Publication Date: November 7, 2006
After the death of his mother, 12-year old David Strorm spends his days hiding in his attic room with his books. His father re-marries, and that's when things start getting strange. The books on David's shelves start whispering, and he begins seeing a crooked man.
When he's thrown into a strange and magical world that twists all of the most familiar fairytales, David has to question what he knows and why the old king of this world is so secluded.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Date Read: May 15, 2018
I don't remember where I heard about this book, but someone online said that it was really good because it was a dark fantasy story involving grown-up themes with a child main character. Once I heard that, I knew that to pull that off, it would take a really skilled writer.
I listened to most of this in one go - packing up my room at the end of the semester to move into summer housing and put the rest in storage. It was a really great book for an activity like that because the story was gripping enough that time passed really quickly, but not super complicated that I had trouble figuring out what was going on if I got distracted by organizing my socks.
The narrator did an excellent job of voicing all the characters and giving them distinct personalities. Each character had a different voice that really brought them to life and gave me a better idea of what they were like. That kind of talent isn't something I've come across very often in my audiobook-listening days. Sure, I've listened to some really great narrators, but this guy is one of my favorites of all time.
I had a bit of trouble getting into the story at the beginning, and that's partly why I docked a star in my rating. While the introduction was necessary, it felt like things dragged on a little too long. I wanted to jump into the middle of things and see where the adventure began, but the set-up took longer than I expected. There being very little dialogue in the beginning also didn't help that. At one point, I remember wondering if the entire book was going to be told without dialogue, which would have been an interesting feat if done right.
Once I got into the story, I was pretty hooked. The pacing improved and I had a chance to get a better understanding of the characters. It did take until David walked into the fantasy world for me to get interested, but it was worth the wait. I enjoyed the rest of the greatly and was disappointed when it was over before I was done packing up my things. The writing style complimented the plot of the book well and made for a very enjoyable listening experience. I was invested and engaged once I got past the beginning and settled into the story.
Several people have said that it's hard to place this book into a genre, but I would honestly call it a dark Middle Grade. While it may deal with some topics that lean more toward adult life, much of the content is about the transition of growing up. Perhaps it could be classified as lower YA, but I'm not too sure about that. There's a lot in this book about learning to understand oneself and what it means to get older and gain more responsibility. Part of what makes the book older is that it also challenges societal values and views by twisting fairytales to reflect what our world is like. This was done incredibly well and made for entertaining and reflective social commentary in a way that didn't feel like too much of a stretch.
I struggled a little with the ending because once again, I felt like it had been dragged out a little too much. Once I got the point of what was going on, I wanted things to move on faster, but they didn't. In the end, I understood why and was able to get past the feeling of things being dragged out, but I did wish that it was wrapped up a little more tightly. There were certain things that felt repetitive because the author needed more time to set up something else, and it bothered me slightly.
I had some trouble liking David in the beginning. While I empathized with him, I also felt like the age gap between us made it hard for me to connect. It's a problem I have with younger protagonists, and it also makes a big difference that I'm not someone who makes decisions based off my emotions, and thus it makes it hard for me to understand where someone is coming from at that age when emotions are ruling their lives. However, as time went on, I grew to respect his character more and more. By the end of the book, I had a much better understanding of him and could appreciate him. Did I like him or think that he was a great character? Not necessarily - he was what the novel needed to tell the story, and for that, I enjoyed his character.
There aren't many other characters that play a big role in the story. We have some recurring people who represent different aspects of life and take on specific twists on fairytales, but talking about them would feel too much like a spoiler.
4 stars. I would highly recommend this to fantasy lovers - it's a really great book. Perhaps don't give this to your kids unless you want to scar them emotionally a little. I think it's a good transitional book for teens on their way to college because it talks about growing up, being responsible, and looking at the world in a new way.