Review: The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Orthberg

April 9, 2018
The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror, Mallory Orthberg
 Published By: Holt Paperbacks on March 13, 2018
Format Read:  ARC Edition (188 pages)
Genre: Fantasy/ Horror/ Short Story
Series: Stand Alone
Source: Publisher Request
The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror
From Mallory Ortberg comes a collection of darkly mischievous stories based on classic fairy tales. Adapted from her beloved "Children's Stories Made Horrific" series, "The Merry Spinster" takes up the trademark wit that endeared Ortberg to readers of both The Toast and her best-selling debut Texts From Jane Eyre. The feature become among the most popular on the site, with each entry bringing in tens of thousands of views, as the stories proved a perfect vehicle for Ortberg’s eye for deconstruction and destabilization. Sinister and inviting, familiar and alien all at the same time, The Merry Spinster updates traditional children's stories and fairy tales with elements of psychological horror, emotional clarity, and a keen sense of feminist mischief.

Readers of The Toast will instantly recognize Ortberg's boisterous good humor and uber-nerd swagger: those new to Ortberg's oeuvre will delight in her unique spin on fiction, where something a bit mischievous and unsettling is always at work just beneath the surface.

Unfalteringly faithful to its beloved source material, The Merry Spinster also illuminates the unsuspected, and frequently, alarming emotional complexities at play in the stories we tell ourselves, and each other, as we tuck ourselves in for the night.

Bed time will never be the same.


Content Warning: Violence, Gore


You should be a fan of the Grimm' Fairy Tales, in order to appreciate these short stories. I am really familiar with Disney's feel good fairy tales but didn't feel familiar enough with the source material to appreciate the adaptions. These horrific short stories pay homage to their original sources while adding elements of horror and surprise. The characters don't behave according to established gender norms although most of the stories take place in the distant past. I appreciated non gender conforming characters, but found it more confusing than enlightening. There were characters who had names typically associated with one gender, but they were referred to as another. It didn't work well because in the brief stories there was no context to ever address the gender bending elements.
"They are stuffed in boxes and hidden in the dirt , or else set on fire and turned into cinders, so no one else can make any use of them; they are a prodigiously selfish race and consider themselves their own private property even in death ."
The stories included surprising twists, villains and humor but none of the elements worked together as enjoyable whole. The writing was engaging but the retelling didn't make sense. The endings of these stories don't give any sort of resolution, but serve as devices to shock the reader. This is the kind of book that will work for fans of horror and original fairy tales, however it didn't resonate well with me.

Recommended for readers who:
-enjoy horror themed fairy tales
-are fans of Brother Grimm Fairy Tales
-appreciate non-traditional gender representation

I received this book from Henry Holt/ Holt Paperbacks in exchange for an honest review.


 Daniel Mallory Ortberg is an American author, editor, and a co-founder of the feminist general interest site The Toast. Ortberg is the author of the books Texts from Jane Eyre and The Merry Spinster as well as Slate's "Dear Prudence" advice column.

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