Most things I read are now in some way related to something I’m planning for my kids to do in class, but The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman was an exception.
Elizabeth has a new job at an unusual library – a lending library of objects, not books. In a secret room in the basement lies the Grimm Collection. That’s where the librarians lock away powerful items straight out of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales; seven-league boots, a table that produces a feast at the blink of an eye, Snow White’s stepmother’s sinister mirror that talks in riddles.
When the magical objects start to disappear, Elizabeth embarks on a dangerous quest to catch the thief before she can be accused of the crime or captured by the thief.
Polly Shulman has created a contemporary fantasy with a fascinating setting and premise, starring an ordinary girl whose after-school job is far from ordinary and leads to a world of excitement, romance and magical intrigue.
The premise for this book was really cool. A lending library with a secret room that holds the actual magical artifacts from fairy tales. The cast was ethnically diverse, which was nice. I always love depictions of fairy tales and magic so I was keen to give this a try.
Mild Spoilers follow.
Elizabeth as a main character never really popped into three dimensional. She’s nice and she’s brave, but we didn’t get a good sense of her personality beyond that. Marc and Anjali also felt a little one note aka Marc is the popular basketball player, and Anjali is the pretty girl. We got a little more of their backgrounds than Elizabeth though, and their histories did make them more interesting. Aaron flip-flopped in his actions so often that I was never quite sure if we should trust him. Also (SPOILER) the romance between him and Elizabeth felt a little odd. We got some nice hints at the beginning, but then any desire I had to see them get together was quelled when Aaron literally traps a shrunken Elizabeth in a paper bag because he wanted the glory of saving Anjali. That’s not good guy behavior and it felt out of character, and it made it weird when after it Elizabeth was suddenly really into the guy.
I really liked the portrayal of ordinary and magical objects. The system for borrowing a magical object – having to leave something of value like your sense of direction as collateral – was fun. The mystery driving the book was intriguing, but I think Shulman would have benefited from making the book a bit longer to fully explore it. As it was, the mystery and ending felt a little rushed and convoluted. I also wish that the main characters had put a little more effort into trying to find an adult who could help them – we don’t know who we can trust didn’t quite cut it here.
The Grimm Legacy was a fun, quick read, and had some interesting concepts and details that balanced out the character and plot problems.
Stay magical readers!