Monday, February 14, 2011

Once Upon A Crime

by Michael Buckley
Star Rating: 2.5 out of 4
Book 4 in The Sisters Grimm series

I'm going to start right off by saying I didn't think this installment of The Sisters Grimm series was as good as the first three. I think Buckley got a little stuck in his formula with this one -- at some point in every book so far, Daphne gets mad at Sabrina and won't speak to her -- and it began to lose the wonder at the fairy-tale magic going on. (As I recall, this also happened in the Harry Potters at around book 4 [my least favorite, incidentally]). The writing was just as amusing, but the adventure just didn't seem as adventurous to me. Possibly this is due to the fact that this book takes place in New York City rather than the magical Ferryport Landing.

(Slight spoilers in the summary.) Granny Relda, the girls, Mr. Canis, and Hamstead must set out to fairyland in order to save Puck, who was gravely wounded in Book 3. Imagine Sabrina's surprise when "fairyland" turns out to be none other than New York City, her old hometown! Sabrina, who is nursing a burgeoning prejudice against Everafters, is disgusted to find her beautiful city inhabited by the few magical creatures who managed to evade being trapped in Ferryport Landing. The group is able to reach the fairies and, with some difficulty, procure help for Puck, but when one of the fairy leaders is murdered, the Grimms have a mystery to solve.

Now that I'm writing, I wonder if my "ehh" reaction to this book was because Puck's not in it much. Or rather, he is -- but spends it all in a floating recuperative sac that oozes a nasty-smelling goo. (Even unconscious, Puck causes trouble.) Daphne and Granny are rather static characters, having already made the choice about their lives, but Sabrina must decide if being a Fairy-Tale Detective is what she wants. Mr. Canis also has troubles in this book as his, ahem, other personality struggles to take control. And there are several new, interesting, and utterly hilarious characters, of course...
"My name is Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs." He reached into his pocket and took out his silver remote, pushed a button, and waited as a business card spit out from a slot in the front. He handed it to Granny Relda.
"Tbe Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs?" she said.
(OK, maybe it's not that funny. But it made me laugh for two minutes straight. My housemate thought I was having a fit.)

One really nice plotline of this book is that Sabrina gets to learn a little more about her mother. The girls had always thought their mother uninvested in Everafter affairs, but come to learn that the fairies of NYC hold her in near-reverential regard because of all she did to unite and support them. For Sabrina, this is a blow; her mother was an example to her of normalcy, but turns out to have been more involved than almost anyone else. Unlike Daphne, Sabrina finds Everafter concerns a burden and resents having been drawn into the magical world, and finding out about her mother confuses her choice a great deal.

I particularly love it when Sabrina and Daphne are in a sticky situation and communicate in a sort of secret language between them. Because they lived with so many horrible foster families before Granny Relda, they came up with lots of escape tactics and tricks; occasionally when they're in danger again, Sabrina will remind Daphne of a particular foster parent, they'll count to three, and then attack in unison based on their previous experience. How they attack is almost always hilarious, not to mention successful.

Anyway, it's still a worthy addition to the series and I'm enjoying every one tremendously.
"What's your name?" Daphne said.
"Chester," the driver said.
"We need you to follow a flying fairy," Granny said.
"Now there's a sentence you don't hear every day," Chester said.
...even in New York!

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