Blog Tours

Blog Tour: Once Upon A Winter – A Folk and Fairy Tale Anthology

Welcome to a true team effort! Three out of four members of Team LD have banded together to bring you today’s blog tour for Once Upon A Winter from Macfarlane Lantern Publishing! Add it to your Goodreads here, and then see what we have to say about the stories here!

RELEASE DATE: 23/11/2021

SUMMARY: Once upon a time stories travelled from place to place on the tongues of merchants and thieves and kings alike. Under the blanket of night they were exchanged between children, and passed on to their children, and their children after them. Details were altered from one generation to the next until thousands of tales existed where once there were few.
In the spirit of these age-old stories comes Once Upon a Winter, a seasonal anthology of folk and fairy tales from 17 authors across the globe. It covers the Gothic, the romantic, the whimsical, the frightening and everything in-between, and features both intriguing twists on classic tales and exciting original stories. (from Macfarlane Lantern Publishing)

Fab: The Biting Cold by Josie Jaffrey

While this isn’t my favourite story in terms of content – it is ultimately rather bleak and I prefer my stories a bit more whimsical – I was very impressed with the writing. This story of survival against all odds – and not only human survival – is told in close second person present, which I found an unusual choice but one that worked very well, drawing the reader into the story and its world.

The Match Girl by Rebecca F. Kenney

I absolutely loved “The Match Girl” by Rebecca F. Kenney – this is a reworking of the tale of the little girl selling matches, freezing to death, but with a magical, and may I say demonic twist. It is delightful and wonderful and heartwarming, giving her the ending that she deserves.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Bharat Krishnan

This story is about the Bale Na, an Indian witch who comes at Christmas and is somewhat of a vengeful spirit. I loved learning about her, but I struggled with the framing of the story. It is set in a small-town US community, and there is a big focus on the HOA making the Indian family’s life difficult because of their different traditions around Christmas, and the story is told through the perspective of the twelve-year-old white friend of the family’s son, who is frankly, growing up into a racist. And that is just not really something I enjoy reading about.

A Pea Ever After by Adie Hart

“A Pea Ever After” is probably my favourite story of my batch. It is just wonderful. And it made me cry. It takes so many ideas from traditional fairy tales and rewrites them into a fun, modern story about a witch who accidentally gets taken into a competition for a prince’s hand – which definitely doesn’t go how the fairy godmother orchestrating it expects it to. There are several tender romances blossoming – with, and without, the prince in question, and a new subject for the fairy godmother to focus on. It is well-written, and I wish there was so much more of it.

The Snowdrop by H. L. Macfarlane

While this was an adorable story about a boy who met a tiny girl living in a snowdrop flower, it ultimately felt a bit too simple – it was very predictable and it had more of an air of a children’s story, which to me caused a bit of a disconnect with the other stories in the anthology. I liked it, but I just couldn’t get over my feeling that it didn’t quite fit in.

Silverfoot’s Edge by Ella Holmes

This is a cute little story, although it felt a bit non-descript – I think I might have been a bit biased after “A Pea Ever After”. I really liked the setting in the Silverfoot forest, and the flowery writing – one to sink into again on another day I think!

Anna: The Storm Hags by Caroline Logan

The Snow Hags are a refreshing take on the fantasy saviour narrative, concluding that though kingdoms fall, people stay, and that’s what really matters. Having said that, I’ve struggled with this one. The hags themselves are wonderfully evocative of Hecate, the three-in-one goddess of the crossroads, but the short format makes it difficult to root for the protagonist who loses her loved one but then is able to get him back in fairly short order. I’ll leave it up for other readers’ judgement.

The Boggart of Boggart Hole Clough by Jake Curran-Pipe

I’m not one for horror, but The Boggart of Boggart Hole Clough is gripping, like the hands of the creature itself. The story follows Jordan through a brief but maddening encounter with a boggart, or, perhaps, the consequences of his own actions. Fear, guilt, and resentment are all mixed into one milk-curdling concoction. Curran-Pipe has excellent command of the local colloquialisms to give the story a sense of rootedness.

Around the Hawthorne Tree by Jenna Smithwick

Now, this is a story to be told by the fire, when the year draws to a close and people tell fortunes for the one ahead. A sweet tale about promises fulfilled and fair rewards, featuring folk magic, helpful robins and the Fae. The first person narrative lends itself to the storyteller essence of the protagonist, who outwits the faeries and faces her own doubts to bring hope to an overwintering village.

The Best Girl this Side of Winter by Laila Amado

Now, this is the embodiment of how you wish it felt going on holiday in winter, when every little thing is suffused with magic and that faint scent of mulling spice. And even as the magic gains a sinister edge, it loses none of its allure. Weda, a school-girl preoccupied with being popular among her peers, is sent to spend the winter holidays in a distant town of Wintervale, and discovers a role much more precious than that of ‘Best Girl’.

The Snow Trolls by S. Markem

‘In fact, one might say that life was pretty dull for an average faerie’ – this story begins much like it intends to carry on, with a whimsical levity that distinguishes the protagonists by the colour of their boots and declares winter the invention of a bored king. Compared to ‘The Biting Cold’ and ‘The Match Girl’ which open this anthology, this tale is certainly on the lighthearted side, and provides a wonderful counterpoint to the more serious stories that suround it.

Lord of the Forest by Katherine Shaw

I’m delighted that I’m finishing with this tale. As an avid fan of anything horned, hooves, or claiming the title of Lord of the Forest, I was immediately taken by this story of Anca’s encounter with a Leshii, a guardian of the wild. It is a powerful rendition of a simple message – that there is wonder and abundance in the natural world, if only we stop fearing it long enough to see it. I genuinely teared up at the end.

Sun: Queen of the Snows by Joyce Reynolds-Ward

This is a very ambitious story that ultimately fell a little flat for me as it tries to cover a lot in a relatively small amount of words. The Queen of the Snows is attempting to bring together her court in response to a request for help and faces an unexpected obstacle. There are lots of references to lore and names and the story switches between the modern world and a more archaic traditional fantasy before coming back again. It does however feel very wintery especially since the weapons have names like Icestar and Iceshatter.

Long Meg and the Sorcerer’s Stones by M. J. Weatherall

Having spent a fair bit of time near the Rollright Stones and learning about their legend I really enjoyed this story about how a coven of witches are anchored to a stone circle and why. Although they’re called the Sorcerer’s stones, he’s just a bit part with the focus being on Long Meg and the narrator of the story and it’s just a satisfying story that embodies both winter and folklore easily.

The Frost of Mercy by A. J. Van Belle

This is a story about two dryads that are the last of their family, and grove. One is getting sicker and the other, rather than having to watch her die and be the last watcher seeks out an alternative. I really liked this one. The contrast be between the acceptance of Forsythia and the frustration and fight of Azure is really well written and the ending manages to honour both.

Wintercast by R. A. Gerritse

This is an interesting take on the “spark” of inspiration and whether following your dream or what you believe to be your purpose is always the right course of action. Many of us feel like if we just keep pushing despite not getting results it doesn’t mean it’s not right, just that we have to try harder. This story is a nice antidote to this message and balances the story lore with the message effectively.

You Can’t See Me by Kate Longstone

You Can’t See Me is a very sweet tale of a little girl that rescues a snow pixie. While it has some of the same elements of The Snowdrop the underlying feeling is different This story is one of friendship and accidental coincidences, of how brief meetings can have long-lasting effects. Additionally like others in this anthology, it shows how a tiny spark can create a lifelong interest in and desire to conserve and protect nature.

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