May 20, 2009

Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall by Bill Willingham, et al

Finally! A Fables book I can talk about with no fear of spoilers! And the reason why I can is because 1001 Nights of Snowfall is a prequel: it collects ten stories that take place long before the events in the series. This is how the stories are framed: In the early days of Fabletown, Snow White is sent as an envoy to see the Sultan of the Arabian fables. However, the Sultan isn’t pleased that the envoy is a woman, and he holds her hostage. Like Scheherazade in the original One Thousand and One Nights, Snow saves herself by telling the Sultan stories – stories that make him spare her life so that he may find out how they end.

The stories she tells feature most of the series’ most popular characters. There’s one about the early days of her marriage to Prince Charming, “The Fencing Lessons”, whose implications are chilling. Our Snow has gone through much worse things than we could have imagined in her youth, and they have nothing to do with the feckless Prince. It also suggests another possible reason for the end of their marriage. I think I’ve said this before, but I really like how Prince Charming developed throughout the series. He never ceases to be a jerk, but he turns out to be a much more interesting jerk than he seemed to at first.

Flycatcher’s story, “A Frog's Eye View”, is the saddest of them all. It’s about what happened to Flycatcher’s family when the Adversary’s army invaded, and it made me all teary-eyed. For those new to Fables, Fly is the Frog Prince of stories, and the whole turning into a frog thing plays a crucial role in what happens.

“Diaspora” is about how Snow White and Rose Red meet and save Frau Totenkinder when leaving for the mundy world, and also about the famous witches’ life story. Frau Totenkinder is the witch of Hansel & Gretel, and also of every other fairy tale featuring a nameless evil witch. The source of her power is unambiguously revealed at last, and it’s not very surprising – her name is Totenkinder, after all. She’s certainly an ambiguous and very interesting character, and I have a feeling she’ll have a big role to play in the series’ future direction.

These three stories were my favourites, but I really loved them all. Also, when it comes to the art, this is my favourite Fables book by far. The list of illustrators includes almost all my favourite comics artists: Charles Vess, John Bolton, Jill Thompson, James Jean, Tara McPherson, Mark Buckingham, and others. It really is a stunning book. From “The Fencing Lessons”, illustrated by John Bolton:

Art by Charles Vess:

From “Diaspora”, illustrated by Tara McPherson:
A collage with a bit of art from each story:

And now the question you might be asking yourself: is 1001 Nights of Snowfall accessible to those who are new to Fables? I would say that yes, it is. It’s a prequel, so it won’t spoil anything for you, and it will give you a good idea of what to expect from the Fables universe. On the other hand, you’ll probably get more out of it if you already know the characters, if you’re aware of their relationships, if you know the future consequences of each of the episodes shown in this book. But then again, reading this first will also make things more interesting for you when you get to the series proper. So I think both this and Legends in Exile would work as starting places.

Other Opinions:

Books of Mee
Fyrefly’s Book Blog
Everyday Reads
Tripping Towards Lucidity
Libri Touches

(Did I miss yours?)


  1. I'm thinking to go back to this book after I finish the Fable series. Probably.

  2. you never spoil books for anyone! But you do make a lot of us buy more books "all the time!"

  3. This looks fantastic. I love the idea of more stories set in this universe, and the setup sounds interesting. I'm taking the main series [very] slowly, but it's funny how it's never far from the back of my mind.

  4. That's it. I'm going to quit reading your blog! (Ha! Yeah right, when I'm dead.) But seriously, sometimes it's downright have this way of making me physically ache because I can't go dive into a book you review at the very second I finish reading your review. Does that make any sense? Though I don't have this one, you've seriously tempted me to blow off my work for the day and go escape into the Fables I do have. So, does that make you a bad influence, or a good influence?

  5. Nymeth? I've had this book on my wishlist for a few months now. (It feels like a few months anyway). Can I still blame you for it when I buy it?

  6. Love the cover! Love the title! Just love it all!

  7. We have that one in our shop! I was looking at it and thinking it was so beautiful! When I'm finished with Sandman I have to start with Fables:)

  8. Wow! Look at that list of artists :) I need to get this one just for that. And somehow I had never noticed that this was a prequel! So I can read it now even though I haven't finished the series! *Punches fist in the air*

  9. This sounds like a great series, and the artwork is absolutely beautiful! I am going to get ahold of these for my summer reading list. Thanks!

