Just when you thought that there was nothing new between the pages of a zombie book, Once Upon An Apocalypse comes shuffling along.  This anthology collects 23 stories that are a mash-up of zombies and fairy tales. Yes, fairy tales.

If you’re like me, visions of princesses, vulnerable young doe’s, handsome woodsmen, cute and innocent talking animals gruesomely slaughtered with their brains feasted upon had popped into your head when you learned the theme of this anthology.   After reading Once Upon An Apocalypse I can tell you that my imagination wasn’t all that far off, though in many of these tales those fairy tale characters weren’t all that cute or innocent.

The beauty of this mash-up is that it allows the author’s to have some fun with the zombie genre, and I can report that it worked very well!  The fairy tale characters in Once Upon An Apocalypse do bring a fresh and often humorous vibe to the same ole conventions of the undead.  As a reader who has sworn off of all zombie fiction, I found that every one of these 23 tales held my interest with several of them exciting enough for an immediate reread.

Wednesday’s Goats, by Justin Short is based on The Three Billy Goats Gruff fairy tale, leading the anthology off with a wild and eye opening story of a bunch of talking goats trying to cross a bridge that is blocked off with zombies.  It’s a serious and violent story, but the reader can’t help suppressing a bewildering smile throughout as the goats figure out how to get by the undead.

Another favorite was, In the Oven, by Sean Eads, where the author has a living, breathing, and highly animated Gingerbread Man in the military doing battle against Pillsbury Doughboy zombies.  The one liners in, In The Oven are plentiful (“Hey GBM, you want to f_ck my girl?  She’s got a yeast infection.  Bet you’d like that!)  and you can’t help but laugh out loud at some of them.  I also thought the ending in this story one of the best in the anthology.

Pin, by John Boden, is based on Pinocchio, about a puppet that yearns to become a real boy, breaking free of his strings. While Pin takes his time gathering up the courage to let his Papa know he is alive, Pin listens in awe as his Papa talks about the world and how splendid it is. Then one day the world goes mad, and Pin discovers that it’s nothing like his Papa has told him.

The highlight of the anthology for me was Joe McKinney’s, More Than Watchmen Wait for the Dawn.  The story is based on the fairy tale, The Maiden With No Hands, and it is a morality tale about a man who makes a deal with the devil.  The bargain makes the man wealthy beyond his dreams, but as in all deals with the devil there is a high price to be paid.

There are many other stories in Once Upon An Apocalypse that are very enjoyable reads but space prevents me from going into detail on them.  Tales by Sheri White, Brian Sammons, Suzanne Robb, Trisha Woolbridge, T. Fox Dunham and Tracy Carbone, just to name a few, will delight readers with their plot lines and the twisted retelling of the fairy tales they are based on.  There’s really not a bad story in the bunch.

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