tainted tales coverRating: 3.5 stars
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Length: Anthology

These aren’t your grandmother’s fairy tales. As children, we often grow up hearing about princesses and princes, about good fairies and happily ever after. But those aren’t the real stories. Before they were sanitized and given candy colors and the glitter and polish of fantasy and fancy, fairies had teeth. They lied, they cheated, they tormented and teased. They led handsome men and beautiful women off into the woods, offering delights and pleasures … but they never promised the poor victim whose pleasure it would be. Sometimes we want the sweet innocent stories that make us feel good; sometimes, though, we want something darker, something with more spice than sugar, with more of the terror and less of the terrific.

This collection of ten stories covered a gamut of horror, depravity, pain, and passion. There are stories of addiction and pain, of rape and abuse. Some have endings and some do not. If you are a sensitive reader, or have trouble reading about certain painful topics, this is not the anthology for you. But if you’re in the mood to dip your toes into depravity and sin, you might find something in this collection to whet your appetite.

Anthologies can be very hit or miss. Usually there’s at least one story worth the effort. For me, there were two that really stood out, and two others worth a mention, so, all in all, I count this as a modest success.

The third story, Sandman by Claire Marta, was an almost, for me. Robin is a woman — in unicorn pajamas — who wakes into a world she doesn’t know. She doesn’t really know anything. With no memory, she has to rely on her intuition and her intelligence as she matches wits with the drunk and drugged man whose cabin she comes across in the woods. He calls it hell. The world outside the cabin, the world inside, it’s all one and the same to him as he tries to numb his pain with anything he can get his hands on. It’s a look at addiction through a fantastical lens, and Robin is given the choice to become Morpheus’ new drug of choice. Rather than enable him and doom them both, Robin stands up for the both of them. And … then it only gets stranger from there. I like Robin as a character and I’m pleased to see that this entry is the beginning of a promising series involving angels and gods, psychics, and a paranormal world that looks like it could be right up my alley. I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on this author.

The story that really caught my attention, though, is Tooth Fairy Lies by Emma Jaye. I was fortunate enough to review a previous book of hers, Taken, the first book in the Sweating Lies series, and it revisits the world of the Orta — a society of human traffickers who turn young men into either professional killers, or possessions. It’s a dark, cruel world of depravity and pain and I was surprised by how much I liked the book. When I saw her name on the anthology, I knew I was in for a ride. Atticus is a doctor living a secret life. Before his name change, he was one of numerous victims of the Tooth Fairy, a man who raped and beat men (many of them individuals in positions of power, such as politicians and police officers) and took a tooth as his trophy. Atticus was there just in time to see the Tooth Fairy as he left a victim in the alley, and was also the first to see a small bit of his face and report the crime. That’s when the Tooth Fairy came for a personal visit. Now with a new name in a different country, Atticus finds his newest patient is another victim of the same monster who gave him the best orgasm of his life. The man he can’t forget and the man he still dreams about. It’s a dark, twisted story and the ending … well, it’s a bit of a mindfuck. I’m still not certain what to think about it, or who to believe, but this was the stand out story, for me.

Two others, Greed by Jessica Collins and He Sees You When You’re sleeping by Sara Dobie Bauer, are creative interpretations — though still dark and ominous ones — of uncommon paranormal paramours. Greed shows us a gorgeous, hot and tricky, truth-twisting Leprechaun while He Sees You takes Kris Kringle in a very, very unexpected direction. The imagination of these two is worth pointing out, because I hadn’t expected either story to go in the directions they went.

Unfortunately, even as much as I enjoyed two of the stories, this book has enough flaws overall that my rating is going to be on the mild side. This book is in need of better editing and copyediting, as there are numerous grammatical issues in almost every story. Missing commas, missing quotations, word confusion (a few there instead of their, your instead of you’re, a keeling instead of kneeling, and a handful of others). Some of the authors chose to emphasize style over story, and the rest of the entries didn’t manage to hold my interest. However, with the sheer variety of characters, writing styles, and approaches to both sex and romance, there’s sure to be a little something for just about everyone, provided you’re aware that you’re in for a dark and bumpy ride.

Note: All proceeds of this book will be donated to Save the Children.

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