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“Never underestimate the power of a good story.”

Good advice...especially when a story can kill you.

For most people, the story of their lives is just that: the accumulation of time, encounters, and actions into a cohesive whole. But for an unfortunate few, that day-to-day existence is affected—perhaps infected is a better word—by memetic incursion: where fairy tale narratives become reality, often with disastrous results.

That's where the ATI Management Bureau steps in, an organization tasked with protecting the world from fairy tales, even while most of their agents are struggling to keep their own fantastic archetypes from taking over their lives. When you're dealing with storybook narratives in the real world, it doesn't matter if you're Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, or the Wicked Queen: no one gets a happily ever after.

Indexing is New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire’s new urban fantasy where everything you thought you knew about fairy tales gets turned on its head.

420 pages, Kindle Edition

First published May 21, 2013

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About the author

Seanan McGuire

494 books15.2k followers
Hi! I'm Seanan McGuire, author of the Toby Daye series (Rosemary and Rue, A Local Habitation, An Artificial Night, Late Eclipses), as well as a lot of other things. I'm also Mira Grant (www.miragrant.com), author of Feed and Deadline.

Born and raised in Northern California, I fear weather and am remarkably laid-back about rattlesnakes. I watch too many horror movies, read too many comic books, and share my house with two monsters in feline form, Lilly and Alice (Siamese and Maine Coon).

I do not check this inbox. Please don't send me messages through Goodreads; they won't be answered. I don't want to have to delete this account. :(

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Profile Image for carol..
1,532 reviews7,857 followers
November 4, 2019
At the end of the day, McGuire needs to stop turning in first drafts. Either that, or hire a new editor, because the one she has is about as rigorous as a kindergarten teacher (I hesitate to say first grade, because I know how Mrs. Bauman was about penmanship back in the day).

It could also be that I like my lines neatly drawn; a book is a novel, and a serial story is something read in short installments, allowing time and life to fuzz details between episodes. Books are not tv series, and tv tells mini-stories within each week while keeping in mind an overall direction (barring cancellation, so never plan too far ahead). I realized format incompatibility when I read Bookburners: The Complete Season 1, and Indexing is even less effective. That said, I enjoyed Ilona Andrews' serial, Clean Sweep, so it just goes to show you that there are exceptions (then again, the Andrews reworked it before releasing as a book). Indexing tries to make allowances for people joining the series at different points, providing a bit of exposition in every installment. It's usually, and dismayingly, the same exposition, such as "Jeff was a type XX, a shoemaker, who makes the best footwear" and "Sloane was almost wicked and couldn't be trusted to go on cases by herself."

Snow White--I mean, Henrietta--and her team of almost fairy-tale types, excepting former journalist Andy, investigate fairy-tales-in-the-making. The 'narrative' can hijack certain situations and force almost-fairy-tale types to act in ways they normally wouldn't as the 'narrative' plays out an archtype, more or less. It's a great premise that would be entertaining with better writing. The first section is a Sleeping Beauty variant, then a Goldilocks and a Cinderella. McGuire does eventually weave in a larger plot that helps hold the overall narrative together, sort of. Mostly. There's a lot of narrative fuzzy area, and I suspect a bit of ret-conning (early on Henri is described as literally 'white,' while later she is thankful she didn't entirely lose all melanin), along with items that May Be Foreshadowing but end up not (useful when not being entirely sure where one would like to go or for how long, I imagine).

To make it sound vaguely X-Files-like, fairy stories are given a number and then all the types are kept together in an Index. This is a totally pointless device, since the reader has no actual index, and McGuire has to have her characters say awkward things to each other like, "You think she's a four-fifty?' Henri asked sharply. 'No, I don't think she's Cinderella because we don't have the step-sisters." (I totally made that dialogue up but that's almost exactly how it goes).***

The challenge with working with character archetypes is, you know, archetypes. As in, these characters are supposed to think and perform along a particular trope when the narrative forces them. While we should know it as the reader, Henri also constantly reminds us, usually right after Sloan says something mean. But it also means characterization for everyone by Henri and Sloan is generally weak, existing only enough to (surprise!) perform a needed story function (information! Tension! Villain!)

Honestly, I should probably give up on McGuire, because her habit of telling over showing drives me bonkers, except every four years or so, she'll come out with a home run for me. There are absolutely great kernels of fun in here. I liked Andy dealing with the talking frog who offers to get a lost object, the description of Mr. Reynard's den, and the smell of apples being a trigger for knowing Henri is near a dead person. When McGuire describes a storybook scene, it's fabulous. So there's that. My attention wandered when trying to read; I think me pacing reading like a novel just doesn't work. But then, I'm not a tv watcher, either.

But, yay, me. Another one off the TBR list. In the spirit of McGuire, I'll just turn in my first second draft.

***If you are going to tell me that there is an actual index, you are only the [insert large number] person to do so. I am still not impressed by this as a device, since it is not a well known thing, and is thus narratively intrusive (if the characters all know it, why do they have to refer to it?) A better device would have been to put the "Index" in the front of the book like a map frontpiece, or in the beginning of each chapter, like with quotations.
July 21, 2013
Actual rating: 2.5

"'Once upon a fuck, you people,' I muttered."

Indexing is like the X-Files, if the X-Files were about fairy tales instead of aliens and monsters, without the underlying Mulder/Scully sexual tension between the agents. It's the premise of a thousand other TV shows, comic books, and movies. A secret government agencies designed to keep people in the real world in the dark about what's really going on.

