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broodings from the burrow

June 26, 2013

once upon a time vii: the grimm legacy
posted by soe 12:51 am

The Once upon a Time VII reading challenge concluded last week and I’m pleased to say I exceeded my goals of five books. Here’s the first of the reviews:

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman

From the jacket: “Lonely at her new school, Elizabeth takes a job at the New-York Circulating Material Repository, hoping to make new friends as well as some cash. The repository is no ordinary library. It lends out objects rather than books — everything from tea sets and hockey sticks to Marie Antoinette’s everyday wig. It’s also home to the Grimm Collection, a secret room in the basement. That’s where powerful items straight out of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales are locked away: seven-league boots, a table that produces a feast at the blink of an eye, Snow White’s stepmother’s sinister mirror that talks in riddles and has a will of its own. When the magical objects start to disappear, Elizabeth and her new friends embark on a dangerous quest to catch the thief before they’re accused of the crime themselves — or the thief captures them.”

My take: Elizabeth is lonely. Her mother has been dead for several years. Her father has remarried and has little time to spend with Elizabeth, since he’s working hard to pay for home renovations for her new step-mother and college tuition for her two step-sisters. She’s had to transfer to a new school, where defending an outcast gets her blacklisted, and she’s been forced to drop her beloved dance lessons. So when her history teacher recommends her for a job as a library page, she moves quickly to secure the position — only to find out this isn’t your standard book-lending facility. Instead, it’s a repository of items, where people can borrow items as random as fondue pots or doublets.

Joining the staff of pages (who include Anjali, Aaron, and fellow schoolmate Marc) retrieving objects from the stacks, Elizabeth soon learns that the library also includes a collection of objects that inspired the Grimm fairy tales. And that a giant bird may or may not be stalking those with access.

When Elizabeth encounters suspicious behavior, she will have to decide where her allegiances lie and whether she can be the hero of her own story.

Aside from the irksomely placed hyphen in the repository’s name and some glossing over of inconvenient details in the conclusion, this was a cute middle grade read. The concept of an object lending library (even one without fantastical holdings) is something this city-dweller can get behind wholeheartedly. In addition to the Grimm Collection, the repository is also home to the Wells Bequest, the Gibson Chrestomathy, the Lovecraft Corpus, and the Garden of Seasons, offering plenty of inspiration for additional novels. (The second one is now out and its plot summary suggests they’re companion stories, rather than a straightforward series.) But unlike some initial books, this one will stand alone nicely if you don’t feel like continuing on. The characters aren’t drawn especially deep (although I admit I’d like to know more about Elizabeth’s teacher, Mr. Mauskopf, and his giant dog), but it’s not hugely bothersome. I’d recommend checking this out of the library if you enjoy fairy tales and retellings.

Pages: 325

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