Blackberry Blue

Publisher: Tamarind Books

These six new stories from Jamila Gavin are at once exotic and fresh, and traditionally heartening. The common tropes of fairy tales provide a solid structure Gavin can decorate with colourful details and rich images: sorcerers and their evil curses banish princesses and kings to dangerous forests and shape-shifting animals seek pure hearts in brave quests. Of course, love, justice and kindness must triumph over cruel spirits and malevolent natures but the twists and turns of each story provide delicious surprises.

The title story offers a Cinderella-esque tale of a beautiful girl, protected by a thorny forest against a cruel Quee: the descriptions of her delicate ball-gowns created from the forest flowers are particularly enchanting. The terrible mission in 'The Purple Lady' does not shy away from the dark capabilities of a fairy tale world – bones and bodies must be re-assembled to break the spell. 'The Golden Carp' has a beautiful eastern sensibility: precious jade is the undoing of a greedy man and his bitter son, while a magical maiden with long sleeves captivates our hero. Labyrinthine forests separate a righteous king from his people in 'Emeka the Pathfinder' and a magical violin drives a jealous musician into a macabre dance in 'Oddboy'. The final story, 'The Night Princess' tells the story of the Moon and the angry Sun, who imprisons the Princess to a life time of darkness only for her to fall in love with an earth-bound farmer.

A stunning collection of mystical fairy tales, Blackberry Blue is packed with picturesque moments that will bewitch readers who love the colourful and otherworldly nature of fairy tales and Arabian Nights stories. Gavin’s preface acknowledges the heritage of traditional European fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, but it is its extended cultural flavouring that gives this collection its vibrant lift.

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