The agency in question here is the ATI Management Bureau, ATI being short for Aarne-Thompson Index, an index used to measure and keep track of real-life fairy tale manifestations. The agency in this serial operates under this premise: all fairy tales are real. Snow White, Jack and the Beanstalk, etc. All of them. They may not always be accurate to the Grimm version, but they exist, and they manifest themselves in the real world. The ATI Management Bureau's jobs is to keep these manifestations under control, so that normal humans don't get pulled into them and overwhelmed by them. This is a world where Sleeping Beauties can be raped while comatose, where a Pied Piper can pull thousands of rats and vermins from the city sewers, where evil stepsisters can be killer. The ATIMB's job is to keep us safe and unaware of these manifestations so that we can sleep easy in our warm beds at night with our children dreaming about Sleeping Beauty being awakened by a handsome prince's kiss, instead of dying from a actual Sleeping Beauty's uncontrolled manifestation.

"...a four-ten manifested in a small beachside community, and no one noticed. She put the whole town to sleep, and this is the real world, which tends to be pretty straightforward about things like 'humans need to eat' and 'if you sleep for three weeks without any medical treatment of any kind, you will die.' By the time the four-ten herself died, breaking the spell cast by her presence, no one lived there anymore."

The ATI have codes for every manifestation; for example, a 709 is a Snow White manifestation, a 410 is a Sleeping Beauty, a 280 is a Pied Piper, etc. The agents themselves were previously part of a manifestation themselves, or else had their story "averted." Our main character, Henrietta Marchen (yes, her last name means fairy tale in German), is the child of a manifestation, as well as one herself. She is a 709, a Snow White, but not one of the lovely Disney creatures you see walking around the park, smiling and posing with children. Henry does have an affinity for woodland creatures and a tendency to make flowers grow on carpet (not an entirely useful skill), but that's where the resemblance ends.

"We're too pale, and our lips are too red, and we look like something out of a horror movie that didn’t have the decency to stay on the screen."

This book is not a book, but an e-novella, delivered through a Kindle subscription every two weeks. We first meet Henry and the ATI as they're investigating a case. In the first two chapters, we're introduced to the ATI, given a rough idea of what they do, and we meet the other members of the team (including Sloane, an averted Wicked Stepsister, with the pain-in-the-ass attitude to match). The first few episodes were really boring; I never really bought into the premise of the ATI, and I was still pretty fuzzy on the premise of the ATI Management Bureau itself. After the first three episodes or so, we get into more of a groove, with each subsequent episode telling the story of a case. After the first two episodes, things picked up. The cases are amusing, short, an interesting spin on the original fairy tales. It gradually becomes less X-Files, and more Fringe. I think the concept of the ATI works best if you don't think too much about the agency or the concept, and instead focus on the interpretations of the fairy tales themselves.

Episode 1 and 2: introduction of the ATIMB, a Sleeping Beauty and a Pied Piper, as well as the recruitment of a new team member.

Episode 3: A Red Riding Hood case (with bears!)

Episode 4: Sloane's continuing story as the Wicked Stepsister

Episode 5: just released a few days ago, and I've yet to read it.

It's just not too successful a premise altogether. Maybe it's just me; I have yet to meet a Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire character I actually like. I never really felt connected to any of the team members, or to our narrator, even if the author does her best to give us a sad backstory on most of the agents. This may be due to the fact that the novella is still so short and only in its fifth installment, and there hasn't been time for anyone to develop a personality. Rest assured, they all have bad backstories. As previously mentioned, these are not Disney movies with the associated happy endings. These fairy tales are much Grimmer.

Come on, you guys knew that pun was coming from a mile away.

In summary: this series is just ok. If you want alternative retellings of fairy tales, there are better ones out there. I would suggest you reach for one of the excellent anthologies edited by Ellen Datlow et al, before resorting to this.
Profile Image for Jacob Proffitt.
2,937 reviews1,545 followers
Shelved as 'unfinished'
June 25, 2021
I'm dnfing this relatively early. I didn't know it was originally a serial story, but it was pretty obvious after a couple of short bits with little or no overlap and reintroducing concepts and worldbuilding already in a prior story. I'm not going to rate it, though I'm pretty annoyed that the nature of the stories wasn't obvious from the cover blurb. I feel a bit duped, and that's no fun.
Profile Image for Bonnie.
1,371 reviews920 followers
November 15, 2015
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Indexing was first released as a Kindle Serial and was a bi-weekly mini-party every Tuesday considering how eagerly I awaited the latest installment. The first episode is epic and I can’t even begin to express my love for it. The introduction to this fairy-tale world was perfection. It got a full 5 stars from me and set the bar extremely high for the subsequent stories. This fairy tale world was extremely similar in scope to the graphic novel series ‘Fables’ but in comparison I found the characters were more vibrant and witty and infinitely entertaining. Each Kindle serial, for the most part, managed as a stand-alone and didn’t leave you too exasperated with having to wait another two weeks for more. I say ‘for the most part’ because something happened around episode 8 (out of a total of 12) that took the series into a total nosedive, but I’ll get into that more in a minute.

The ATI (Aarne-Thompson Index) Management Bureau is a covert government agency that monitors fairy tale manifestations and prevents them from getting out of control. According to Wiki, "The Aarne–Thompson tale type index is a multivolume listing designed to help folklorists identify recurring plot patterns in the narrative structures of traditional folktales, so that folklorists can organize, classify, and analyze the folktales they research." This index system is used as the basis for classifying manifestations that happen in the real world, where children are born predisposed to being a Sleeping Beauty or a Snow White or even a Pied Piper. If unleashed, their fairy tale influence could wreak havoc on the world. All manner of fairy tales are covered: Peter Pans and Cinderellas, Donkeyskins and Beautiful Vassilisas, a Mother Goose, Wicked Stepsisters, Billy Goats Gruff, The Showmaker and the Elves, etc.

