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T. Kingfisher. Tor, $19.99 (128p) ISBN 978-1-250-24409-3

Kingfisher (What Moves the Dead) continues her hot streak with this equally haunting, heartfelt, and darkly humorous horror riff on “Sleeping Beauty.” The fairy Toadling is “neither beautiful nor made of malice, as many of the Fair Folk are said to be,” but instead “fretful and often tired” due to her exhausting efforts to keep a certain princess confined within a tower surrounded by a wall of thorns. It would be an easier job if tales of the princess did not keep spreading, unabated even by an early medieval outbreak of the Black Death. These stories draw Halim, a curious and courteous Muslim knight in search of a good quest. Halim is not put off by Toadling’s habit of turning into a toad when overwhelmed or frightened, and befriends her, helping Toadling to move past 200 years of dread to explain just who—or rather what—is in the tower, and how the fairy came to be responsible for keeping it there. The slow reveal of Toadling’s connection to the princess, and what the princess actually is, fashions a subtle and satisfying horror story, while Kingfisher’s trademark wit and compassion transforms “Sleeping Beauty” into a moving meditation on guilt, grief, and duty, as well as a surprisingly sweet romance between outsiders. There are no false notes here. (Aug.)