Tangleweed and Brine by Deirdre Sullivan

Tangleweed and BrineTangleweed and Brine by Deirdre Sullivan

Publisher: Little Island Books

Publication date: September 7, 2017

Category: YA

Genre: Fairytale, feminist,


Tangled tales of earth, salty tales of water

Bewitched retellings of thirteen classic fairy-tales with brave and resilient heroines. Tales of blood and intrigue, betrayal and enchantment from a leading Irish YA author.

With 13 stunning black and white illustrations by new Irish illustrator Karen Vaughan.


“Beguiling, bewitching and poetic” – Juno Dawson.

Tangleweed and Brine is my first read of 2018 and it has set the bar high (even though this is a 2017 title). From the beautiful hardback cover, the magnificent illustrations by Karen Vaughan and the incredible feminist retellings of classic fairytales, Sullivan’s Tangleweed and Brine is a self-indulgent read. I couldn’t describe each story, as it would ruin your reading experience, but I will discuss my three favourite stories: Rapunzel, The Frog Prince and Beauty and the Beast.


Come live in me, you think. Come live here and be loved. Come take your place. And make me sure of mine“.

One feature I loved about Tangleweed and Brine is that some of the stories occur just before a central character is even born, for instance, Come Live Here and be Loved centrals around Rapunzel’s mother, who is pregnant with Rapunzel. Hence, there were a few stories I didn’t fully recognise until the end – when I finally came to the realisation that the story was focusing on a character’s mother. I felt this gave perspective and background to a classic tale.


“In the night, he will clamber into bed with you. His body will crawl over yours. Do not encourage or discourage this. You are for him.”

Interestingly, The Frog Prince was never a fairytale I was interested in as a child, even the saying “you have to kiss a few frogs before your prince” always seemed silly to me. Yet, Sullivan’s retelling was incredible and perhaps my favourite story in the collection. Moreover, Karen Vaughan’s illustration depicts the tale to perfection.


“Something in them ticking like a clock. Not just the womb, but fingers, muscles, eyes, poised for battle, glistening with life. The two together. Tale as old as time. And they are ready.”

Beauty and the Beast was a haunting and bewitching tale in equal measure. I was absorbed in Sullivan’s depiction of marriage and family life in this retelling. It’s fascinating how classic fairytales illustrate marriage and families as the be all and end all, and realistically years and years ago it was! However, Sullivan’s understanding of the pressure of marriage and family life on a person so young is raw and honest.

Tangleweed and Brine contains thirteen “tangled tales of earth, salty tales of water”. Even though there were a few tales I was not familiar with, such as Fair, Brown and Trembling, and Bluebeard, I nevertheless enjoyed the stories for their beguiling beauty. I have rated this book five stars for Sullivan’s dark and poetic narrative, and Vaughan’s enchanting illustration of each tale. Here’s a list of the classic fairytales and their titles within the book:


Cinderella (Slippershod)

Red Riding Hood (The Woodcutter’s Bride)

Rapunzel (Come Live Here and be Loved)

Hansel and Gretel (You Shall Not Suffer . . .)

Rumplestiltskin (Meet the Nameless Thing and Call it Friend)

Fair, Brown and Trembling (Sister Fair)

Snow White (Ash Pale)


A Little Mermaid (Consume or be Consumed)

The Frog Prince (Doing Well)

Bluebeard (The Tender Weight)

Donkeyskin (Riverbed)

The Goose Girl (The Little Gift)

Beauty and the Beast (Beauty and the Board)




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