Story Rating: 4 stars
Audio Rating: 4.75 stars
Narrator: Michael Lesley
Length: 11 hours, 35 minutes
Fairytales from Verania is a collection of four stories featuring the characters from T.J. Klune’s excellent Tales from Verania series. I just love this series, so I was excited to see that Klune was putting out what is officially book 4.5 to tide us over until Justin’s story is released. This is an interesting collection in that the tone ranges widely, moving from silly and over-the-top at the start of the book to intense and emotional by the end. We also get differing styles, as the first three stories are fairytale retellings, while the fourth is Verania canon with a new story set before the time of Sam and the gang. The retellings feature the Verania characters playing all the fairytale character roles and mostly pick up the original character personalities and relationships among them. For example, Sam and Ryan end up together in some form in most stories, even when they are rats in a Cinderella retelling. And Tiggy’s character is always sweet, slightly dim, and universally loved, regardless of what role he plays in the story. I enjoyed seeing what characters filled out the various roles in the fairytales and seeing how Klune incorporated them into the classic stories.
The Unicorn in the Tower is a Rapunzel retelling, featuring Gary as the titular character. He has been locked in a tower by the evil Lady Tina de Silva until his 18th birthday, when she intends to kill him. Gary is desperate to escape, and horny for some sex before he dies, so his bird friend Tiggy brings an assortment of potential suitors around to try to woo Gary. Now he must find a man before it is too late and Lady Tina comes back to finish him off.
This story is basically Gary dialed up to 11 the whole time. It is a lot of sex jokes, a lot of absurdity, and pretty much what you would expect from a story where Gary is the main character. It is silly and over-the-top and, at times, too much for me. But it is also the shortest of the stories and a nice, light start to the book.
Sam and the Beanstalk features Sam as a poor farm boy who trades his family’s cow for some magic beans and ends up with a beanstalk to the sky in his field. He climbs up the stalk after his best friend, wayward rooster Morgan, and discovers a castle and a giant. There he learns about the power of friendship and the importance of having people who love and care about you.
This story is super sweet and has a similar emotional tone to the main Verania series, with some funny moments and some poignant ones. I enjoyed the various cameos here from the Verania characters as well, including Vidoma as the woman who trades Sam the beans in exchange for Randall, the asshole bull.
The Good Boy brings us a Cinderella story with Todd (of the big ears) in the lead role, Gary as the wicked stepfather, and Justin and Lady Tina as the evil step-siblings. This one goes a bit darker than the first two, as poor Todd really suffers under evil Gary’s thumb. There is also a BDSM twist here as it turns out Todd is a sub and the ball he goes to is for Sir to find his partner. Fortunately for Todd, he finds his true love, who sweeps him away to happiness away from his horrible family.
I think this one had some fun twists and I particularly liked Sam and Ryan as the rats (rather than mice) who talk to Todd and help him find his way. They are funny and adorable together and add some lightness to what is kind of a heavier story. The kink felt a little odd here, to be honest. First, because early on Todd is treated so awfully by his step-father and siblings and it is sort of implied he allows it because he likes to serve. But being a submissive isn’t the same as wanting people to treat you like crap (at least not for everyone) and so I found this sort of an awkward set up. There is sort of a meet-cute between Todd and Sir, a steamy scene (the only one in the book), and then a happily ever after for Todd. Like I said, I am not sure the BDSM totally worked for me, but I do like how Klune pulled all of it together here with the fairy tale and the Verania characters.
David’s Dragon is the final story and the only one that is Verania canon. It takes place 1000 years prior to the rise of Myrin and the appearance of Sam of Wilds. Here we learn about David, a boy who grows up in a small village, with a best friend, Levi. The two are inseparable, until David feels a pull to the dark woods and meets a dragon, whom David names Lockes, and with whom he has a special bond. As David’s relationship with Levi grows into adulthood and romantic love, his bond with Lockes also grows, until a point comes where there is a choice to be made between them.
This story is definitely the most emotionally intense and highlights the bonds of love and friendship. If you are an easy crier, I think this one will get you. It also connects nicely with the larger Verania world, as we learn about the origins of David’s Dragon, who plays a significant role in Sam’s ultimate journey.
I listened to this story in audio, as I did with all the other Verania books. I couldn’t pass up the chance to enjoy Michael Lesley’s incredible narration once again. I really think Lesley’s work in this series is second to none. It is like he is performing a play and doing all the roles. It amazes me when I listen to him narrate this series how one person can have such incredible range and be able to voice so many different characters with such vastly different personalities and sounds. Listening to him narrate the Verania characters brought such a nice comforting familiarity and Lesley seems to slip right back into their voices.
Part of the fun of the fairytales was seeing which characters would play which roles, and I think that was enhanced here in audio as I could instantly tell by the voices who was playing which part. Lesley also adds some sound effects and music here, which really rounds things out. My only tiny complaint is that there were times when Levi and David’s voices didn’t seem consistent in David’s Dragon. They each had a kind of twang that seemed to come and go. But otherwise, the narration was stellar and I can’t recommend the audio for this series highly enough.
Overall, I found this a fun collection that I think will appeal to fans of the series. I am not sure new readers will get as much out of this one, especially since there are a lot of jokes and references to things that happen in the main series. But I think those who love the world of Verania will enjoy this one and it is an engaging collection.