TheBookSmugglers's Reviews > A Tale Dark & Grimm

A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
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's review
Nov 04, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: notable-reads-of-2011

Originally Reviewed on The Book Smugglers

Once upon a time, there was a long line of kings who were all served by the Faithful Johannes. When the former king passes away, he tells Johannes to serve his son as loyally and helpfully as he served him, and his father, and his father's father, and so on.

Ever faithful, Johannes agrees.

Johannes also agrees to the last king's wish that his son never see the secret portrait of the golden princess, for fear that the young king would fall hopelessly in love with the cursed woman. But somehow, the young king finds the portrait, and he falls hopelessly in love. When the king steals the golden princess and makes her his new queen, Faithful Johannes learns that great tragedy is in store for his sire and his wife - unless Johannes can stop the curse. And stop them he does, but at great personal cost - for he cannot speak of the curse without damning himself to stone. When the king and queen learn of Johannes's great act of loyalty, of under-standing (that is, standing beneath them and shouldering their responsibilities and beliefs), the king decides he will do anything to bring Johannes back to life - even behead his own twin children. And behead them he does.

Johannes is restored, the children are saved from their death because of the power of love and sacrifice, and everyone lives happily ever after.

But not really.

You see, these two children are Hansel and Gretel, and when they learn that their father killed them for another, they decide to run away from home (lest he decide to kill them again someday). Together, the twins steal off into the woods, and stumble upon a house made of cake. And so their adventures - a tale very dark and grim indeed - begin.

I loved this book. I loved the whimsical narration style with frequent asides to parents and children (who will, presumably, be reading this book aloud together). I loved the fact that Mr. Gidwitz does not patronize and makes his children protagonists go through some really harrowing, bloody, terrible ordeals. I love that he makes them do this and the only reason they prevail is because they are children. As with authors like C.S. Lewis, Adam Gidwitz knows that children are the true heroes, not their silly parents, and A Tale Dark and Grimm is true to this fact throughout.

The most impressive thing about this novel, however, is as true to the spirit of Grimm's fairy tales as it is to the substance of those fables. There's the familiar Hansel and Gretel tale with the witch and her oven, but there's also the story of seven sparrows, a boy that turns into a beast, a twisted, handsome young man with green eyes and a taste for flesh, trickery and gambling with the devil himself, and a formidable dragon. I loved all of these stories, and how each adventure would bring Hansel and Gretel back on the path towards their true home.

In short, I loved this book. It's exactly the type of book I would have loved as a child, and exactly the type of book I would give to readers who like their fairy tales with some bite. Absolutely, wholeheartedly recommended, and one of my most notable reads of 2011.
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