I need to start this review off with a disclaimer. This novel is part of Amazon’s serial novels and was released a chapter at a time over the course of five months. This killed me. I hate this format and I really don’t think the novel is suited to it at all. I am a fast reader, and two weeks between chapters means that there’s anywhere from 2-6 books between each section and it’s hard to maintain a complete hold on all the little details of the novel in between chapters. Which doesn’t help a novel built on fairy tales, and thus references to them as this one is. There’s also the fact that McGuire writes very action heavy, fast paced novels and the enforced slow reading of a chapter every two weeks did this book a disservice. It is hard for me to separate out my actual thoughts of the novel from the method I read it in and I think the rating of the novel probably suffers for it. However, as the novel is now complete you don’t have to suffer through it like that.
This is a follow up novel to Indexing, which was also released in serial format in 2014. You should probably read Indexing first as it’ll introduce you to the world and characters, however I don’t think it’s required. Both novels are complete stories on their own and the events in this novel are not a continuation of the last one.
The novel is set in a world similar to ours, except there is a very powerful force called The Narrative that wants to tell stories using humans as the actors. This is great (sometimes) if you’re the hero of the story, but remember every story has villains and bystanders in it as well. Which means you may find yourself cast in the role of the villain for no other reason then you married a man with a young, pretty daughter. And we all know how well fairy tales work out for the villains of the story (and it doesn’t always go all that well for the princess either). Fortunately this world also has an FBI like group called the ATI Management Bureau, dedicated to stopping these narratives from ruining the lives of everyday citizens. We follow the story through the eyes of Henrietta Marchen and her team of investigators.
Seanan McGuire knows her fairy tales very well and it shows. She allows for the new “Disneyfied” versions of the story, but also shows how the stories evolve and change over time and what that means for each new manifestation. It also means that one manifestation of a Cinderella story could be very different from another manifestation. If you know just a little about fairy tales, it’s fun to play ‘spot the fairy tale version’.
However the real reason I love this series, and the reason I will read a third book if McGuire writes it, is her characters. McGuire writes very strong, capable, interesting and flawed female characters and I really love them.
I do recommend this. And fortunately, you don’t even have to read it a chapter at a time, spaced out over two weeks. So lucky you.