2 out of 4 stars
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What Darkens the Hour by Jo-Anne Barker is a collection of short stories inspired by fairy tales. There are a total of 43 stories with topics ranging from evil step-mothers to grave robbing to witches and vampires. At the end of each tale, the author shares both the historical inspiration for the story as well as which fairy tale it was based off.
One of my favorite stories was entitled How poorly child workers were treated in work houses (capitalization is the author's). Angelica's Aunt Martha doesn't want to care for her anymore; therefore, she drops Angelica off at a "work house," telling them she found her on the streets. A kind lady comes along and tries to get Angelica back where she belongs. Does she succeed?
I appreciated that the author included historical details about the time period in which the stories were set. It's educational, and the reader learns about everything from conditions in London to details about Jack the Ripper. To me, this was kind of like having your cake and eating it, too - you enjoy a fun story and learn interesting facts at the same time. For instance, after one tale, Ms. Barker tells us about a murderer who lived in the nineteenth century. "Britain’s most prolific serial killer Amelia Dyer ('Angel Maker)' offered adopting services but instead murdered around four hundred infants."
Unfortunately, there were a few issues. First, I thought there were too many stories, and they weren't developed well. If the author concentrated on fewer stories and developed them further, the collection would be far superior. For example, in the first story, there's a time jump that's quite jarring. One moment the protagonist is saying she won't marry the man her mother picked for her. The next she is mourning her husband's death. What happened in the interim? Because there was an abundance of tales, none of them really stood out, either. This wouldn't have been the case with more detailed writing.
Second, the number of grammatical errors in the book made my head spin. Some paragraphs have a space between them, but most do not. "Brought" was often used instead of "bought." Capitalization and punctuation were incorrect. It needs a good proofreader and an even better editor.
I love the idea of this book. It's especially innovative of the author to incorporate real historical events and people with fairy tales. It just needs work before it's ready for mass consumption. With that in mind, I give What Darkens the Hour 2 out of 4 stars. I recommend it to lovers of historical fiction combined with fairy tales, but you must be willing to overlook errors. It would be helpful for the reader to enjoy stories with less detail as well. I can't wait to see what this one looks like after some reworking.
What Darkens the Hour
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