So what worked well? Personally I loved the combination of fairy tales and urban fantasy that ultimately made up this story. It was imaginative and creative and really enjoyed the details that went into this. Each individual was given a bit of back story although I believe this could have been further expounded on to showcase their growth. While I didn’t end up preferring one character over another, they all as a whole really added life and charm to this story.

In the end though, I was left ultimately disappointed. When thinking back on the story as a whole, I think it was easy to overlook the choppy feel of the writing since we’re only given bits and pieces at a time. If read as a whole I think it would have been far more obvious and apparent that the story lacked a fully fleshed out plot and was really rather feeble. It didn’t feel as if it was planned as a full novel and was instead planned out as each episode was written. Ultimately, the ending felt strange and disconnected from where it seemed like the story was going and left me with far more unanswered questions than I like.

Episode 1 - 5 stars
This is not only immensely entertaining but incredibly original. LOVE THIS.
Episode 2 - 4 stars
Episode 3 - 3.5 stars
Episode 4 - 4 stars
DUN DUN DUN! All other episodes wrap up rather nicely but this one had an unfortunate cliffhanger. And I only get an episode every 2 weeks? GAH.
Episode 5 - 4.5 stars
Episode 6 - 4 stars
Episode 7 - 4.5 stars
Episode 8 - 3 stars
Episode 9 - 3 stars
Episode 10 - 2 stars
Episode 11 - 2.5 stars
Episode 12 - 2 stars
Profile Image for Maja (The Nocturnal Library).
1,013 reviews1,891 followers
September 1, 2016
4.5 stars
Bloggers and journalists have discussed at length the sudden popularity of serial novels, and not succeeded in finding a reason for it. Serial novels have a long tradition, but for a time it seemed that they were almost forgotten. Dating all the way from 19th century, they played a monumental part in creating the so called popular literature. In other words, they helped books find their place in popular culture.

From what I've been able to find out, Penguin and St. Martin's in particular seem determined to give serial novels a new life. But it wasn't until both Ilona Andrews and Seanan McGuire wrote theirs that I started believing this project would actually succeed.

Indexing was first published in a serial format on Amazon. The readers paid for the whole thing right away and downloaded a new part when it became available. Since it wasn’t available to international readers at first, I had to wait for the completed novel to be published, for which I ended up being thankful, since I’m not known for my patience, and the story is very compelling.

Don't mistake Indexing for a fairy tale. That's not at all what it is. Instead, it's a story about sentient, malevolent narratives. As for the characters, McGuire took the whole concept of archetypes and built upon it, using her vast knowledge on fairy tales (and literary theory) and combining it with extraordinary imagination to turn old stories into something we've never seen before. Whatever Seanan McGuire writes (be it under her own name or as Mira Grant), has her trademark combination of extensive research and wicked sense of humor. Worldbuilding-wise, Indexing is perhaps one of the most interesting things I've ever read.

Like most of McGuire’s novels, Indexing is cleverly subversive, serving a healthy helping of social activism with the already interesting story. McGuire always makes her point, but never in a way that could make her readers uncomfortable. Her messages are subtle, but clear, whether they’re allegories, or straightforward (in this case, the point was made through a very sympathetic transgender character).

Indexing is a product of superb intelligence and vast imagination, and as such, it’s worthy of your time. It pushes the boundaries of its genre, and it certainly pushes readers to expect more from genre fiction.

Profile Image for Jaylia3.
752 reviews131 followers
September 17, 2015
Where “once upon a time” doesn’t lead to “happily ever after”

Fairy tales are real! And that’s not a good thing. Do we really want whole towns falling asleep for 100 years because a Sleeping Beauty’s story has gone active? In this book fairy tales are like a constantly mutating force of nature that’s trying to manifest in our “real” world, so of course there's a secret government agency, the ATI Management Bureau, whose agents spend their time running between potential story disasters in the struggle to keep us all safe.

Most of the members of the team we follow have had their own lives almost derailed by fairy tales--there’s a Snow White (who’s haunted by the smell of apples and pursued by determined woodland creatures), a cobbler elf (who’s constantly trying to make, fix or organize things), an evil stepsister (who has to suppress her natural urge to kill other team members) and a Pied Piper (who’s new on the job and is having a hard time adjusting to her changed reality.)

The book has an urban fantasy tone that’s light on romance, somewhat dark, often funny, and very imaginative. Seanan McGuire knows a lot about fairy tales, myths, and nursery rhymes, which she uses to great effect. As a bibliophile I can’t resist a good “stories are real!” motif (another example being Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series.) Indexing began its life as a Kindle Serial, with chapters released every few weeks, but I listened to the audio version, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal, who is fantastic at giving each character a distinctive voice--a great boon since I was “reading” while driving.
Profile Image for Ian.
1,346 reviews188 followers
August 12, 2014
There are fairy tale princesses living amongst us. They don't know it and lead normal lives until one day the narrative pushes them over the edge and they snap. Then unless they find their prince quickly, people will die.

It's Henrietta's job to head off fairy tale incursions before any serious damage is done and lives are lost. She's a Snow White with serious attitude and she's helped by Sloane, a wicked step-sister who is in a constant battle with her inner-homicidal maniac who wants to murder her co-workers. The rest of the team really don't matter, Henri and Sloane are the stars.

Indexing was first released in a weekly serialised form. Because of that the story doesn't progress conventionally. What begins as short vignettes are gradually stitched together until about the 60% mark when it becomes a more typical urban fantasy. I have to be honest, I enjoyed this book for one reason. Sloane Winters. If I take her out of the picture I would probably say the book is a bit too long and doesn't really work outside of that serialised format. But she's in there and is so much fun I can forgive everything else.

If I could just get her parts in a book, 5 Stars....with everything else, 3 Stars.
Profile Image for Roxana Chirilă.
1,009 reviews127 followers
April 25, 2018
The more I think of this book, the more annoyed with it I get. It isn't bad in itself, but it left me with an aftertaste of wasted opportunities and rushed writing.

