7 Rated Books Book Reviews What She Said

What She Said: A Tale Dark and Grimm & The Stepsister Scheme

Today we bring you the latest installment in our feature, “What She Said…” in which we both review books that the other has previously read and reviewed. This feature arose because of a very serious dilemma we faced at Casa De Smugglers: what happens when one of us reads and reviews a book that the other desperately wants to read and review? We can’t really post about the same book AGAIN, right? WRONG! Thus, “What She Said…” was born.

For today’s post, we take on A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz, and The Stepsister Scheme by Jim Hines.

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
Dutton Juvenile, October 2010, Hardcover: 251 Pages

In this mischievous and utterly original debut, Hansel and Gretel walk out of their own story and into eight other classic Grimm-inspired tales. As readers follow the siblings through a forest brimming with menacing foes, they learn the true story behind (and beyond) the bread crumbs, edible houses, and outwitted witches.

Fairy tales have never been more irreverent or subversive as Hansel and Gretel learn to take charge of their destinies and become the clever architects of their own happily ever after.

Original Review: October 2011 | Original Rating: 8 – Excellent

What Thea Said:

In short, I loved this book. It’s exactly the type of book I would have loved as a child, and exactly the type of book I would give to readers who like their fairy tales with some bite. Absolutely, wholeheartedly recommended, and one of my most notable reads of 2011.

What Ana says:

I’ve wanted to read A Tale Dark and Grimm ever since Thea sang its praises last year. What prompted me to read it now is the fact that its follow up/ companion novel In a Glass Grimmly is going to be released next month and I got an ARC at BEA.

In short, A Tale Dark and Grimm is as delightful and as clever as I expected it to be. It is a retelling of a series of Grimm tales with Hansel and Gretel at the centre of them. Basically, Hansel and Gretel walk out of their own story and into other 8 traditional Grimm stories and take control of their own destiny and it is AWESOME how this is done.

It all starts with the Faithful Johannes tale and Hansel and Gretel are the two children that are sacrificed by their parents to save Johanne’s life – and then the two children feel they just can’t trust their parents anymore. Because really: why would they? So they run away and that’s how their adventures begin and it is as dark and grimm as the title suggests. I loved this aspect of the novel as much as I loved how both Hansel and Gretel are REAL characters that grow and become stronger as the story progresses. I also loved how both have their moments to shine and to save each other.

In addition, the narrative is made of win as the narrator constantly interrupts the story with funny asides that make the reading of this novel all the more engaging. I loved the play with words (the meaning of understanding as well as of under-standing) and the way that all stories interconnect coming around full circle in the end.

Ultimately, I loved that A Tale Dark and Grimm was bloody, harrowing and a true Horror story. The best thing though is how it is all of that and also funny and full of warmth. Really what more could you possibly ask from a fairytale retelling?

Rating: 7 – Very Good and leaning towards 8

The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C Hines
Daw Books, January 2009, Paperback: 352 pages

Cinderella–whose real name is Danielle Whiteshore (nee Danielle de Glas)–does marry Prince Armand. And if you can ignore the pigeon incident, their wedding is a dream come true.

But not long after the “happily ever after,” Danielle is attacked by her stepsister Charlotte, who suddenly has all sorts of magic to call upon. And though Talia–otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty–comes to the rescue (she’s a martial arts master, and all those fairy blessings make her almost unbeatable), Charlotte gets away.

That’s when Danielle discovers a number of disturbing facts: Armand has been kidnapped and taken to the realm of the Fairies; Danielle is pregnant with his child; and the Queen has her own very secret service that consists of Talia and Snow (White, of course). Snow is an expert at mirror magic and heavy duty flirting.

Can the three princesses track down Armand and extract both the prince and themselves from the clutches of some of fantasyland’s most nefarious villains?

Original Review: November 2009 | Original Rating: 7 – Very Good

What Ana Said:

[T]hese three are strong characters and strong women. I loved how loyal and determined they all were and I revelled in the fact that Cinderella was the one to do the rescuing of her prince this time…The Stepsister Scheme is a fun read, with great Fantasy elements and three great protagonists. If you like fairytale retellings and strong female characters, look out for this one.

What Thea says:

What Ana said.

No, seriously. The Stepsister Scheme is a delightful, action-packed, full-tilt ride of a novel, and it is exactly the type of diverting plot-heavy entertainment that is near and dear to my heart.

