Magic Tails, edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Janet Pack (DAW, 2005)

Take your classic collection of fairy tales. Add one part humor, two parts fantasy, and a whole lot of fanciful felines. Shake. Serve. That’s the recipe for this clever collection, in which fourteen authors retell their favorite fairy tales, from the viewpoint of the cat. If there was no cat the first time around, they add one or two. From retold tales to all-new ones, from quirky reinterpretations to sequels, they manage to add a whole new angle to some old favorites.
Alan Dean Foster gets the ball rolling in “Ali Babette.” When a woman finds a magic pillow, she ends up releasing a djinn, all right. A djinn of the cats, one capable of granting only the wishes cats would make. Her attempt to find satisfaction under such restrictions showcases a nice twist on the usual “three wishes” routine. Elizabeth Ann Scarborough’s “Cat Among the Pigeons” gives the fortune-seeking soldier of “Twelve Dancing Princesses” fame a feline companion to help him solve the mystery of the worn-out shoes and exhausted maidens. Now, if Charles de Lint’s “Dark Eyes, Faith, and Devotion” follows the pattern of any specific fairy tale, it’s not one I’m familiar with. In it, he returns to his signature setting of Newford, where an unlicensed cab driver gets a very unusual fare, an attractive woman who asks him to help her rescue her cat. However, there’s something stranger going on below the surface, as our hero soon discovers.
Jody Lynn Nye’s “Sleeping Beauties” looks as the titular sleeping princess, and the cat sworn to protect and serve her, and the lengths to which he goes to find a suitable prince to break the curse during her years of enforced slumber. Edward Carmien’s “The Devil’s Bridge” has an old woman, the Devil, a cow, and a cat, and a sinister bargain. Jean Rabe’s “Suede This Time” picks up where “Puss In Boots” left off, with a whole new crop of unpleasant ogres to deal with. However, in dealing with the ogres who have secretly invaded the castle, a new light is shed upon the nature of Puss’ owner, whose gratitude, it seems, has its limits. We also get a new version of “Sleeping Beauty” in Andre Norton’s “The Cobwebbed Princess.”
A cat is used to save the day in a twisted version of “The Three Little Pigs” in Mickey Zucker Reichart’s twisted retelling, “All The Pigs’ Houses.” I somehow suspect the cat might object to the manner in which it’s used to thwart the blowhard wolf bent on pork for dinner, though. Michelle West and Debbie Ridpath Ohi turn their attentions to another old favorite, “The Show Queen,” in which a cat plays its own part in reuniting two long-separated friends. Authors such as Josepha Sherman, Richard Lee Byers, Edward Serken, and Bruce Holland Rogers round out the list of contributors.
I love cats, and I love fairy tales, so there was pretty much no way this anthology could fail with me. With some excellent authors, and some highly imaginative stories to choose from, this collection didn’t let me down in the least, and I was more than satisfied with its offerings. If you like fantasy or felines, this one’s sure to appeal. Give it a shot.

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