The core concept is solid: fairy tales are sort of real. They impose themselves onto reality and try to twist it, hoping to get reenacted. Unfortunately, they sometimes fail, and then you have Sleeping Beauties entering comas and dying before their prince ever gets to them (and taking entire villages with them), or Snow Whites poisoned by apples even in the most absurd ways. And that's great, I love the premise.

It is the job of a particular organization to stop fairy tales from doing much damage. Our heroes are a normal guy, a Snow White (who is doing her goddamned best to avoid all apples and ignore bluebirds and flowers on her carpet), a Wicked Stepsister (who is trying very hard not to kill people), a Pied Piper, and a Shoe-making Elf. None of them started out as fairy tale characters - they're real people whose lives have been twisted so they'd fit into stories, and now they're suspended with their stories incomplete.

Now, the narrative style is annoying. The author wrote Snow White as a first-person character, while every bit in the story that isn't hers is written in third person. It feels weird, like the narrator is omniscient, but very uncertain about whether they really ought to be. It annoyed the hell out of me to read "I saw Sloane" in one para and "Sloane was seen by Snow White" in the next. Why did Seanan McGuire choose to do this? Why? Whyyy?

Another thing: when I started reading this, I didn't know the story had initially been written as a series of episodes, but the fact became painfully obvious when we got an exposition in the first chapter, then a similar exposition in the second chapter, and so on. I think a good round of editing to remove the plethora of expositions would have helped a lot.

While the first chapters were mostly consistent and quite clever at times, the latter half of the book didn't add up. I was perplexed by the explanation that Snow White was actually the old myth of making a sacrifice so winter goes away - is this, like, some widely-known theory or something? If it is, why didn't I know it? If it isn't, why isn't it better explained? What's the connection, aside from dying and winter?

Rose Red is also brought into the story, which feels awkward, since she's actually transgender, and that's... well... everything about her. Him. Whatever. Rose Red was born a girl, found his gender identity as a guy, managed to put his story on hold by not being girly enough to be a princess, then proceeded to not be a part of this plot in any way, shape or form. RR was abandoned before you can say "Rose Red is only here to include transgender people".

Readable, entertaining and memorable, but also more annoying than other books I've read lately.
Profile Image for Karishma.
73 reviews10 followers
July 31, 2018
Thank you Elena for reading this or I would never have known about this gem.

I would highly recommend this to anybody who likes fairy tales!

In the middle of reading so many fairy tale retellings, this was something so different and exciting.

All the fairy tales are true, there are many people who are dormant fairy tale characters just waiting to go active and there is a government department which works to control these outbreaks.

Some points which I think will enhance the experience of anyone reading this:
1. Do read the fairy tale mentioned if possible - both the Hans Christian Andersen and brothers grimm version - or do a google search to find a basic summary.
2. The Aarne-Thompson is a real thing -http://www.mftd.org/index.php?action=atu and it is fascinating.
Profile Image for Susana.
988 reviews243 followers
May 17, 2015

3.5 stars
(Full review on my blog and on my BL page)

With a little more character development, and a little less repetition _ this was originally written as a serialized novel which explains that "problem" _ this would have been even better.
However, this has a great concept and I particularly liked the last "episodes" : especially the one in which Henry's brother appears. Great twist on the Red Rose story.
Sloane managed to be my favourite character: I loved her brutal honesty... even if it does border on the homicidal.
First time I enjoy reading about a Wicked stepsister character. -_-

Definitely wouldn't mind if there was a follow up to these characters stories.
Profile Image for Anatl.
476 reviews58 followers
January 15, 2020
First of all, what a great concept taking The Aarne–Thompson Index, a catalogue of folktale types used in folklore studies, as the bases of a procedural index used by a special unit dealing with narrative incursions. Henry, short for Henrietta Marchen, is a Snow White type and also a leader of this special unit who must stop fairy tales from disrupting the fabric of our world. She is a tough cookie with a tongue in cheek attitude and a lot of sass. Another sassy character is Sloane the wicked step-sister type. There is Jeff the archivist which has some romantic entanglement with Henry . Andy, the least memorable character, and rounding up the team is the rookie Demi who is a pied piper type. Every chapter reads like an episode of CSI only with fairy tales instead of bodies. However, I have a minor complaint about the flow of the story which was rather choppy, probably because it was originally released as a kindle serial.
Profile Image for Zoeytron.
1,036 reviews668 followers
March 27, 2014
Here's the deal. All the fairy tales are true. The essential elements keep repeating, trying to gain a foothold in present day. Thus, there might be 'a major beanstalk incident in Detroit, a gingerbread condo development in San Francisco', or an airborne Sleeping Beauty virus gone rampant.

Time for the ATI management team to step in. They fight fairy tales for a living. Clearly, the stories are morphing into their own variations on the theme and causing all kinds of havoc. This makes the job more difficult for the fairy tale police. Yes, they have a very specialized bag of tricks (a unicorn's horn, a pied piper's flute, camouflage courtesy of a Cheshire cat, etc.), but it isn't always enough to disrupt the evolution of the narrative.

I absolutely loved the originality of the premise. It was a ton of fun to read. This First-reads copy was loaned to me by a Goodreads buddy who won it in a giveaway, thank you. It was delightful!
1,362 reviews23 followers
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
March 27, 2022
Moving this from "currently reading" (which is not an accurate shelf for me anyway) to DNF. Because I own this book, and every time I think about picking it up again, I realize that I really don't want to. It think it's time to call it. Something about this just doens't work for me, and I don't think I'll ever want to read it. Which is sad, because I often like Seanan McGuire. But the thing is, I'm more interested in about three of her other series, so if I want to read her, perhaps I should just go with those.
Profile Image for Heidi.
756 reviews175 followers
June 26, 2015
It occurs to me as I sit down to proclaim Indexing’s awesomeness to the world that I have yet to write my review for the most recent October Daye installment…in the meantime let me leave you with one word: TYBALT. ’Nough said.

