nemain (her granddaughter), and Hob (her apprentice), soon learn that something evil is in the woods and it must be defeated and destroyed. A tingle went down my spine when the evil one exposed itself via a very simple statement, one that will be easy to overlook.
Molly is strong and self-assured, a possessor of magical talent, which she is passing on to Nemain. And Jack is quiet, handicapped from his years as a soldier during the Crusades. The people they meet along the way are old acquaintances, or newly-minted friends. And there are those who do not trust Molly.
But it is Hob who is the hero of our story. He is young and somewhat naive, but Molly trusts his instincts, and as a gift, foretells his future.
It is this foretelling that dares make me hope that Mr. Nicholas will continue this saga of Molly and Company. Written with great skill, this atmospheric, yet gritty, story will remain with you, and it is a wonderful addition to the long line of stories devoted to the magic of fairy tales.
'Something Red' will be released in September 2012 by Atria books, a division of Simon & Schuster.