Friday, January 4, 2008

The Sisters Grimm

Today is Jakob Grimm's birthday; he was born in 1785. He was one of the two Brothers Grimm who collected folk tales across Germany, before they were lost. Apparently, the brothers had a tendency to fine-tune the stories they were told into a coherent narrative before publishing them, so it seems only fair that modern authors enjoy playing with their stories, not only retelling them but reworking the plotlines and characters.

A recent example is the Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley, which introduces all the characters from folk tales, fairy tales, and other make-believe stories as real people magically stuck in a small town in upstate New York; the descendents of the Brother Grimm try to keep the peace among the "Everafters". It is an intriguing premise and the first book is fun reading, but the series goes downhill from there; Buckley doesn't have the knack of writing sequels that can stand on their own merits. Authors who do, like JK Rowling or Tony Hillerman, can make each book a coherent whole, introducing previous material gracefully, as needed, and letting the story end at a natural and satisfying point. Buckley, on the other hand, spends most of the first chapter in the second book recapping the first book, not very gracefully, and ends it with an obvious lead-in to the third book - having just passed a logical place to end the story. It takes some of the fun out of reading it, and left me uninclined to get the third book.

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