Monday, June 27, 2011

The Grimm Legacy, by Polly Shulman

The Book Talk:

The Review: 

I think this is the first book I've reviewed/talked about that's actually targeted at teens, which I am going to try to do a little more from now on.  The Grimm Legacy, by Polly Shulman, is at its heart a fun summer read, a fantasy with literary allusions and quirky characters.  There are a lot of aspects of this book I really liked, and a few things that bugged me a little, and I'll talk about both.

First, the good.  This book has a great setting.  The idea of a library that lends objects is just fantastic, and the way that Shulman describes the setting is spot on.  There's a feeling of whimsy, but also a little creepy darkness.  Instead of transmitting messages through messengers or e-mail or phone, the Repository uses pneumatic tubes to pass information, which is just awesome.  I've always been a pneumatic tube fan, and this detail added just the right atmosphere to this library, which is set in the modern world but feels just a little mysterious and old fashioned.

Another good thing about this book is the well-researched literary references.  Shulman pays homage to many of the lesser known Grimm fairy tales, and aspects of the stories become important to her own story in ways that make the reader really want to read the original.  After reading this book, I really want to re-read The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and the next book I check out of the library may very well be a collection of the original Grimm stories.

Now, on to the aspects of the book that I didn't like quite as much.  This book is filled with really fun characters.  Elizabeth's friend Anjali and some of the librarians were given interesting personalities and back stories, but Elizabeth herself was really just a little dull.  Shulman tried to give her character traits that made her parallel a fairy-tale character (a "wicked" stepmother and step-sisters, having to do chores all the time), but the end results was that she just didn't have very much personality.  The one personality trait Shulman gave her was a love for and remembrance of fairy tales, and it just wasn't enough to carry the story.  I wished that Anjali had been the main character instead; she was far more interesting person (or at least had the potential for interesting-ness).

Another thing that bothered me was the relationship between Elizabeth and Aaron.  They have a rivalry throughout the book which was actually intriguing (I liked that I never knew whether Aaron was good or bad), but the way their relationship worked out at the end was just kind of...meh.  I don't want to give too much away, but let's just say that the way things worked out did not match the way things were going through the rest of the book.

To summarize, I did enjoy this novel.  It had a great setting and a good forward-propelling mystery, but I just wanted the characters to have a little more depth/personality.  It was a fun summer read (and I do actually hope there's a sequel so the setting's full-potential can be realized!  Not only is there a "Grimm Collection", but an "H.G. Well's Bequest", and both a "Gibson" and "Lovecraft" collection, which I would've loved to see utilized a little more).

Let me know if you've read this, and what you've thought of it, or if it sounds like something you'd like!

1 comment:

  1. I read it and I have to agree with you about the characters. I loved the book, but Elizabeth's personality was definitely lacking. It does a good job of catering to a teen's sense of adventure, though. The adults are totally non-existent: "Oh, there's a giant murderous bird after you? Well, why don't you just take this extremely valuable parcel and protect it with your life, mmkay?" Totally unrealistic, but perfect for the reader.