I picked up this book quite a while ago and am just now getting to reading it. The book starts out a bit dry but ends up as a wonderful classic retelling of some of my favorite fairytales.
As so many of these books about children wandering into unknown lands start; this book starts with David who is in a bit of a slump. With his mother dead, his dad re-married, a new baby brother, and England at war; David is depressed and hateful of his position in the world. That is until the books start talking to him and he starts having fits of unconsciousness. In these fits he finds himself in a different world of castles and kings. After fleeing a warplane crashing into his house, David finds himself in the other world for good this time; and it is a darker place than the darkest of his fears.
David’s tale is cleverly told as he weaves his way in and out of the classic fairytales we all know and love. Except that in this book, the darkness and goriness of the fairy tales David encounters make the Brothers’ Grimm look positively sunny. The book is well-written and told at a deliberate pace; the writing style stays true to a classic fairy-tale style of writing. I love fairy tale retellings and re-imaginings and this book was an excellent and beautifully crafted fairy tale. As with all fairy tales the book teaches a lesson that both makes the reader hope and despair. The characters are colorful and twisted versions of the fairy tale characters we know and love. The enemies pull at your deepest, darkest fears.
As for this being a childrens’ book. That, it is not. I found this book to be delightfully creepy but I can’t imagine what kind of nightmares some of the gorier scenes would give a child. I could definitely see this being a good young adult horror book. It teaches a good lesson and is a delight to read. I loved it and couldn’t put it down. Now I can’t bear to part with the book and know I will read it again some time in the future. As soon as I finished it I started looking up other books that John Connolly has written; hopefully he will write some additional novels that fall into the dark fantasy category because he did a great job with this one.