When I first started reading A Tale Dark and Grimm I was really looking forward to the grizzly, violent fairy tale and great sense of humour as promised to me by the quote on the front cover. For the most part the book is like this, and I am sure that a lot of readers will love the narrative voice that runs through this collection of linking stories. I greatly enjoyed seeing two independent and capable children battle through one seemingly insurmountable problem after another, both by using their intelligence and their strength. It is rare to find a book where neither character dominates the other and where the girl is just as intelligent and proficient as the boy. However at the same time none of the characters in A Tale Dark and Grimm have any real depth to them. This might be a fairy tale but that is no excuse for one dimensional characters, and at times it left me feeling dissatisfied.
The stories themselves are creatively retold and shaped, some more so than others, to flow into one another and it is fantastic to see Hansel and Gretel move from one story into another, especially if you are already familiar with the original tales. At first I found the narrators interjections funny but they started to wear thin after a while and I soon found myself tempted to just skip them entirely. There is nothing more annoying than anticipating a scary moment to have someone interrupt and tell you " this next bit is quite disgusting", because you want to decide that for yourself. That is not to say that the narrative voice isn't wonderful. The writing is natural and open, and the stories weave together with all the loose strands eventually linking together and there is a very satisfying ending. A Tale Dark and Grimm is funny, grizzly, creepy and definitely violent but to have those moments interrupted is frustrating.
As a debut novel, A Tale Dark and Grimm is quite impressive at times and although fairy tales have been around for centuries Adam Gidwitz breathes new life into them and makes them incredibly appealing for children. However I think there could have been more depth to the stories and characters, and I can't help but wonder what the book is actually about. How terrible parents can be? That siblings should stick together? That children can get through amazing hardships? Fairy tales have always had a moral of some sort, I am not suggesting that A Tale Dark and Grimm needs to have an actual moral, especially as this is a modern take on fairy tales, but I would like to have known what the overall story was really about aside from a fantastic adventure.
This is a wonderful reimagining of fairy tales and is a great first novel. Adam Gidwitz voice and sense of humour, as well as his love for storytelling and understanding for what children want to read are clear right from the start. Whether you love fairy tales or not, A Tale Dark and Grimm is a brilliant new spin on the classics and Adam Gidwitz is certainly one to watch.