Sunday, May 26, 2013

Book Review: Tales from the Hood by Michael Buckley (Sisters Grimm #6)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Characters and a well thought out story
Cons: Teaser gives away too much; one plot twist underexplained
The Bottom Line:
This Grimm could be called
True Stories: The Big Bad Wolf
Sure to captivate




The Big Bad Wolf Gets His Day in Court

When it comes to revisionist fairy tales, the most popular target seems to be The Big Bad Wolf of Red Riding Hood and Three Little Pigs fame.  Michael Buckley takes on this popular character in Tales from the Hood, the sixth book in his Sisters Grimm series.  But in typical fashion, the book is much richer than anything you've read before.

In fact, if you aren't familiar with the series, I really don't suggest you start here.  While there is enough of a recap of characters and previous stories that you can follow what happens here, you won't truly understand everything that happens.

The series is absolute genius.  The premise finds Sabrina and Daphne Grimm discovering the family business, recording the exploits of fairy tale characters and trying to keep those who misbehave in line.  Yes, they are the descendants of the original Brothers Grimm.  They and the majority of the fairytale characters, now called Ever Afters, live in Ferryport Landing, New York.  Unfortunately, the Grimm family is not welcome since they keep the Ever Afters in town.  In fact, there is a group called the Scarlett Hand who are trying to destroy the Grimm family and break free in their quest to rule the world.

This book finds the family in dire straits.  Mr. Canis, aka The Big Bad Wolf, has been arrested for his famous crimes.  Okay, so it has more to do with the fact that the human form of this legendary villain has been protecting the Grimm family for decades, something that Mayor Heart and Sheriff Nottingham can't stand.  He is now on trial for his life.  Sabrina and Daphne's grandmother is doing her best to help Mr. Canis, but he doesn't seem to care.  Will he get off or be executed?

Meanwhile, Uncle Jake thinks he has found a way to wake Sabrina and Daphne's parents, who have been in an enchanted slumber for two years.  But that involves tracking down Goldilocks, one of the few Ever Afters living in the outside world.  And every time they get close, a man dressed in black tries to kill her.  If they can talk to her, will she be willing to come back to help?

As you can tell, the story of Mr. Canis is part of a much larger picture in terms of the storyline of the series.  But it was also the book I was most looking forward to reading in the series.  It didn't disappoint.  The story was interesting from start to finish and had a twist I wasn't expecting but put so much that had happened previously in context.

The characters continue to grow as well.  Sabrina, as our main character, gets the most character development.  While in the past I was frustrated with her actions, I could actually see her point of view most of the time here.  And even when I thought she was doing the wrong thing, I understood her point.  Daphne provides some wonderful laughs as does the constantly evolving Puck.  A few scenes were moving as we saw the characters showing some real emotion or caught a glimpse of someone's heart.

At about 275 pages, this book is perfect for late elementary school and on.  I found it a quick read.  And the one picture per chapter (making ten pictures in all) were wonderfully detailed as always.

It seems I always have a complaint with these books, and this one is no exception.  First, the book starts with a scene set during the climax as always before flashing back to start the story.  For once, I had things pretty well figured out from that teaser.  Normally, it only makes sense in context.  I still had plenty of fun along the way, and there were a couple of big revelations I didn't fully understand until I read them, but the big picture was filled in for me.

Additionally, one of the big cliffhangers from the last book is resolved with hardly any explanation.  I guessed what was happening from reading the backs of later books in the series, so I expected it.  But the few paragraphs it got weren't nearly enough to explain the character's actions to us.  Hopefully, this gets further explained in later books.

Both of these are still minor complaints overall.  In fact, I almost finished this review without remembering to include them.  I enjoyed this different take on a familiar literary character and how it advanced the big story forward.  I'm already looking forward to the sequel to Tales from the Hood.

At this point, you really want to be reading the Sisters Grimm series in order.

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