Soothe your spirit with Melanie Gillman’s (they/them) lovingly rendered Other Ever Afters: New Queer Fairy Tales. I first became acquainted with artist and author Gillman with their webcomic-turned-print series As the Crow Flies. I was enchanted by their colored pencil artwork and queer-themed storytelling. They channeled those same elements into this collection of seven original fairy tales, complete with table of contents, introduction, and conclusion.
The stories spotlight LGBTQIA+ characters with a total emphasis on women and nonbinary/transgender protagonists (frequently not specified). Main characters are people of color in 4 of the 7 stories. Instead of tired fantasy tropes, Gillman offers themes such as agency, community, acceptance, romance, and self-reflection, all wrapped up with queerness. The tales still have all the furnishings of the fantasy genre—knights, princesses, magical creatures, quests—with a new, refreshing flavor. The stories are all so strong that I can’t pick a favorite. Maybe “Goose Girl,” in which a princess learns important lessons from the titular peasant and does the unexpected; or possibly “Sweet Rock,” in which we find out what happens to the girls who are annually sacrificed to the giantess. Another contender for favorite story is “The Fish Wife,” where a mermaid and a plain, lonely woman fall in love and make sacrifices for each other.
Gillman’s art is soft, rich, and colorful. They convey emotion and detail beautifully without overwhelming the reader with minutiae. The large, clear lettering is easy to read. The immersive nature scenes are exactly what you’d imagine a fantasy setting to look like. The artwork and story mesh together perfectly. Aspiring artists, take note.
This gentle and cozy collection fits in with the current boom of queer-centered modern fantasy books (think The Prince and the Dressmaker; The Deep & Dark Blue; The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich; Magical Boy). Add it to your library’s young adult comics collection. This book definitely deserves a spot on your shelf.
Other Ever Afters New Queer Fairy Tales
By Melanie Gillman
Penguin Random House Graphic, 2022
Publisher Age Rating: 12-17
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Creator Representation: Queer, Nonbinary
Character Representation: Lesbian, Queer, Nonbinary, Trans