Hidden in the woods beyond the Idle River lies the village of Greymist Fair. Traveling merchants who follow the road to the village discover that their watches stop and their sense of distance becomes distorted, while those who try to mark paths through the surrounding forest find their markers obliterated. Wolves and wargs (and possibly worse) stalk the shadows between the trees, and village children are warned never to stray from the lantern-lit path lest they be stolen away, leaving only their empty boots behind.
In Greymist Fair, seven intersecting stories move back and forth in time. The tailor’s daughter seeks the witch in the woods and makes a shattering discovery. A prince grants magical wishes to those who correctly answer his riddles. A ghost’s revelation exposes a terrible secret. An itinerant doctor discovers the nature of home. Death, alone on the road, longs for companionship. A beautiful noble yearns for a normal life. And a Yuletide celebration takes on particular significance as the ordinary and the extraordinary collide.
Readers of traditional fairy tales have certain expectations: Animals will talk, wishes will go awry, male and female characters will pair up and everyday people will vanquish evil. In Greymist Fair, author Francesca Zappia nods at such expectations before subverting and exceeding them. She freely remixes her source materials, which include familiar Brothers Grimm tales such as “Hansel and Gretel” and more obscure stories like “The Fisherman and His Wife,” “The Riddle” and “Godfather Death.” The book’s nonlinear structure allows effects to be introduced long before their causes, creating revelatory moments as dots connect and wider pictures emerge. Meanwhile, platonic and familial relationships, rather than romantic connections, provide the most compelling sources of love.
Much of the action is driven by the village teenagers’ emerging senses of selfhood and power, and Zappia frequently places the heartwarming and the frightening side by side, enabling them to reflect and amplify each other. The strongest element in these stories are their redemptive arcs, which are sometimes sweet, sometimes sorrowful but always deeply satisfying. In Greymist Fair, even when darkness threatens, second chances for lasting harmony are still possible if we make peace with our worst fears.