‘The future isn’t written, till you write it.’ – Riverbed
I’m not sure I can express how incredible a collection this is. Tangelweed and Brine is a feminist masterpiece, Sullivan has taken the fairy tales we know and love and turned them on their heads, subverting what we have always known to be the message of those tales and creating a rhetoric that screams empowerment. The stories within are powerful, magical, dark, poetic, and filled with strong female characters – there are no damsels in distress or princesses waiting for their princes who have no substance or humanity, instead we have women of all kinds, we have real people filled with love, lust, hate, and a great need for more from life, not objects or pieces of meat or pretty pieces of decoration.
I found myself filled overwhelmingly with anger and hope as I devoured these stories. Anger that women have been, and are still, treated like this – as commodities, pieces of meat, something to take and consume by men, people who had no agency, no rights, no vote. But hope as well. Hope, because women are and always have been powerful, even if we have been burned, and drowned, imprisoned, executed for it. Hope that the world is changing and people are too – that someday everyone will realise that people are people, no matter what they identify as, flesh and blood, worthy of equality and freedom and a life without fear.
Slippershod – 5/5 stars. So powerful – love and kindness, freedom, breaking away, bravery.
‘People like their women lovely. Women are a lot of different things.’
‘…be ignored and still retain your value.’
‘What breaks a person builds another person.’
‘The night spreads wide and you have flown, you’ve flown.’
The Woodcutter’s Bride – 4/5 stars. Strange and unsettling.
Come Live Here and be Loved – 4/5 stars
You Shall Not Suffer… – 5/5 stars
‘The world’s not built for soft and sturdy things. It likes its soft things small and white, defenceless.’
‘Your body has become a cut of meat.’
‘You are a woman. Women must be trained.’
This story hit home hard – when you don’t conform to the traditional image of girl, growing up can still be difficult, being expected to be tough, to not hurt or feel, just because you’re so much taller and outwardly confident than others, than boys especially. And suddenly puberty hits and boys and men are told it’s acceptable to stare, to catcall, to harass – when did this become a norm? How did this even happen? The expectations that are placed on women and what we should be like – small, soft, delicate, weak – and how if you aren’t like that, you aren’t seen as womanly or feminine, it’s total rubbish, but it can still hurt and take a long time to come to terms with. I felt like I was coming home reading this story – the witch is beautiful and powerful, both sturdy and soft.
Meet the Nameless Thing and Call it Friend – 4/5 stars
Sister Fair – 4/5 stars
Ash Pale – 4.5/5 stars. Subverting the story of Snow White in spectacular fashion – Snow is the witch and the tale is powerful, dark, and magical. Whilst Snow seems deranged and evil in some of her methods, she’s free, she’s not being told what she can and cannot do by a man who wants to own everything about her.
‘Women aren’t allowed to do this here. To wield the power and to say the words.’
‘A soft life in a pretty cage with windows. A coffin for a woman when she lives.’
Consume or be Consumed – 4/5 stars
‘You are not a gift. You’re not a thing. You slide the cold blade in.’
Doing Well – 4/5 stars
‘In every castle there are hidden rooms.
For hidden women.’
‘You need to hide to keep your body safe.’
The Tender Weight – 4/5 stars. Showing the ludicrous idea of a woman’s value being places on her virginity and then her ability to have children – commodities rather than people. The ending was wonderfully unexpected and a brilliant twist on the Bluebeard story.
Riverbed – 4.5/5 stars. Taking back power and control.
‘All witches burn.’
‘Witches can burn, and sometimes men can catch fire.’
‘They cannot bind my brain.’
The Little Gift – 4/5 stars. Odd, but powerful all the same.
‘I hold my head up high.
I am a person and I have value.’
Beauty and the Board – 5/5 stars
‘I am a woman grown. And I am angry.’
‘They venture out into the moonlit halls, walking naked through the dangerous places unafraid and wild with cold, bright beauty.’
Read: October 4th-5th 2017