Once upon a time, Snow White took a bite from an apple offered to her by the evil witch, Queen Adara, in disguise. Snow fell into a deathlike sleep and her seven dwarf companions of the Collective could not wake her. After a time, the handsome Prince Mikael came to the place of Snow’s glass coffin. He removed the lid, bent his lips to hers…and all hell broke loose.
This is the exciting premise of Rob Boley’s series, Scary Tales: A Killer Serial, which began last April with That Risen Snow: A Tale of Snow White and Zombies. What follows are three more books (so far) and a continuing saga that draws influences from every corner of the worlds of horror, fantasy, and fairy tales, and somehow manages to still exist as a world all his own.
Now, let’s get this straight, what Boley’s done is not necessarily a new thing. Seth Grahame Smith created a phenomenon when he introduced zombies into the world of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and TV series like “Grimm” and “Once Upon a Time” have proven that fairy tales are still relevant. With these came a string of others, most falling by the wayside as cheap imitations of their predecessors.
So, what makes Boley’s different? Why is his series such a page turner?
It’s really quite simple. Boley didn’t do a single thing in his series halfway. His world is a fully realized landscape with a rich history, language, class system, and religion all its own, and while the story centers around Snow and the hellish army of zombies she creates in her wake, there is so much more to discover within the covers of these books.
So, let’s dig in a little. One of my favorite facets of Scary Tales is that unlike its fairy tale predecessors, not a single one of the characters can be characterized as completely good or bad. They are flawed and their flaws make them all the more relatable to the reader.
Take, for example, Queen Adara. In the past, the Wicked Queen from the tale of Snow White has been portrayed as a vain woman who cannot stand the thought of someone being more beautiful than she is, to the point that she would rather see Snow murdered in the woods than to witness her beauty grow more radiant by the day.
In Scary Tales, Boley turns that archetype on its head. The Queen, yes, is a vain woman, but she has also been taken in by the magic of the Mirror who counsels her. As the story progresses and she realizes that she has been manipulated by the very instrument who has stroked her ego for years, we get to witness her inner struggle to reconcile her choices and become more than she has been. No longer a stock character, she must make harder decisions. She must step outside herself and rise to meet the circumstances she has helped to create.
And then, there’s Snow. Snow may be harder to pin down than any other character in this series. True, she spends most of it as the commanding officer of an army of zombies, but it’s the glimpses into her past that we are given that make her leap from the page. She isn’t the princess we’ve grown accustomed to over the years. She was raised as a maid in the kitchens of the castle and she’s all rough edges and bad manners. She is my favorite portrayal of Snow White I’ve ever read.
Grouchy, the dwarf who also happens to be in love with Snow, also stands out among the cast of characters. He isn’t just a dwarf with a bad attitude. He also has a filthy mouth, a dwarf king father, and a deep seated desire to kill Prince Mikael…which he does…repeatedly. Hey, it’s a zombie saga remember?
And while we’re on the subject of zombies, let’s talk about the zombies present in the series. Most writers are content to deal with one species of zombie at a time, but not this author. Boley has broken them down into three categories.
- The Horrors are the initial state of zombification. They are somewhat fast moving, vicious, and seem to have a certain amount of sentience and they radiate a great deal of heat. They even take hissed orders from zombie Snow.
- Drudges are more along the lines of what we see in most zombie films today. They are cold, slow, mindless things that rip and devour their way across the kingdoms.
- And then, there are the Creepers. Literally skeletons that rise up out of the ground, they come on like swarms of insects and the fact that they can reassemble themselves with the pieces of their fallen comrades makes them damn near impossible to kill.
If you’ve read my reviews before, you know I’m not a man who does spoilers, especially with a book. A novel is something that should be experienced page by page, word by word, and Boley’s lush and terrifying world should be experienced without knowing too much more than the basics, but let’s look at one last thing before I leave you.
We’ve talked fairy tales, and we’ve covered zombies, but for the avid fan of classic horror film and monsters there is one more reason to pick up this series today. As you read the books, you begin to notice very subtly that Boley has great respect for the classic Universal Studios movie monsters. He introduces the Wolfman and the Phantom of the Opera in ways that perfectly fit into his fairy tale world, and makes you wonder why no one has ever done it before. And I’m sure there will be more as this fantastic series continues.
The serial nature of the book releases leave you wanting more, often ending in the middle of a scene so that you must pick up the next book to find out what will happen next. Do yourself a favor, follow the links below and download your copies today! You can also find Mr. Boley on Facebook here and on Twitter here.
The Scary Tales in order:
Join me again next week for an exclusive interview with the author when he gives us all the dirt on the origin of the series and some of the exciting details on the upcoming novels in the series! We’re also going to have one hell of a contest starting today, and one lucky winner will be the star of their very own horror story written by Rob Boley himself!