Seanan McGuire, 2014

Premise: Fairy tales don't stay on the page, but only the agents from one secret organization are protecting the public from their dangerous impact.

Does police procedural/urban fantasy/fairy tale sound like the best mash-up genre? Then this is the book for you.

I really liked the world, although I'm hoping there's more about how "the narrative" interacts with "the real world" in the sequel. The short premise is that fairy tales are real, and anyone who skirts too close to an archetype (abusive stepparents, etc.) can be effectively controlled by it, driven to carry out the tale.

All of the main characters have narrowly avoided being drawn in or found a way to cope with fairy tales in their lives. For example, the first thing we learn about the main character, Henrietta "Henry" Marchen, is that she hangs netting over her windows in an attempt to prevent bluebirds from smashing into them trying to reach her not-quite-a-Snow-White self.

Henry is very much a Seanan McGuire heroine: tough, snarky, protective of others, constantly pissed off. What can I say, I'm fond of the type. All the characters are complicated and wounded by their work and their world.

Also like most of McGuire's work, the book features romance in only sensible amounts and solid LGBTQ representation.

The biggest flaw was pretty minor: it was initially written and released as a Kindle Serial, and it does show around the edges. The characters and world get a quick reintroduction/recap near the start of each of the early chapters. The chapters in question could stand alone as linked short stories (that's actually what I assumed was going on the first time I noticed it), so it's not too distracting.

Plotwise, that also means that the book is structured more like the episodes of a television season or a comic arc: each chapter with a small resolution, but all building to the finale. There's a bit of a red herring in the chapter right before the climax which I am optimistic is explored in the sequel.

Overall, a fun, fast read that is recommended for anyone who likes unique fantasy and/or fairy tale retellings.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book


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