If there was anything other than Gatsby Porn (recorded on audio by Mary Rubinette Kowal–people, IT’S COMING

[Yeah I just put a gif in parentheses. The situation called for Pam. What of it?]) that could prove to me once and for all that my love for Seanan McGuire is going to extend far beyond the boundaries of the Toby Daye universe, it was Indexing. I mean maybe some other creative genius out there thought to combine my love of urban fantasy and fairy tales into one, but since I found Once Upon a Time to be a veritable suckfest and this is the first such thing I’ve read, McGuire takes the cake–no, pie (because it is the far superior baked good)–pie, and my heart.

Seanan McGuire writes Indexing like a true fan. A fan of fairy tales and all of the havoc they could wreak were they to be set loose on modern urban society. Indexing tells the story of the ATI Management Bureau–a sector of the government positioned to keep you safe (and ignorant) when it comes to all things happily ever after. A good portion of their agents are living somewhere on the fairy tale spectrum–some are fully activated in their tales, others are in a hold-pattern, while some have diverted from their paths entirely. Not everyone was born to be part of a tale, in fact, most of us are just innocent bystanders to be felled by an emerging 410 (a Sleeping Beauty). Oh, and did you know there’s code numbers for all fairy tales? BECAUSE THERE’S CODE NUMBERS FOR ALL FAIRY TALES. The ATI utilizes the Aarne-Thompson classification system which is a real freaking thing. I love you, folklorists.

Can you people just IMAGINE what would go down were a Sleeping Beauty to emerge in a metropolitan area in the real world? We’re talking fairy tale-level sleeping sickness, but without the magic to sustain those bodies for 100 years. Yeah. Turns out people need food and water and stuff to survive, even when they’re in a fairy tale-induced coma. Oh, and how about having to get up and go to work every morning knowing you’re just one poisoned apple away from being a full-on Snow White? Bluebirds flocking to help you dress may sound cute, but having them kamikaze into your window in the morning because they just can’t stay away? Not so charming.

So here’s the deal–I don’t want to dig too far into the characters and plot because I’m just learning about them myself! Indexing is a completely new reading experience for me. In that it’s a very old-style of reading experience. You know back in the day how a lot of Sci Fi/Fantasy (like Aasimov) was released through serialization in magazines? Well, Indexing is being released the same way as an e-book! New chapters are released every other week, which automatically download for you to enjoy. The entire book will be released in print once it’s complete, but I’ll quite happily keep counting down for my chapter every 14 days!

Original review posted at Bunbury in the Stacks.


After actually finishing Indexing, while still happy with it, I have to admit I'm a little deflated after the initial awesome intro of concept. I found myself a little confused in places as to the explanations of things, and certain aspects of the story just felt dropped and unfinished (like the Snow White/Rose Red story?).
Profile Image for Kira.
1,241 reviews132 followers
February 12, 2017
2013: 4.5 stars
2016: 3.5 stars

I’m not so sure what it was I had liked about this so much the first time I read it. I don’t think it’s bad, but it’s just not that great either. The world building is where this story excels. Fairy tales are real. They can control people’s lives and dictate what they do. Most people don’t know fairy tales are real. They can be dangerous. To protect people, the ATI Bureau tries to prevent fairy tales from happening.

This was written as a serial, so it wasn’t as cohesive as Seanan McGuire’s other books. The first half was repetitive and slow moving. Henry’s team at the ATI Bureau investigated several fairy tales that were about to happen. It didn’t seem like the story was going anywhere for a while. Then fairy tales started going wrong, and they realized someone was behind it.

The romantic angle was extremely minor. It didn’t add anything to the story. If anything it felt out of place. There were two couples, but their feelings developed quickly with no build up. I’m guessing these relationships will have a bigger impact in the next book.

I loved the idea for this. The world was unique, but the characters needed some work. Except for Sloane, none of them had much personality. They were all boring office drone types. Sure everyone had some entertaining lines here and there, but it wasn’t enough to really make them stand out. Henry (short for Henrietta) was Snow White. Unlike most of the characters, she was willing to bend the rules, but she wasn’t bad ass because of it or anything. Jeff, Andy, and Demi were insignificant. They were mainly just there to fill a role.

Sloan kicked ass. She was a wicked stepsister. Evil was her second nature, and she constantly fought it although not always very well. She was the only character who was unpredictable. Her bitchy attitude was very entertaining. Although she was bitchy, she didn’t treat people like shit aside from being mouthy sometimes. She was bad but good underneath it all. It was her character that made this book worth reading.
Profile Image for Christine.
6,605 reviews478 followers
November 21, 2017
Henry has a bunch of problems and it isn't just the bluebirds that commit suicide by crashing into her bedroom window. She works at making sure the narrative of fairy tales stays out of the real world without killing too many people. She also is a Snow White in waiting.

McGuire's novel, at first a serial, details the various crimes that Henry and Co have to deal with. Henry's group is pretty spot on and includes Sloane, an evil step-sister. Sloane, quite frankly, is the best creature in the whole series. That's the weak part of the book. Henry and Sloane are fully realized characters, and Demi too stand outs. The male characters don't stand out quite as much and do not seem to be as fully realized.