  10. I really want to read this! I want to read it so much I'm about to go to Bongs & Noodles and buy it, except I know that I absolutely mustn't buy any more books this month! (But it sounds very good, and next month is approaching rapidly...)

  11. I can't wait to read this! I am going to have to buy it and the last two Fables very soon!

  12. Mee: I bet you'll see some of the stories in a different light if you do :)

    Deslily: I try not to! But it's just so hard with series, because whatever you say gives away what happened before. Which is why I'm planing a single 9-books-in-one post on Bone :P

    kiirstin: I could never have enough of stories set in the Fables universe :) I need to check out the Jack of Fables spin-offs next.

    Debi: lol! A good influence. You know it's true :P A day spent reading Fables is a day well spent indeed.

    Shanra: lol, you can :P

    Scrap Girl: Hopefully you'll love the book itself too :D

    Valentina: It really is beautiful. I prefer Sandman as a whole, but in my opinion Fables has prettier art. It probably helps that it's more recent. Then again, I haven't seen the Absolute editions you're lucky enough to be reading.

    Chris: Yep, you can! The artists are all absolutely fantastic :) You'll love this one for sure.

    Zibille: These would make great summer books!

    Jenny: Yep, only two weeks to go!

    Kailana: I'm sure you'll love them all :)

  13. Ooh, I've this copy in my pile, and it's the only Fables that I have. *looking down sheepishly* But of course I'm always open to recommendations from you! :D

  14. I'll have to try this one when I catch up on the Fables series. I just got Animal Farm in from the library and I'm dying to crack it open :)

  15. I can't wait to read this! Nymeth, you wrote a great review. Frau Totenkinder is such an interesting character! The things she do are horrible and unforgivable but you still want to read more about her.

  16. OMG. Now I have to get this. Super review. You've gotten me interested in the whole series. I couldn't find them at the book store the other week. I should check the library.

  17. Melody: I think it will work really well as an introduction to Fables. And after reading it, I bet you'll want the rest!

    Sam: Animal Farm is great. They all are. Happy reading :D

    Vasilly, thank you so much! And she really is interesting. She's undoubtedly a dark character, yet she plays such a significant role on the war's outcome. I can't wait to see how she'll be developed from War and Pieces on.

    Beth Fish: Do give the series a try if you have the chance! I hope your library has them. They're so so good.

  18. I am so glad that you enjoyed it. It really is a beautiful piece of art in and of itself, not to mention the great stories from a great series. I remember how excited I was when this finally was published and it exceeded all my expectations.

  19. Those were my three favourite stories, too. I felt wretched for poor Snow, and Fly's story made me cry and cry!

  20. Carl, it surpassed my expectations too. So beautiful :)

    Memory: I know...poor Snow, and poor Fly :(

  21. Love the sound of this! I want to read the series, too! And then the art...

  22. I've been wanting to read the Fables books for long but didn't know where to start. This looks like a godo one to me. Thanks so much Nymeth.

  23. Jenclair, I think you'll love Fables!

    Violet: Either this or Legends in Exile would be great. Happy reading!

  24. I think this is the only one I haven't read yet. Gotta get this!!! The Fables are SO awesome.

  25. Thanks for the awesome review! I also found Prince Charming to be a more interesting character than I initially suspected. He is pretty much an idiot, but at least he is an interesting one. I'm hoping to pick up some more Fables books at the library soon and this one is on my list.

  26. This sounds awesome. I somehow fell of the Fables reading wagon and haven't read one since last year. I think I got bummed I was almost caught up with the series and took a break, but now I want to read them again. All of these sound great, I can't wait to read more about Snow White.

  27. I absolutely agree with you about this being the best artwork of the bunch - every story felt more like a series of paintings rather than comic book panels!

    Snow and Fly's stories were my favorites as well... and while I agree that it could be read as an introduction to the series, I think Fly's story would lose a lot of its heartbreaking oomph if you hadn't read The Good Prince yet.

  28. If you enjoy reading Fables (which by the way is my absolute favorite-est on-going comic book, right now), you may want to check out grimm fairy tales as well.

    It's not nearly as interesting, but it's still worth checking out; if nothing else, for the way it attempts to demonstrate a re-telling of these stories that leans closer to their original, darker form.

    PS - have you read fables 100? It was beyond amazing! In my opinion, Fables is nearing dangerously close to matching the Sandman, as a comic book masterpiece geared at adults.


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