Review: Clockwork Fairy Tales: A Collection of Steampunk Fables

June 8, 2013 Review 2

Review: Clockwork Fairy Tales: A Collection of Steampunk FablesClockwork Fairy Tales: A Collection of Steampunk Fables by G.K. Hayes, Gregory Nicoll, James C. Bassett, Jay Lake, K.W. Jeter, Kat Richardson, Nancy A. Collins, Paul Di Filippo, Philippa Ballantine, Pip Ballantine, Stephen L. Antczak, Steven Harper
Published by Roc on June 4, 2013
Genres: Steampunk
Format: Paperback
Pages: 336 pages
Source: Publisher
Sexual Content: Kissing, references to sex
Reviewed by: Kristina
4 Stars

Combining the timeless fairy tales that we all read as children with the out-of-time technological wizardry that is steampunk, this collection of stories blends the old and the new in ways sure to engage every fantasy reader.…

Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s "The Red Shoes", New York Times bestselling author K. W. Jeter’s "La Valse" forges a fable about love, the decadence of technology, and a gala dance that becomes the obsession of a young engineer—and the doom of those who partake in it.…

In "You Will Attend Until Beauty Awakens", national bestselling author and John W. Campbell Award winner Jay Lake tells the story of Sleeping Beauty—and how the princess was conceived in deception, raised in danger, and rescued by a prince who may be less than valiant.

The tale of "The Tinderbox" takes a turn into the surreal when a damaged young soldier comes into possession of an intricate, treacherous treasure and is drawn into a mission of mercy in national bestselling author Kat Richardson’s "The Hollow Hounds".

In "The Kings of Mount Golden", Hugo and World Fantasy Award nominee Paul Di Filippo tells the story of a young man’s search for his heritage and a mechanical marvel that lies at the heart of a sinister pact in this fascinating take on "The King of the Golden Mountain".

Steven Harper
Nancy A. Collins
G. K. Hayes
Gregory Nicoll
Pip Ballantine

LA VALSE by K.W. Jeter

The original fairy tales were pretty gruesome affairs with the wicked and sometimes the innocent meeting horribly bloody ends. LA VALSE is probably the most gruesome tale in CLOCKWORK FAIRY TALES was an interesting take on the RED SHOES by Hans Christian Andersen where instead of one bratty girl getting taught a lesson, horrible noblemen and women are tortured at a ball. I was a bit confused though about the application of the deadly technology on the nobility.  I couldn’t figure out if they were just automatons or really trusting rich people who had odd steampunk attachments put on them during the ball. Either way it was kind of satisfying to see mean rich people meet a horribly bloody end while dancing at a ball.

FAIR VASYL by Stephen Harper

Being familiar with Vasilisa the Beautiful and other tales involving Baba Yaga I was surprised at the gender change of the main character from Vasilisa to Vasyl. I adored the steampunk house design on Baba Yaga’s house that stands on chicken legs. Along with the house there are lots of other little touches paying homage to the original story. FAIR VASYL was a very whimsical story with anamatonic animals and brooms helping Vasyl complete his tasks to win the hand of a girl and escape from the Baba Yaga. The most surprising and touching element of this story was the romantic twist over just who Vasyl really wanted to be with in the end.

THE HOLLOW HOUNDS by Kat Richardson

THE HOLLOW HOUNDS was an amusing tale with mechanical talking dogs helping a soldier save a town. I loved the visuals of a vast cavern of steampunk mechanics and dangerous monsters. The battle with the antagonist and the giant mechanical dogs was pretty epic and filled with amazing steampunk fighting machines. As with most of these stories the ending is slightly altered from the original to fit this version and I really enjoyed the adorable ‘happily ever after’ ending with the soldier and his dog.



Most of these tales you can kind of see the original story underneath the ‘steampunk’ veneer and slight altering of storylines. After reading THE KINGS OF MOUNT GOLDEN I had a really hard time figuring out what the original could possibly be like as this one felt the most original of the bunch. This story veers the most away from the original tale. I liked how it became its own story as it seemed to add a lot more depth to the tale and added a happier ending which while not in keeping with the original was satisfying after the horrible things the characters go through.



Only being familiar with Disney’s Sleeping Beauty which took liberties with the original by Charles Perrault I was excited to see a darker version.  The storytelling for YOU WILL ATTEND UNTIL BEAUTY AWAKENS was really unique with various narrators and gave a more indepth and fascinating back story to the characters. For such a short story this had a lot of world building and I would love to see a full novel version of this world. The twist on the curse set upon “Sleeping Beauty” was ingenious and probably in keeping with the darker tones of  the original story. The ending was not happy for some of the characters but oddly satisfying and pretty logical given the parameters of the curse in this version of the Sleeping Beauty story.



This was my least favorite of the stories as it was basically just a kid magically getting big and strong and becoming a famous firefighter. There were some fun steam powered gadgets but it just didn’t grab me like the other stories in this book did and Mose came off as kind of obnoxious and arrogant though one would if they suddenly were Paul Bunyan sized.



THE CLOCKWORK SUIT had a lot of story to fill in as the THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES (the tale its based on)is a pretty bare bones in plot. The story has children working in a sweatshop to create a Clockwork Suit for a vain, genius professor who wants to present it to the emperor. The shift of the professor being the vain one duped by children was a pretty nice change from the original as it allowed for a bigger story plotwise. While the emperor was not vain he did come off as a bit reckless trying on a huge steam powered suit himself rather than making another servant do it. Though the emperor did need to be naked in the end to stay true to the ending of THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES...



This was a really clever adaptation of the original legend turned fairy tale of the PIED PIPER of HAMELIN. Being set in Texas it had a quaint Western feel to it especially with the added steampunk style guns and looming Native American tribe threat. While the Native Americans helped with the Western feel of the story their purpose to the story was kind of confusing and even unnecessary.

Aside from confusing Natives the rest of the story was engaging and fun. Instead of a magic flute luring rats and children away we have a grand steam powered organ. It was fun trying to imagine a steampowered organ travelling around the countryside with rats and kids mesmerized by its music. The addition of Stovepipe Montpelier as the protagonist of the story who helps figure out what the Piper has done to the children helped with connecting to the characters and get a feel for the town of New Hamelin and its citizens.



THE MECHANICAL WINGS felt the most ‘fairy tale-ish’ out of all of these adaptations with actual magic and steam technology that seems almost magical in its creation. I actually had a hard time conceptualizing some of the technology in my mind and had to settle for the ‘its just magic so roll with it’ mindset. Aside from that Eleanor’s quest to save her brothers from the evil queen by making magic capes was exciting and satisfying to see. It was kind of like a hero’s journey where the hero has to be broken down and go through many struggles before finally being vindicated in the end.

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2 Responses to “Review: Clockwork Fairy Tales: A Collection of Steampunk Fables”

  1. daydreamerN

    I love books like this they are so much fun to read. I think in a lot of ways writing a short story is a lot harder than writing a hard book.

    Great Review!

  2. children music

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