Sourdough and Other Stories – Angela Slatter
Tartarus Press, 2012
Originally published 2010
These are the tales of mothers and daughters. A woman who picks gallowberries and steps out of the world, leaving a tangle of loyalties behind; a girl with a map written into her skin; a baker who feeds vengeance to her enemy and a doll-maker with the power to mould an army. These are the tales of witches and thieves, troll-girls, brides and widows and ghosts.
Winner of the 2012 British Fantasy Award, among numerous other accolades, Angela Slatter is well known for her dark fairy tales. While I recognised only one direct retelling, every story in this collection draws on the lyrical rhythm and clean structure of traditional folk tales. They are not consecutive but are quietly interconnected; the protagonist of one will appear as a side character in another or some part of back story will be revealed. Combining raw pragmatism with strange magic, these stories are exceptionally inventive and frequently very bleak – I’d classify most as dark fantasy, but there’s definitely a strong tinge of horror. Last year Slatter released The Bitterwood Bible and other stories, a second collection set in the same world.