September 16, 2010

The Grimm Legacy: Review

Everyone knows the fairytales collected by the Grimm. The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White...the list is nearly endless. But hardly anyone knows that the Grimm storytellers also collected objects. Objects that are stored in a building called the Repository, that operates like a library. And still fewer are aware that these objects are actually magical...

Elizabeth Rew finds out when she's hired as a page at the Repository. She's thrilled with the opportunity to make new friends and discover more about the Grimm Collection. But there's something fishy going on there, something that involves magical objects being misplaced and a frightfully large and intimidating bird. And as she tries to solve the mystery, she's going to need all the friends - and magic - she can get.

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman


To be honest, many of the characters in this book felt quite flat to me, unfortunately, and others somewhat irritating.

Elizabeth was an okay heroine - she had a keen sense of adventure and curiosity, although this led to her behaving impulsively at times and me going, "Now why would you do *that*?" She also seemed shallow in some ways, particularly in her hero-worshipping of Marc Merritt and her self-deprecation of her appearance. Okay, I got that she thought she wasn't pretty, and that's a valid, realistic concern at her age - but seriously, she doesn't need to harp on it every time it comes up! I wish we could have been told some more of her backstory and her likes/dislikes, because she gets the job at the Repository right towards the beginning of the book and after that the whole plot is focused on her time there.

Marc Merritt was one of those characters I felt never really became 3-D. He's a slightly stuck-up basketball star who is always worried about picking up his kid brother from daycare on time. That's about all we ever learn about him. Oh, and he's head-over-heels for Anjali. Frankly, Marc just annoyed me most of the time - he always thought he knew best what to do and would act on his own initiative without consulting others. (Spoilers, highlight to read: actually I would have been okay with it if he had just stayed a brass figurine).

Anjali was a little more fleshed-out than Marc but she still could have used some work. She's supposed to be drop-dead gorgeous (of course she is, given all of Elizabeth's insecurities) and frankly I didn't get a good sense of her perspective most of the time. What are her motives? Does she actually genuinely want to be Elizabeth's friend? Is she intentionally leading both Aaron and Marc on? Since she appears to be so perfect a lot of the time it was nice to see that she had difficulty controlling her younger sister, Jaya, but apart from that she seems to have virtually no distinct personality.

Jaya, on the other hand, was a great character. She's spunky and at that age when everything seems to have a very simple answer that the older kids are just making more complicated. Like Marc she also thought she knew what to do all the time, but because she was younger this worked a bit better! And yeah, I think she was a little annoying at times, but hey, that's her role as a pesky younger sister.

The 'bad guy' (won't reveal here who it is) has to be one of the least developed characters in the book. You'll probably guess who it is early on, and you'll probably be right. Their motives are pretty simplistic, unfortunately, and they're not even a very scary villain. I did second-guess this a few times, thinking that it couldn't be the most obvious of choices...but actually, it pretty much is.

Also, I just have to say one thing - is Dr. Rust a man or a woman? Seriously, we never find out, and with a first name like Lee technically it could be either. At first I thought he was a guy, but then some of the stuff he (she?) said sounded more like what a woman would say...needless to say, it made it difficult to picture him/her.

My two favorite characters were Aaron, a snarky page with attitude, and the magic mirror. Yes, I'm listing the mirror as a character because frankly it had the most personality of anyone in this story. I knew I would like it from the first time it responds to Elizabeth's question, "Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?"

"You have to ask, Eliza Rew?
Then listen up: it isn't you."

Aaron's attitude (and tendency to continually mistrust other people and get all moody and angsty about it) frustrated me at some points, but the mirror never did! It clearly loved sarcasm and making fun of Elizabeth, and it's a stickler for true rhymes. That mirror rocked.


I have to say I loved the premise of The Grimm Legacy. I did think that the characters would actually be going into a fairytale(s) at some point, which they don't, but I think that was just something I must have made up in my head when I read the description.

