Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Problem Child

by Michael Buckley
Star Rating: 3 out of 4
Book 3 in The Sisters Grimm series

I'm kind of on a zombie rampage for these now. Must... have... more...

Unfortunately, I don't think there's any way for me to continue reviewing them in any comprehensive way without letting loose some spoilers. Interesting issue in blogging, one that I hadn't thought of before I started: how much detail is too much? What information ruins a book versus whetting a reader's appetite? It's all very compex. I'm going to try to walk the fine line between not saying anything and saying too much, because I'm really loving these books and want to do them justice.

Sabrina and Daphne have discovered who's holding their parents captive: it's Little Red Riding Hood, fanatically deranged from her experience with the Big Bad Wolf and losing her grandmother. And she's not alone: Little Red has conscripted the help of the monstrous Jabberwocky (which she insists on calling "Kitty" - shades of Monsters Inc, only much less cute). The Jabberwocky can only be killed with the mythic Vorpal blade, thought to have been destroyed years ago. The Grimm sisters must try to defeat the monster and the girl in order to get their parents back, and must also cope with the sudden appearance of a family member they never knew they had.

I absolutely adore Buckley and his sympathy for his characters. This book delves into the Grimm family's immediate history, and we learn a lot more about why Sabrina and Daphne's parents decided to raise them not knowing about Everafters, and why Granny is so reluctant to teach them even now. The irritating yet lovable Puck has to choose between his villainous reputation as King of the Tricksters or whether to continue toward heroism by helping the Grimms. Even Little Red has her reasons for taking the Grimm's parents away: having brutally lost her own family, she's trying to create one for herself. It's immensely satisfying to see an "evil" character portrayed three-dimensionally, and her insanity is understood to be underlied with motivations that inspire pathos.

Sabrina's as hardassed as ever (on a passing note, it's awesome to me to see Buckley make her so flawed yet still sympathetic):
"That's not going to happen," the old woman said, as she pulled the covers over the girls. "Nothing bad is going to happen to me."
"Can you guarantee that?" Sabrina said. "Because if you can't, the two of us would be left alone in this town, and you saw how angry everyone got at the school. If something did happen to you, would the two of us be able to protect ourselves?"
Harsh. But a very valid point, and I like that Sabrina makes it. Most Everafters are far more powerful than humans, and they aren't pleased with the Grimms for having trapped them. Protecting Sabrina and Daphne is kind, but in the long run, teaching them to protect themselves might be a greater kindness. Both the girls understand this and begin to take steps to guard themselves: Daphne enrolls in Snow White's self-defense class, while Sabrina tries to teach herself magic.

The problem comes with magic. In this universe, magic is a dangerous thing for those not intrinsically touched with it; it can be addictive, both because of its power and because of the temptation to use it all the time rather than solving things a more resourceful way. Over the course of the book, it's revealed that the easy way may not always be the best way, that power not just addicts but corrupts, and that the use of magic always comes with a cost. Sadly, I'm making it sound much more preachy than it is - Buckley weaves the morality in with deft ease.

These would be great books to read and discuss with one's kids. I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

1 comment:

  1. Ahh you are really devouring these eh? I sort of skimmed so as not to get too many spoilers but I loved your point about Sabrina. I love it that there's some great issues brought up in these books. Thanks for another great, in depth review and yeah, it's hard to review when you try to keep it too spoiler-free.