Short and sweet, well…maybe not so sweet. This short story by Vanessa Booke was a refreshing change from what I've been reading. A retelling of Hansel and Gretel, it stays true to the story I remember from my childhood, with more realistic aspects. The story, as I remember and fear it, is this: Hansel and Gretel were being raised by their father who remarried. They were all poor, and in attempt to get more food, the stepmother sent them out to get lost and die in the woods. They left a trail of pebbles and found their way back. The next day, they do the same, only they forget stones, and leave a trail of breadcrumbs, which the birds promptly eat up. Lost and alone in the woods, they are saved by the magical appearance of a candy house. An old witch lives within, and promptly cages Hansel, while putting Gretel to work fattening up her brother to eat and performing chores around the cottage. Gretel eventually shoves the witch into the stove and frees Hansel. The house disappears and is replaced with a treasure, which they take back home to dad. I can't remember what happens to the stepmom.
In Mrs. Booke's version, the grisly tone of the piece is the same. Details are eloquent,and characterization is strong, especially with Gretel. The POV is Gretel's, and the reader sees her emotions as she battles the forces of evil, namely her stepmother and the witch (which in my vivid childhood imagination, had the same face). The ending is a bit different, which is good because it sets the story up for an epic continuation that I can't wait for. Mrs. Booke definitely has a knack for leaving her reader wanting more. And more. And more.
There were some places where detail could have been elaborated on for a better mood-setting quality, but overall, I thought it was a great story. I will probably read it to my daughter.
The book is free on Smashwords and took me about 25 minutes to read.