Still a good read.
Profile Image for Chris.
2,860 reviews203 followers
May 24, 2015
3.5 stars. Good contemporary fantasy about the ATI Management Bureau, an agency devoted to keeping fairy tale narratives from gaining power and warping reality. First person narrator and ATI team leader Henrietta Marchen is herself a Snow White in abeyance. (Maybe it was just me, but I definitely wondered if this story was inspired by the Thursday Next novels of Jasper Fforde.)
Profile Image for Soo.
2,598 reviews257 followers
October 4, 2018

I recommend that you read this book in print because the story did not translate well to audio. Usually, I like Mary Robinette Kowal's narration but this one was a hit & miss. She doesn't have a lot of variety for her voices and there's a cast of five that talk a lot in this book. The first quarter of the book dumps a lot of jargon that sounds like wanna-be cop talk noise until it's explained. It takes a little while.

I'm surprised because I felt like this book was missing a lot of information, jumped around in scenes, did not make any of the characters real and the whole thing had an inside joke that I didn't really catch. I usually enjoy McGuire's writing a lot and love the way she weaves different details together. This story had so many changeable details that happened in a spastic manner that I didn't have much time to enjoy it. I actually listened to many parts of this book several times to make sure I heard it all. This book felt more like work than fun. It wasn't even satisfying work because I don't feel like I gained anything for my extra efforts.
Profile Image for Kevin.
1,500 reviews34 followers
June 9, 2017
3 1/2 stars, I liked this but not as much as Velveteen vs series. The incredible world building of the author is fully displayed but for me the characters just weren't as compelling. I have to say I started out hating Sloane, but she in time grew on me. Now onto book 2.
Profile Image for Hallie.
954 reviews124 followers
April 13, 2014
This was a waste of a really fun premise, for the most part. When I got it, I wasn't aware of the fact that it had been initially published as a Kindle serial, and I don't know if there was any editing before the whole thing was released, but I suspect not. Not just because it could still have used so much editing, but more seriously, I don't think it would have been possible to fix the problems with tweaking, as it needs major overhauling.

I don't really feel inclined to spend much time explaining the story and set-up, but the big plus was that the "indexing" of the title referred to the Aarne-Thompson tale-type index, and the (mostly secret, 'natch) agency for which Henry (Henrietta Marchen, heroine) worked was the ATI Management Bureau. Cool! Except that the basic story was that fairy tales (++ which I'll get to, if briefly) are nasty, out to get everyone sucked into the most horrific variant of the tale possible, always. Why? No particular reason. And Henry (field team leader) and her gang are out to stop this happening. How? Good question. We always seem to see them doing something Never Been Tried Before (because there are no options except Big Chaos) but have no explanation of how they were actually supposed to prevent this B.C.

Possibly the book might have worked a bit better for me if each story had been presented as an interconnected but somewhat complete tale, but it doesn't seem very likely. One story was quite misleading, as the first-person (Henry) narrative and the 3rd person (here focalised through Sloane) were out of sync in a way that made it appear as if the Sloane Henry was seeing must be an impostor, which is pretty sloppy. And all along, I kept expecting an explanation of what was really going on with the tales' "incursions", and only getting more muddiness. Then there was this:

The narrative is an old, dark force that keeps trying to worm its way back into the light, and sometimes the only thing that keeps it locked away is knowledge. Our weapons are strange [...] but they've worked for us for a very long time.
Sloane made a small, irritated sound as she turned the page. "Why does everyone assume that all storytellers are magically good and wonderful and have your best interests at heart no matter what? Don't they realise that someone had to tell these fucking stories in the first place?"
Geoff/Jeff "explains" that the storytellers are the ones who tell the stories, and thereby will make themselves/people like themselves look good, which earns him a right verbal smackdown from Sloane. But this was the point at which I realised the whole thing would never work for me, because I just will not like a book based on the idea that story is a force for evil.

I ended up quite liking Sloane, though her wicked stepsister (in abeyance? averted? can't quite remember) role didn't make a lot more sense than did Henry's Snow White. I'm giving 3 stars rather than 2, as I never felt like bailing completely, despite the frustrations. But for that forbearance, I'm going to complain - strongly - about the use of substitute-for-God "Grimm" in phrases like "Oh, sweet Grimm", or "By Grimm". It's something I tend to find irritating, though it certainly makes sense not to have your characters saying "Oh my God" in a secondary world where there isn't a God as such. But subbing another term is not as clever as some authors seem to think it is (to my mind anyway) even if it makes sense in the context of the novel. Here? If the author had thought it through, at all, she'd have realised that she's portrayed the Grimm brothers as bad guys, so he/they wouldn't be invoked this way. Maybe something like "to the Grimm with you!" for a big old "fuck off", but not "sweet Grimm". Yes, I do feel better for the ranting.
Profile Image for Beth.
910 reviews102 followers
February 29, 2016
Indexing started its life as a Kindle serial, and it worked well read that way, with most of the chapters being self-contained. Main character Henrietta (a.k.a. Henry) and her teammates deal with fairy-tale crises in their city, and the reader is given a rising note at the end of each installment that makes them look forward to the next one. Maybe it worked too well as a serial, since I found it tedious when taken more than one chapter at a time.

Since I read Discount Armageddon earlier this year, it was hard to avoid seeing a lot of similarities between Verity from that novel, and Henry and Sloane in this one. They're pretty much identical people with varying "aggression" settings. They're all snarky, have no reluctance to kill their enemies, and are always, always right, to the point of sneering and bullying people into following their agenda.

The other characters were milquetoast-y, without any particular character traits. I loved how diverse the cast was, very cool! Their connections to the Narrative—the collective unconscious given concrete power in this world—were interesting, too. But they were uninteresting as people. Ms. McGuire , which, perhaps, speaks to the author's own level of interest in those other characters.

