Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

Come, take these two wicked girls, they are tender morsels for you, fat as young quails; for mercy’s sake eat them!
Snow-white and Rose-red by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Liga raises her two daughters in the safe haven of an alternative reality, a personal heaven granted by magic as a refuge from her earthly suffering. But the real world cannot be denied forever and when the barrier between the two worlds begins to break down, Liga’s fiery daughter, Urdda, steps across it…

Tender Morsels has deservedly been nominated for the 2009 World Fantasy Award. It has also caused controversy as its adult themes are considered by many to be unsuitable for the young-adults to whom it has been marketed.

If you remove all the fuss surrounding the novel you will find that Lanagan has, using the barest framework of the Grimm brothers Snow-white and Rose-red, woven a beautiful and at times brutal fairy tale for the modern age.

Tender Morsels is an intelligent book, often heartbreaking, on occasion gentle and always beautifully told. The style of narrative appears to be very much the author’s own; it shouldn’t work, but it does, and it is delightfully rustic.

The book’s opening is shocking and even once Liga’s perfect life within her own personal heaven has begun to play out you are, as the reader, never complacent enough to believe that this will last forever.

The area of the book that have caused so much controversy is the rape of Liga, both by her own father and by a group of local lads. These moments are handled with great delicacy; they are barely described but hit all the harder as the imagination is given enough fuel to create its own horrific pictures.

Tender Morsels never once tries to show that life has a happily ever after ending. It shows that life is full of hardship; you will experience hurt, you will watch loved ones die and you will often be afraid. It also shows that live can be full of love, caring and kindness. It is better to experience something, be it good or bad, than to experience nothing at all.

Tender Morsels is a book that shows just how violent and unforgiving the real world can be. It is a very powerful book.


Margo Lanagan is a highly acclaimed writer of novels, short stories and poetry. Black Juice, her second collection of stories, won the World Fantasy Award for Best Collection, and Red Spikes won the Australian Children’s Book Council Award for Older Readers in 2007. Tender Morsels has been chosen as a Printz Honor Book. She lives in Sydney, Australia.

9/10 Tender Morsels is a book that shows just how violent and unforgiving the real world can be.

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