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Fairy/Folk/Tall Tale, Fantasy, Middle Grade Readers, Young Adult Readers

THE GRIMM LEGACY by Polly Shulman

Grimm LegacyThe Grimm Legacy of the title refers to a collection of artifacts held in a very special Repository.  Elizabeth Rue lives with her father and stepmother.  Because her parents are putting her two older stepsisters through college Elizabeth has had to leave the more expensive private school she was attending and transfer to a new–less expensive–school.  When we meet her she has been unable to make any friends in her new school and is working hard to neither stand out nor alienate any potential companions.

Thanks to a reference from her favorite teacher Elizabeth gets an after school job as a page in a unique library where they lend artifacts from history (Marie Antoinette’s wig, for example) instead of books.  As fascinating as the Repository is, Elizabeth discovers that the Grimm Collection on the library’s lowest floor houses artifacts from the actual fairy tales of her youth.  as with so many of us who love them, Elizabeth’s connection with fairy tales is personal as it is tied to memories of her late mother.  Seeing the 12 pairs of dancing shoes used by the princesses in The Twelve Dancing Princesses–her favorite story–is magical in multiple ways!  When it becomes clear that someone is stealing the magical artifacts from the Grimm Collection Elizabeth is drawn into the hunt for the culprit.    Could it be one of the librarians?  One of the other pages?  One of the patrons?  Elizabeth–and the reader–are led in many directions without being sure exactly whom to trust.

The first several chapters of the book move extremely slowly and I think had I not listened to this book on audio in my car I might have stopped reading it.  I am very glad I did not give up on it.  Around Chapter 7 or 8 the plot finally starts to move forward, the characters start to show us the dimensions of their personalities.  From this point forward the story is a wonderfully subtle mix of the magical and the suspenseful.  Elizabeth is a believable character who provides an easy anchor for the other characters in the story.

I will say I was disappointed in the last chapter.  After the main plot points had been resolved the author decided to throw an extraneous romance scene for Elizabeth and another character.  The entire magic carpet ride (think Walt Disney’s Aladdin & Jasmine as modern-day teenagers) smacks of a gratuitous effort to appeal to the same tweenagers who swoon for boy band singers.  It was unnecessary and not particularly well done.  The romance had been beautifully established already in an elegant and age-appropriate way; this scene almost ruined it for me.  I was pleased that the VERY end was tied up by Elizabeth in a way that brought the plot back to its original fairy tale focus.  The majority of The Grimm Legacy is a smart young adult twist on the legacy of fairy tales.  A worthwhile read for those who enjoy modern fairy tale interpretations and have the will power to last through the opening chapters–what follows is worth the effort.


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