ALISON'S WONDERLAND edited by Alison Tyler

Fairy tales often have a sexual undercurrent, from the menacing allure of otherworldly beings to the handsome prince bringing the fair maiden to the dream wedding and then, er, happily ever after. Alison's Wonderland is a short story collection, edited by Alison Tyler, where these erotic subtexts become very clear.

The stories in Alison's Wonderland can be divided, more or less, into three categories: contemporary takes on the classics, new versions of the stories set in their original times, and new stories with mythical creatures. The three billy goats gruff become rugged handymen in "The Three Billys," helping the prim librarian Ms. Troll. The big bad wolf turns up as a burly truck driver in "Wolff's Tavern." The little old woman who lived in a shoe is transformed into "The Cougar of Cottage Hill." A granted wish has unexpected consequences in "The Midas F*ck." We even find that the happy ending is far from perfect in "After the Happily Ever After." Several other stories move the events of the past to the present, in characters or situations.

Next are the fairy tales in the "good old days." There are fewer of these -- most authors presumably liked modernizing the stories rather than staying too close to the originals -- but their presence here makes sense, as what was once suggested becomes explicit. You also won't be able to see or read Snow White again after reading "Gold, on Snow."

Finally there are the truly new tales with familiar figures. An artist is obsessed with his elven creation in "Unveiling His Muse." Online dirty talk leads to a real-world supernatural encounter in "Cupid Has Signed Off." A few authors have fun with the romance of Ireland. There's even a D&D game unlike anything I've ever come close to in "Mastering Their Dungeons."

Alison's Wonderland works decently -- ironic, given that the sex is often kinky and usually graphic. Some of the stories are quite creative, while at other times simply moving names from the fairy tales to the present was a little simplistic. There's a nice variety of tones in the stories -- true love, true lust, nostalgia, happily ever after, even revenge -- and I recognized a few authors from the Black Lace series of books. Alison's Wonderland doesn't revolutionize the world of erotica -- or fairy tales, for that matter -- but it is a fun, hot, quick read.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch

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