Happy April, everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful March and that this April is just as good or even better!
I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing “Magical Mechanations: Four Steampunked Fairytales from Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris!” This is a short story collection which carries four retellings of four fairytales. Three of these retellings are more familiar (the Little Mermaid, Little Red Riding Hood and Aladdin) but one of them is less so ( the short story“Mechanical Wings” is based off The Wild Swans, a Grimm fairytale that the first of the four stories is based off).
All four fairytales were interesting in terms of the worldbuilding they used for their retelling. While “Aladdin And His Wonderfully Infernal Device” and “The Little Clockwork Mermaid” stuck close to their roots in terms of worldbuilding by keeping it within their respective original settings save for adding steampunk elements, “Mechanical Wings” and “Little Red Riding Hood” were much more ambitious, with “Mechanical Wings” altering its setting entirely so that the protagonist was not sent into the woods but to the equivalent of a large mechanical workshop, while “Little Red Riding Hood” took place in a wartime setting, complete with spies and the like. I found that the world building in all the short stories was mostly rounded out in their stories and served their purpose in the plot except for “Little Red Riding Hood,” which felt a bit too packed with detail that slowed down the story’s pacing.
Out of all the short stories, I enjoyed reading “The Little Clockwork Mermaid” the best. I liked the twists of not just the clockwork legs that were implemented, but also the ending of the prince actually outwardly rejecting the protagonist. However, the protagonist does not end up becoming sea foam out of love for him, but it is the Sea Witch herself that actually encourages the protagonist to move on and move forwards. It gives a heartwarming, sort of hopeful ending that you don’t get in the original fairytale, though I do admit it was slightly rushed at the end.
“Aladdin And His Wonderfully Infernal Device” also had some interesting plot twists, with the Genie actually being an automaton himself. The way Aladdin and the Genie defeat Jafar (or I should say Jaha, as that’s the retelling’s version of Jafar here) is also fitting as well. I do think the ending did feel a bit rushed, though. Instead of focusing on Aladdin and the princess getting together, it focused more on Aladdin impressing the Sultan in the end, which is also a different change from the original or more well-known versions. Though this risked removing this story from its more well-known versions, the execution of these twists were well-written.
“Mechanical Wings” was one of the stories that was also more true to its original fairytale, save for the ending resulting in the main characters going to war against the main character’s evil stepmother. I’m not sure if the cliffhanger ending was as effective as it could be, but it did serve its purpose of finishing off the main plot. I feel like it its format could act better as a short novel as opposed to a short story if this is expanded on more, but otherwise it was an interesting read.
However, I found that “Little Red Riding Hood” was the least successful in all the retellings overall. This is because not just because of it biting of more than it could chew within a short story format, but also because it felt the most removed from its original fairytale, other than using the names of Little Red Riding Hood and the big bad Wolf and echoing key lines from the original fairytale. Had those things not been included, I wouldn’t have realized it was a retelling at all, which would defeat the purpose of it being a retelling.
Overall, I rate this collection 3.5 out of 5 stars!