Friday, April 25, 2014

Book Review: Grim

Inspired by classic fairy tales, but with a dark and sinister twist, Grim contains short stories from some of the best voices in young adult literature today

I will, as I always do with anthologies, review these stories separately then as a whole.  For reference I've linked the original fairy tale to the SurLaLune article so you can better compare and look for other retellings.

The Key by Rachel Hawkins, based on Bluebeard
This was surprisingly enthralling.  I didn't catch on to what I was reading at first--despite the numerous hints (the key tattoo, black-blue hair, missing girlfriend), but once it all became clear it became very chilling very fast.  I wanted more though since the ending is a bit of a "Lady or the Tiger" ending.

Figment by Jeri Smith-Ready, based on Puss-in-Boots
On the one hand it was a little heartbreaking, as poor Fig only wanted the best.  On the other I applaud our hero for becoming everything Fig thought he would be.  This was another one that was a bit hard to connect with the source tale at first, but makes a whole lot of sense in retrospect.

The Twelfth-Girl by Malinda Lo, based on the Twelve Dancing Princesses
I cottoned on to this one real quick (it being my favorite fairy tale and all) and I kind of enjoyed how Lo re-imagined it in a boarding school setting with a bunch of entitled rich girls.  I was iffier on the main character though as well as the resolution which was just two steps short of uber-creepy.  The short nature didn't give us enough time to really feel very much for the girls or their predicaments.

The Raven Princess by Jon Skovron, based on The Raven 

This was the story I could not quite place.  I really enjoyed this one--with the huntsman who couldn't hunt to the Giants who stopped eating humans because they adopted a baby to the ending which felt right.  

Thinner than Water by Saundra Mitchell, based on Cat-Skin
o.o Seriously, that is my entire reaction to this story.  Its very well crafted in how easily the...unspeakable builds.  As with any books of Mitchell's I read the atmosphere and the wording is very important as she lays the foundation for the ending.  And what an ending it is.

Before the Rose Bloomed by Ellen Hopkins, based on The Snow Queen
Someone feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but this was a pretty standard retelling wasn't it?  It read a bit like Bridget Fonda's "Snow Queen" from 2002 movie actually.  So for what it was, it was enjoyable.  I wanted more substance to the Queen and K though, since really only Greta was given page space at all.

Beast/Beast by Tessa Gratton, based on Beauty and the Beast
I enjoyed this to a certain extent.  Beauty's realization that neither of them were free was good, and the story never felt forced.  There's precious little to know about the Beast's curse or what would really free/them.  Will her saying yes to his marriage proposal free them?  Is it her love he needs?  Its a bit too open form.

The Brothers Piggett by Julie Kagawa, based on The Three Little Pigs
I'm not even going to pretend I got too far in this one.  Kagawa and I have a love/hate relationship when it comes to short form and "The Three Little Pigs" was never a favorite of mine.

Untethered by Sonia Gensler, based on The Shroud
I think this is the most changed of any of the stories.  The only obvious tie-in is the mother and the deceased child.  What this reminds me more of was
the episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? "The Tale of the Dream Girl".  Anyhow I really liked how this one was set up and enjoyed how Gensler used preconceptions against the reader.  The atmosphere and tension is also very well handled.

Better by Shaun David Hutchinson, based on The Pied Piper
I really really liked this story.  The Pied Piper has always been one of those fairy tales that gave me a queasy feeling (look you're told not to go with strangers and that story epitomizes all of that while presenting itself as justifiable). I really liked how Hutchinson incorporated not only the morality issues inherent in the story, but also what it means to be someone's child.

Light it Up by Kimberly Derting, based on Hansel and Gretel
I want a follow up epilogue about what their stepmother does when the truth comes out.  This is pretty much a straight up modern retelling of Hansel and Gretel, but I liked the siblings and could understand where they both came from.  I would have liked a bit fleshing out with Hanson, but Greta was a damn gutsy girl.

Sharper than a Serpent's Tongue by Christine Johnson, based on Diamonds and Toads
The ending sentence to this story is almost perfect to sum it up - "Blessings.  Curses.  Who was to say which was which?" As the girl who is known as the "nice one" and the "pushover" most often, I feel bad for Clara here.  She's doing what she thinks is right--taking care of her mother, but at the expense of what is right for her.  I can only hope things work out for her as they did in the original tale, but even that HEA was a bit skewed. 
A Real Boy by Claudia Gray, based on Pinocchio
Loved loved loved this.  Granted I would have loved my expansion on the world and such, but really I was quite all right with what was presented.  Though I admit I was a bit worried this was going to end in a "lady or a tiger" scenario, but thank god it didn't.
There's a definitive ending. It felt a bit like what I wanted the oldish Robin Williams movie "Bicentennial Man" to be like actually.

Skin Trade by Myra McEntire, based on The Robber Bridegroom
Did. Not Like.  Like, at all.  I don't think this was a particularly good rendition of the story and I'm still trying to puzzle out whether this involved vampires, cannibals or some weird voodoo sort of thing.

Beauty and the Chad by Sarah Rees Brennan, based on Beauty and the Beast
You may think its weird there's two versions of the same story here, but this is as different from Gratton's story as possible.  This is about a much more proactive Beauty--she decides to be the master of her fate.  The beast, or rather Chad, was amusing as he tried to communicate with Beauty who didn't understand most of what he said.  Just a cute fun story overall.

The Pink by Amanda Hocking, based on The Pink
Evil people get evil rewards.  Its a good tale, though nothing truly extraordinary about it.  Reads very much like a fairy tale though and that's not a bad thing.

Sell Out by Jackson Pearce, based on Snow White (I think)

Uhhh....this needed some fleshing out.  So the guy can kiss awake the dead (only within a certain timeframe though) and he has a change of heart by the end?  Kind of?  It was okay, but not really anything special like Pearce's other fairy tale retellings, so I was rather surprised.

Overall this wasn't a bad collection of stories, but the ones I didn't enjoy really stood out against the stories that just flowed better for the short form.  Definitely worth a look, especially if you already enjoy many of these authors' other works.