Monday, August 9, 2010

The Grimm Legacy

So, The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman is one of those books that totally looks like it's going to be hokey and I'm going to read it, cringe, and put it away. To my extreme delight, this book was a Kiki Strike - a surprisingly enjoyable story that I never expected. So, the basic premise of this book is that Elizabeth Rew, a normal girl who's an outcast at her new school, gets a job at the New York Circulating Material Repository, which is a library for things. Only, along with the mundane materials, there is a whole vault of magical items from the Grimm fairy tales. So, Elizabeth gets the job, but things aren't all candy and bunnies: magical items have been disappearing from the collection, and other library pages are under suspicion. There's also some well-executed teen romance drama which adds another layer to the shifting loyalties of the characters.

The whole thing works primarily because Elizabeth is a realistic, likable viewpoint character. She's got a good narrative voice, descriptive, but not in a way that makes you wonder why a high school girl is talking like that. She is also, and I love her character so much for this, not a complete idiot. I mean, she's a teenage girl who doesn't let her hormones drive her every action, who doesn't trust people who are blatantly untrustworthy, and who actually trusts authority figures. Glory be! From her point of view, we get to see the Repository and all of the various interesting magical items in the Grimm collection. The author, Ms. Shulman, makes good use of common and obscure fairy tales from which to pull items that feature in the story. The secondary characters were all nicely developed. Every time I thought I'd predicted what one of them was up to, whether they were a traitor or not, things would get more complex. Even the romance wasn't particularly formulaic, and the whole book had a sense of humor about it, not overtly so, but enough to keep the story light. I think the plot was the weakest part of the book, not that it was at all bad. It just felt that the story was more in the characters and their relationships with each other (and not just limited to the romantic relationships). I also got very slightly lost towards the end of the book when they confronted the bad guys. Not enough that it wasn't fun, but more where I was like, "I'm not sure what's going on, but whatever, it's cool, I'll go along with this." A nice thing about this book was that, while there's room for a sequel, it never felt like this story was just a set-up for something else. The Grimm Legacy easily holds its own as a standalone story.

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