Book Review: "Leather Ever After," ed. Sassafras Lowrey
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Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, a book was born. This book—Leather Ever After (LEA), edited by Sassafras Lowrey, released by Ravenous Romance—was a little book with a big mission: to make explicit the implicit power struggles, rewards, and punishments that make up so many fairy tales.
And lo, the material was ripe for the re-imagination. Princes! Peasants! Princesses! Queens! Kings! Good witches! Bad witches! Curses! Treasures! Struggles! Quests! Fairy tales are a veritable cornucopia of the kinds of things that make power games tick. It's satisfying—both literarily and sexily—for the dynamics of these familiar and beloved stories to be made a little more overt and then twisted and queered in the way that only kinksters can.
It's worth noting that, for all this is a book of adult fairytales, it's not all graphic blow-by-blow pornography designed to get you off. Some of the stories are just kinky, steeped in a world where sex and power are overt and not remarkable. One of the most magic stories in the whole book is in this category. Raven Kaldera's "Down Under" takes us into a retelling of Frau Holle. The bread and apples of the original story are joined by Meat and Cow and Hen and Dog—all magical creatures bound into Frau Holle's service who are fucked and beaten and baked and eaten in the service of their mistress and love every second of it. The story is about the incredible power and variety of the sex they have, the loving service Frau Holle's helpers grant her—but about those things inasmuch as they serve the larger story of good triumphing over evil. It's a sexy world, it's a kinky world, but it is not particularly a pornographic one.
That isn't to say that there isn't plenty to get off to. In "The Good Witch," Ali Oh gives us a story about bondage, frustration, teasing, and a top getting flipped - and about the Wicked Witch, the Good Witch, and fairy tale archetypes. "The Wolf and little Red" is classic Daddy/girl power and sex, right down to the white knee socks. Rapunzel gets fucked out of her hair-rope bondage by a mostly kind prince. Some of the stories are pornographically kinky instead of pornographically sexual. If loving descriptions of mean and imposing queens/witches/fairies/Ladies/Kings towering over cowering vassals is for you, this book is going to make you really happy.
The joy of an anthology is that there is something for everyone. LEA covers a stunning number of different scenarios, genitals, identities, and kinks. The leather Three Bears have to decide how to punish the Golden Twink who has made a mess of their house. Hansel and Gretel are taken to the very edge of their tolerance for piercings by a mean witch who builds her candy house right in the middle of the dungeon. The anthology is very explicitly multiracial, multi-gender, trans* friendly—there is something for everyone's desires. There's something about them all being rewritten fairy tales that make them particularly welcoming across lines of identity and desire. Even if it's not your usual taste, who wouldn't want to find out how the huntsman and the prince decide who gets to kiss Snow White?
I have to mention one other story in particular that really stood out: Cinderella, rewritten as "Cinderfella" by Sossity Chiricuzio. The story is recast with "El" as a baby butch who doesn't know who or what she is, only that it's not something anyone would approve of. But then, while the stepsisters are at the ball, an older, kinder crone catches El having some daydreams and turns her out as only an older femme can. The resulting scene is hot, but also tender. It turned me on, it made me a little teary, and then it turned me on some more.
Ultimately, this anthology is a win. There will be stories that get you off - I assure you, I have a new desire to find a Red Riding Hood cape for my #1—and there will be stories that are enjoyable just because they're takeoffs on stories you already love. The pan-orientation nature of the book means you might just run into something you never thought of before —and enjoy it very, very much. If you're new to the world of kink and power play, you might find some of these stories a little intense at first—but, my child, stay the course: this book is full of happy endings.