Short story anthology, written by Jane Yolen and published in 2020 by Tachyon Publications. The book is part of a three-book series (so far) that includes 2017's "The Emerald Circus" and 2018's "How to Fracture a Fairy Tale."
Jane Yolen is a ridiculously prolific writer. She's written over 400 books -- fantasy, science fiction, poetry, juvenile fiction, comics, and more -- in addition to tons of short stories. I'd previously reviewed her "Emerald Circus" book a few months back, and discovered around the time I finished reading it that Yolen had published this book. Where "The Emerald Circus" took inspiration with familiar stories from fairy tales and popular children's stories, "The Midnight Circus" went digging in the darker corners of the world.
Some of Yolen's stories in this book include:
- The White Seal Maid -- A very well-told tale of a man and a selchie.
- The Snatchers -- Who is the strange stalker following a young man? And what's his connection to a dark corner of Jewish history?
- Wilding -- When future technology allows young thrillseekers to change their shape, who will be the predators hunting them? And who will be the protectors keeping them safe?
- Winter's King -- The bittersweet tale of the hard, cold life of a small boy born into hardship and dreaming of his lost people in the snow.
- Inscription -- A young woman turns to magic to ensnare her love, but doesn't reckon with the toll she must pay.
- Become a Warrior -- The story of a princess who flees her fallen kingdom for the wilderness and eventually takes vengeance on her enemies.
- An Infestation of Angels -- A reboot of the Biblical Exodus, complete with a plague of genuinely dreadful angels.
Like Yolen's previous collection, the book is rounded out with a section on "Story Notes and Poems," which include her notes on how each of the stories were written, along with one of her poems on the same general theme as the story.
This was a really wonderful collection of stories, again holding to a general fairy tales theme, just with a bit more violence, a bit more blood, and a bit more sorrow. There were very few outright horror stories, but definitely many more dark fantasy tales.
Particular favorites of mine included the beautifully sad "Winter's King," the brutally downbeat "Dog Boy Remembers," the twisty "Little Red," the filthy but still powerful "Infestation of Angels," and "Become a Warrior," which lures you in with a princess fairy tale and then jams a hatchet through your sternum.
No story collection is perfect, of course. I think I may have preferred "The Emerald Circus." This edition had at least one story -- "Requiem Antarctica," about a vampiric Robert Scott -- which I thought was weird in all the wrong ways. And I was disappointed there was no story about an actual Midnight Circus. But for the most part, these are thoroughly excellent tales, and they more than drown out the stories I didn't enjoy as much.
If you love the literary artwork of Jane Yolen -- and if you enjoy stories that put the Grim into the Fairy Tales, you'll certainly want to pick this one up.