The ending wasn't very satisfying, being a mashup of action sequence and infodump. My growing disinterest in action stories makes me think there must be a different way of finishing things off than a ho-hum

Indexing doesn't quite merit three stars, and I'd recommend Discount Armageddon over it, but don't let that keep you away. The two McGuire books I've read have been notable for their lack of problematic stuff, which makes them good comfort-food reading. You could do far worse if you're looking for a simple, fun read with some magic and bickering to spice things up.
Profile Image for Amanda.
293 reviews
September 12, 2014
I am generally not a fan of urban fantasy, but the idea of fairy tales struggling to play out in the modern world was kind of intriguing. I like the idea of narrative force and fairy tales manifesting themselves differently in order to survive. However, this book had a number of problems....

But first, the good things. McGuire has a pretty great concept. The modern manifestations-Sleeping Beauty as patient zero with a super contagious sleeping sickness, for example- are pretty brilliant. McGuire knows her fairy tales and has put in a lot of great thought as far as modernizing them and identifying the elements that let us know this is a Sleeping Beauty variant and not a Snow White variant. And that's interesting, especially when you think about the real cultural variants of these stories. She doesn't do a bad job with characters...but they do tend to be a bit like stock characters. Bad-tempered savant goth? No-nonsense field agent with a soft side for her team?

The format of the story was super confusing. She begins some chapters in third person from the victim's POV, but then shifts into first-person for Henry....sometimes. She also clutters things with jargon-she's always slipping into "agent talk" and needing someone to explain these concepts. Also the pacing is pretty uneven and she throws in new characters and events randomly that don't seem to really have any meaning or impact on the overall plot.

Ambitious, but ultimately fails to hit the mark.
Profile Image for Devann.
2,434 reviews134 followers
February 12, 2019
This was my second time reading this book and I decided to try out the audio this time. Despite still loving the story in general, I would definitely recommend reading it instead of listening. I did not care for the narrator's voice at all and I felt like she made a lot of the female characters sound very whiny or air-headed a lot of the time [not to mention that her male character voice was just ridiculous]. Sloane's voice in particular was just baffling to me because her persona is basically 'badass goth chick' and the narrator most often gave her this ridiculous Valley Girl inflection. It was absolutely maddening to me personally because Sloane is my favorite character and every time she had dialogue I was just audibly groaning.

But a bad narrator does not make a bad book, and I do really love this book. It's definitely a very original concept and I like how Seanan manages to both lean into all the fairy tale tropes and turn them completely on their heads. Also you can tell that this is really a subject that she enjoys because she uses so many variations of the stories and often links the archetypes in ways that the average consumer of fairy tales might not notice. I really love all the characters [when I'm not having to listen to awful narration at least] and think they play off each other very well. I would definitely recommend this book if you are looking to get a peek at Seanan's urban fantasy writing style but don't want to start with one of her longer series.
Profile Image for Mia.
291 reviews38 followers
June 17, 2016
2.5 stars.

Amusing and quirky at the beginning but quickly devolved into a repetitive, cliched narrative. Bit of a one-trick pony with the trick recycled repeatedly. The more you delve into the story, the more you realize there isn't more to the plot than the surface premise. To prevent it from being more of a parody or a farcical tale, social themes were injected. Unfortunately, the injection felt abrupt, contrived and forced, seemingly proceeding more out of a determined and premeditated plan to inject them rather than a well-conceived effort to organically weave them into the story.
Profile Image for Badseedgirl.
1,258 reviews62 followers
October 19, 2017
I really liked reading this book, although I think I could have done without all the "potty mouth." This really felt more like a summer read.

And yes I know she is also Mira Grant. But I like her writing as Seanan McGuire. what can I say, I'm fickle.
Profile Image for Seth.
24 reviews31 followers
May 10, 2014
Review also available at SFFaudio

As the author of both the October Day series and, under the pseudonym Mira Grant, the Newsflesh trilogy, Seanan McGuire is no stranger to writing urban fantasy. But, as you may have deduced from the blurb, Indexing is not your run-of-the-mill hot vampire-on-werewolf ménage-a-trois urban fantasy. Instead, it’s populated with fairy tales. Here be Pied Pipers, Frog Princes, and Mother Gooses (Geese?) in spades. In the moribund desertscape of urban fantasy, Indexing is a cool refreshing garden grown wild with novelties. McGuire’s writing is dynamic enough to play fair with both the here-and-now realities of an urban setting and the timeless terrible beauty of fairy tales. Like quicksilver, the tone can glide from spunky 21st-century dialogue riddled with F-bombs to an ethereal transcendence full of snow and moonlight.

The presence of stories come to life in the world of Indexing places it squarely in the realm of metafiction. In fact, the book takes its title from the very real Aarne-Thompson Index, a comprehensive listing of folktale types compiled in the early twentieth century. In the land of metafiction, Indexing has some pretty affluent neighbors, such as Italo Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler and Jorge Luis Borges��s The Library of Babel. Unfortunately in this regard the book fails to measure up, like that rundown house you drive by on your street and mutter about how you wish the neighbors would cut their grass. The premise itself is intriguing in exactly the way that speculative fiction is supposed to be, but the underlying worldview is overly pessimistic. In this story, Narrative itself is a character, or at least a vital force, trying to impose itself onto our order of reality. According to the world of Indexing, this is almost always a very bad thing, something that needs to be stopped. The novel’s closing chapters bring to light some extenuating circumstances that lend this structure a modicum of feasibility, but the reader still comes away with the sense that our world is better off without fairy tales made manifest stalking our streets.

