The Grimm Legacy

The Grimm Legacy. Polly Shulman. Penguin, 2010. 336 pp. $16.99 (hardcover). ISBN 978-0399250965.

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Reviewed by Pauline J. Alama

[This review originally appeared in Mythprint 48:6 (#347) in June 2011.]

Except for living in New York City and traveling by subway rather than talking horse or pumpkin coach, Elizabeth has plenty of the prerequisites of a fairy-tale protagonist: not only a clueless father, an unsympathetic stepmother, and two self-absorbed stepsisters, but also courage, a kind heart, and enough curiosity to lead her into trouble or adventure.

After giving her sneakers to a barefoot beggar (on gym day, yet), Elizabeth is offered an after-school job as a page at the New York Circular Material Repository, a lending library of odd objects — some odder than others. A lifelong fan of fairy tales, she is especially fascinated by the mysterious Grimm Collection, containing rare artifacts from fairy tales, myths, and folklore: seven-league boots, magic mirrors, flying carpets, and darker relics of time-honored stories.

But someone has been damaging the Grimm Collection, borrowing objects of power and returning them powerless. Can Elizabeth and the other pages solve the mystery and save the Grimm Collection? Will she ever impress the story’s “handsome prince” — a popular high school basketball player who also works as a page? Or will the prince turn out to be the villain?

The Grimm Legacy works on multiple levels as fantasy, mystery, teen romance, comedy, and of course, as fairy tale. Like fairy tale characters, Elizabeth and the other teenaged pages are inevitably drawn to break the rules set out by their older and wiser mentors, and risk losing their future firstborn children in magical bargains. The wry humor that permeates the story — why did the Grimms have such a footwear fetish, anyway? — never undercuts the author’s obvious respect for the Grimms as preservers of a legacy of folklore as precious as the artifacts in the fictional “collection.”

The Grimm Legacy is light-hearted enough for middle-grade readers to enjoy without nightmares (as long as they don’t mind a touch of romance), and respectful enough of its source material for scholars to appreciate. It may be the perfect beach reading for the “mythie” summer vacation.

The Grimm Legacy. Polly Shulman. Penguin, 2010. 336 pp. $16.99 (hardcover). ISBN 978-0399250965.

buy online

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