[Book Review] A Tale Dark and Grimm

A_Tale_Dark_and_Grim_coverTitle: A Tale Dark and Grimm
Author: Adam Gidwitz
Genre: Fairy tales, Fantasy
Published: October 2010 by Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
The publisher rates it as suitable for ages 10 and up
Source: Purchased from the bookstore

WHAT’S THE BOOK ABOUT?

Here’s a description from the author’s website:

Come on in. It may be frightening, and it’s certainly bloody, but, unlike those other fairy tales you know, this one is true. Once upon a time, you see, fairy tales were awesome.

In this mischievous and utterly original debut, Hansel and Gretel walk out of their own story and into eight other classic Grimm–inspired tales. As readers follow the siblings through a forest brimming with menacing foes, they learn the true story behind (and beyond) the bread crumbs, edible houses, and outwitted witches. Fairy tales have never been more irreverent or subversive as Hansel and Gretel learn to take charge of their destinies and become the clever architects of their own happily ever after.

WHAT DID I THINK OF THE BOOK?

This book is not for squeamish and fainthearted readers. It is indeed dark and grim. The author was NOT kidding when he warned “it may be frightening and it’s certainly bloody.” There are several warnings made by the narrator like “read on if you dare,” and to not let the little kids hear the story because “they may have nightmares.” The narrator walks the reader through the stories, and if a horrible or gory scene is coming up, he apologizes in advance and prompts the reader to make sure the little kids aren’t there to hear about it or read it.

To give you an idea, here’s a couple of terrible events in the book: Hansel and Gretel both get beheaded at one point (don’t worry, they survived!), and Gretel crosses paths with a handsome young man who turns out to be a murderous evil magician who rips souls and stews girls for supper. Gross, right?

While reading, I wondered if I’ve read anything with similar gore when I was 10… The Little Mermaid (the Andersen one, not the disneyfied version) somehow was the first that came to mind. But that was just really sad, not bloody nor gory. Then I remembered my English teacher requiring us to read Edith Hamilton’s Mythology (which I loved) and Shakespeare’s Macbeth when I was 11. Mythology had lots of fights, curses, deception, and stuff (a chopping incident and Medea comes to mind). Macbeth, I haven’t read it again since, so I just mostly remember betrayal, the witches, and Lady Macbeth’s line mentioning perfumes of Arabia and bloody hands. Hmm… I guess age 10 and up is perhaps a suitable enough rating for A Tale Dark and Grimm.

Despite the terrible and unfortunate circumstances that Hansel and Gretel get themselves into, there is a right amount of humor occasionally splashed here and there throughout the stories. For that reason, it wasn’t as depressing as I thought it might be and it wasn’t boring. I thought the narrative is straight to the point, so I didn’t think it was a drag to read. The story carries the message of loyalty, love, trust, and forgiveness. It also ends with a “happily ever after,” after all the difficult times and terrible things Hansel and Gretel went through.

TO WRAP IT UP…

I thought it was an interesting read because it’s not the usual Hansel and Gretel story that I knew and I wasn’t familiar with the eight other stories by the Grimm brothers. I wouldn’t advise it to be read by little kids and squeamish people, but if you don’t mind a bit of gore and violence then go ahead and read it. Personally, just to be on the safer side, I’d prefer to bump up the age rating a notch to 12 and up because of the gory bits which I think can be a wee bit graphic at times.

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