As I write this, it occurs to me that this bothers me so much because it’s at odds with why I read speculative fiction in the first place. I firmly believe that these stories really do make our world better, in a very tangible way. I’m not saying we should unleash every fictional character on the streets of New York–there would probably be utter chaos. But there would be hope too. There would be Aragorn, for example, and Optimus Prime, and–you get the idea. The influx of story into our own world, “mimetic incursions” as they’re called in Indexing, needn’t always be the harbingers of misery and ruin. In fact, I think I took personal offense at the book’s denigration of stories. And then, of course, there’s the added irony that we’re actually reading, or listening to, a story. Just what sorts of mimetic incursions will Indexing spawn, I wonder. Ahh, the joys of peeling the layers of metafiction, kind of like an onion, but pointier and more slippery.

To be clear, my criticism of the novel’s metafiction is purely ideological. Leaving those aside, McGuire tells a damn good story. The pacing ratchets up the suspense like a mystery novel, and the writing, as I said, is sturdy as a house made of bricks. (See what I did there? Three Litle Pigs reference? Okay, never mind, on with the review.) And even if the book’s metafiction elements are problematic, its exploration of storytelling does succeed on a psychological levee. Narrative psychology and therapy have become buzz words in the last twenty years, and on both individual and cultural levels we do think of our lives, both individually and collectively, as stories. In that sense, the main characters of Indexing become archetypes for ways in which people deal with their stories, their past, their trauma, whichever psychobabble catch phrase you like. Some fight it, others embrace it, while still others have more of a story than they think they do. Like most good speculative fiction, Indexing succeeds because of its powerful characterization.

Mary Robinette Kowal, a weaver of fantastic tales in her own right, shines as Indexing‘s narrator. Her performance of Henrietta Marchen, a recovering Snow White through whose eyes we see most of the book’s events, is at once confident and vulnerable in perfect measure. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard a female narrator quite reach the baritone depths that Kowal does when she voices the burly Andy Robinson. The only blemish in the performance is her portrayal of Sloan Winters, whose incurably foul mouth is already grating enough without eery sentence curling up at the end like a skunk’s tale. Perhaps Kowal is simply trying to instill in us, the listeners, the same distaste that Sloan’s teammates feel towards this Wicked Sister. But that’s the only cloud in the sky. The glamour of Kowal’s voice captures the capricious fairy-tale heart of Indexing.

In spite of my significant ideological qualms with the book, I thoroughly enjoyed McGuire’s foray into the world of fairy tales. There’s no indication that a sequel is in the works, which is a shame. I’d gladly spend more time with this world’s colorful characters and fairy tales, morose and morbid though they may be. And I would dearly love to learn that Narrative isn’t so bad after all.
Profile Image for Christine PNW.
694 reviews194 followers
August 11, 2018
I wanted to like this more than I actually liked it. I bought it very cheap, though, and I enjoyed it enough that I'll read the second one.
Profile Image for Bara.
Author 3 books35 followers
August 6, 2018
Ever After High for adults if you change the highschool setting for Men in Black setting. These few words describe the Indexing duology the best.
Tak toto bylo senzační. Míněno naprosto upřímně, nenechte se poplést tím, jak dlouho jsem tuto jednu knihu četla, protože jsem v té době psala bakalářku, učila se na státnice a pak velkou část července procestovala, což mě zdrželo. (A taky jsem mezitím přečetla macatou bichli od Sandersona.) Tato kniha je opravdu dobrá.

Jde o pohádky. Ne samostatné převyprávění, ale takový ten meta přístup, kdy postavy z příběhů ví, že jsou postavami v příběhu. A když to o sobě vědí, tak se jim to většinou nelíbí. Ono hodně pohádek se odehraje v dost drsné formě, takže se není čemu divit, že se postavám nelíbí vyhlídka na to, že je někdo zabije nebo jinak poškodí. Nebo že oni budou narací donuceni někomu ublížit. Proto vznikla speciální agentura na boj s pohádkami. Vlastně takoví muži v černém zabývající se princeznami, zlými sestrami a podobně, chcete-li. Je to rozhodně jiný přístup, než Ever After High a i než Škola dobra a zla.

Je to i v zástupu podobně laděných knih dost originální kousek. Například proto, že se autorka snaží do svého příběhu zasadit různorodé postavy a sahá i do vod LGBT. V naprosté většině obratně. Jen asi ve dvou scénách mi přišlo, že s politickou korektností tlačí na pilu už trochu moc, ale to může být způsobeno tím, že je to Američanka. Oni jsou v tomhle ohledu až přecitlivělí.

Diverzita je trend sám o sobě. Jako byly předchozí doby ovlivněny romantismem, realismem, modernou a později avantgardou, tak současnost si našla další nový přístup k umění a tím je diverzita neboli oživování zavedených archetypů a tropů tím, že autor do příběhu obsadí postavu, která patří k nějaké etnické, sexuální či jiné menšině. Některým žánrům a dějovým postupům to úspěšně vdechne nový život. Např. princeznu nezachrání princ, ale jiná princezna a pak spolu žijí šťastně až navěky. Mimochodem tento syžet se už sám o sobě začíná stávat zažitým klišé. (To nemyslím negativně, prostě se to lidem zalíbilo jako prvek vyprávění a tak se vymýšlejí další příběhy s tímto prvkem v ději.)

Je to vtipné, ale rozhodně ne třeskutě. Je to hodně akční. Ne přímo ponuré, ale postavy mívají existenciální krize, protože někdy si připadají jako Sysifos tlačící kámen na nekonečný kopec. Boj s příběhy nikdy nekončí a ztrpčuje i jejich osobní život. Holt být skutečnou pohádkovou princeznou není žádný med, když tam venku na vás číhá drak.

(Seanan McGuire sama je bisexuální. Knihu to ovlivňuje snad v jediném bodě a to v tom, že postava Sloane je podle mě také bi a pokud to Henriettě s Jeffem neklapne, pak Sloane a Henry mají mezi sebou dost chemie na spoustu třaskavých pokusů, jestli chápete, co myslím.)
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