The Stepsister Scheme is the story of what happens after the Happily Ever After – you know, once that big ol’ Disney leatherbound book has closed and the credits start to roll. Danielle Whiteshore, aka Cinderella, has made off with her prince and now lives in the palace. All is not well, though, which becomes clear when Danielle’s stepsister Charlotte makes her way into the castle and tries to assassinate her. Danielle then learns that her husband has been kidnapped by her stepsisters as part of some unknown nefarious scheme, and she immediately takes off to rescue her lost prince. Luckily, Danielle is not alone in her quest and is aided by the Queen’s most trusted spies: Talia (Sleeping Beauty that was, and graced with impossibly fantastic fighting skill) and Snow (White, a shameless flirt who has the ability to weave magic with mirrors). Together, the three princesses travel to fairyland to find the missing prince and save a kingdom.

If I had to describe The Stepsister Scheme in a single phrase, it would be simply: fun. This is a very fun book, from the conceit of the different princesses with reimagined backstories and futures, to the comedy sprinkled throughout this very entertaining romp. I love the concept of the book and the fact that this is definitely an R-rated fairytale, with violence, sex, and some pretty horrific curses (read: these are not your Disney princesses). I also love the scope of Jim C. Hines’ imagination in this book, taking our familiar history of tales and fables, and twisting them to fit his purposes in the book – there’s a world with binary suns (one for the king and one for the queen), there’s Danielle’s affinity for speaking and forming friendships with animals, there’s a wonderful unrequited love story (from an unexpected character), there’s a complete overhaul of the ‘seven dwarves’, and so on and so forth. This is all fantastic and makes The Stepsister Scheme a zippy, engaging read.

That said, the novel is unapologetically plot-heavy, and perhaps at the cost of character development. While Danielle is our narrator and she does grow from a more passive heroine to one with agency and hidden strength, the other characters don’t quite feel fully fleshed out. Talia is my favorite character of the bunch, and I love the twist on her fairy blessings, making her impossibly deadly.[1. Having read this now, does anyone else think of Kristin Cashore’s Katsa and her particular grace?] Talia’s backstory is a horrific thing (when we finally learn HOW she was awakened from her sleeping curse, for example), and Snow also has some shades of complexity with her own past (not rescued by a prince, but living with her huntsman) – but I never really felt that genuine connection with any of our heroines (as awesome, fun, and wonderful they are together).

Still, despite this criticism, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and definitely will be back for more.

Rating: 7 – Very Good Indeed

Buy the Book: (click on the links to purchase)

A Tale Dark and Grimm:

Ebook available for kindle US, kindle UK, nook, google, kobo & apple

The Stepsister Scheme:

Ebook available for kindle US, kindle UK, nook, google, kobo & apple

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  • Kristen
    August 3, 2012 at 11:25 am

    I really loved A Tale Dark & Grimm and find that it appeals to my 4th and 5th grade students as well. I am very excited to see he is writing a sequel and am excited to read it. I’ve had my eye on the Stepsister Scheme as well and will have to try it out soon. 🙂

  • KMont
    August 3, 2012 at 11:27 am

    Felt like I didn’t get the connection with the characters in The Stepsister Scheme that I needed either. Given, as you say, how horrific Talia’s past was, that was disappointing, not being able to connect with her or the other characters.

  • Leah
    August 3, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    I was looking forward to this post! I first read this book last year and, unfortunately, I wasn’t nearly as impressed with it as you were (either of you, for that matter). I’d still like to check out the rest of the series at some point.

    Also, the author recreated some cover art & the results are pretty fantastic. (Just found out he made a part 2)

  • jillheather
    August 5, 2012 at 9:34 am

    All your links to A Tale Dark and Grimm link to a different book.

  • April Books & Wine
    August 8, 2012 at 10:40 am

    I really need to read Jim C. Hines, he seems like a good guy based on his blogs and I like to support that.

    And yayyy for A Tale Dark And Grimm! I hope you guys are excited for Through A Glass Grimmly.

  • Emily
    August 8, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    I couldn’t find it in me to grind through The Stepsister Scheme. I love fairytale retellings and I love the strong female protagonist, but I can’t immerse myself in a plot when I can’t connect with the characters. When I found the book I thought for sure I’d like it and so bought it despite my misgivings about male authors, but unfortunately my misgivings had merit.

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  • Joint Review: In A Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz | The Book Smugglers
    December 8, 2012 at 1:52 am

    […] Dark and Grimm when she read it last year and didn’t rest until Ana agreed to read it for a What She Said. Since Ana loved it too it was only a matter of WHEN for us to tackle the companion […]

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