THE SEED & OTHER FAIRY TALES is a collection of 9 original fairy tales written by Joseph Hillenbrand. Accompanied by illustrations from a number of different artists, the stories he tells range from flash-fiction to short story length, and, on the surface, relate the narratives of girls who consume their mothers or makers or animals they’ve saved, a boy who loses the stones that keep him grounded, a married couple who end up “stuck with each other” (quite literally), and the classic “happily ever after.” While these stories contain all the traditional elements of fairy tales, Disney this collection is not. A line in “The Seed” says it all: “…Peter Pan is for children, but fairy tales are for adults.”
Reminiscent of Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber (minus the re-imagining of classic fairy tales and the feminist bent), Hillenbrand’s tales are dark and dangerous and deliciously quirky, but then again, they’re exactly what fairy tales should be. The themes he addresses – the idea of the seed (that which gives us birth and grounds us), relationships, fighting with God, our own egos, (re)birth, and war, to name a few – will appeal to those adults who love to consider literature in terms of how it plays into their own thoughts on life and humanity, especially readers who have an interest in the Gothic and horror genres.
Hillenbrand’s use of language is masterful and precise, literary in nature but not overbearingly so. His prose is rich and evocative, and he seamlessly weaves an astonishing amount of subtext throughout, creating both a sense of wonder and a sense of discomfort that leaves the reader squirming.
When it comes to storytelling, Hillenbrand is a master craftsman. While THE SEED & OTHER FAIRY TALES would make a wonderful study for students, this collection is also perfectly suited to just be enjoyed.
Reviewed by K.J. Pierce for IndieReader