It was such a lot of fun to see objects from various Grimm tales being used in the modern day (for instance, the Table-Be-Set - it sounds delicious! Who wouldn't want one of those?) I really, really liked Elizabeth's descriptions of the magic through scent; there were such a lot of different, fabulous and creative odors that Shulman included in there and it definitely made the reading experience more visceral. Also, the abstract nature of the 'deposits' required for anyone to rent out a Grimm Collection object was fantastic and really made you think about what you'd be willing to give away. Your first-born child? Your sense of direction? Your childhood memories? Your free will? The weighty importance of these attributes also lent more credibility to the premise of loaning magical objects, because it gives a definite incentive for having the borrower return it!

Of course, there's a bit of suspension of disbelief required for the whole concept of the Repository, and in particular for the Grimm Collection; if any Grimm objects existed today, I highly doubt people would be lending them out like at a library. However, the conceptualization of the Repository is well-executed, with the author detailing the system of how it runs quite thoroughly.

This does mean that it takes a little while for everything to get set up before Elizabeth's adventure really takes off. Once I reached Chapter 7, though, I started to get more into it. The plot itself was not super gripping (and a little predictable) and it felt more like lots of little climactic scenes rather than one continuous build-up. Maybe that was just the pacing but it made everything seem a bit disconnected, at least until we reached the major problem Elizabeth and her friends must solve - and even then they had to do a bunch more things first before they could solve it.

Most of the time I enjoyed seeing Elizabeth and the others using the objects in the Repository, but there was one point at which I thought it went over-the-top into absurdity. Highlight if you want to read these spoilers: The shrink ray was too much for me. Picturing them sliding down those tubes and doing everything they did at only six inches tall was just a little too ridiculous. And also, because everything else dealt with the Grimm objects the shrink ray just felt a little out of place. Not to mention it was a reminder of Honey, I Shrunk The Kids!

The explanation for the mystery was a little confusing for me, probably because it's given to the reader all in one go, and it's describing things that happened after the fact. I don't know how well the whole thing holds together, seemed a bit far-fetched that the villain's plans could come together so beautifully. And spoilers here once more: The 'true love's kiss' solution between the two figurines was a roll-your-eyes moment. I'm sorry, but that's just a bit too convenient, cliche, and sappy.

There is a little bit of romance for Elizabeth that develops throughout the story, and I have to admit that it's super cute. The two characters are always bickering but there's an attraction there as well - and the magic carpet scene is pretty darn adorable!

Writing style: 

For the most part it was smooth and quite readable, but some of the dialogue and Elizabeth's voice didn't sound genuine. Sometimes it sounded too cheesy or too forced, and not like real teens actually talk.

I really enjoyed all the rhyming going on. Yes, some of that was cheesy too, but it was a good type of cheesy! Also, I thought it was a great creative touch to feature an object at the start of every chapter and hint at what was coming up.

Overall verdict: It's a light, fun read with a unique premise, but the characters need more depth and the plot stretches the reader's credulity a bit too far. Personally, it didn't quite deliver what I was hoping for, but I think I might have enjoyed this one a bit more when I was younger.

Rating: 3.5 shooting stars


  1. I enjoyed this book and LOVED the magical items library idea

  2. thanks for this, it's a great review, I felt the same way about the book!

    I also thought their 'problems' they ran into were a little to quickly and easily solved... I feel like this author... once she develops a little more, is going to be amazing... I mean, the premise is why I picked the book up, and it was so interesting it carried even the poor development enough to make this an entertaining story!

    Her writing style just needs to mature a little... like a fine wine XD

    Anyways, again, thanks for the review... it helped me pinpoint a few things about the book that had bothered me but that I couldn't put my finger on.

  3. Hey, great review! I really like how you organized your thoughts :) I really enjoyed reading what you had to say, too. I feel like I know what to expect now going in to it.
    And so incredibly jealous of you - I've been trying to get my hands on a copy of this, lol!

  4. Thanks for the great review. I'm glad to read that for the most part you liked it but I'm sad the characters weren't great for you.

  5. I loved this book myself, but can see where it might be too fantastical for some. I agree the romance was adorable and the library setting-- loved it. My problem (irk?) is that there were a few unanswered questions that I would have liked to see answers to.

    Anyway, nice review!

  6. Not a book I've heard of but now I have I simply have to read it fantastical or not. I saw your blog on the September Spectacular site and thought I'd stop by to say hello. Nice to have met you, I've enjoyed visiting.


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