Monday, June 3, 2013

Death's Apprentice: A Grimm City Novel (Grimm City #1)

Review by Jacey
Death's Apprentice: A Grimm City Novel

Forget about Once Upon A Time...

Built on top of the gates of Hell, Grimm City is the Devil's capitol on Earth, a place where every coffee shop, nightclub, and shopping mall is the potential hunting ground for a ghost, a demon, or any of the other supernatural entities that inhabit the Grimm City world.

Death's seventeen-year-old apprentice, Nathaniel, comes into his own as he leads an uprising against the Devil. What results is a bloody, brutal revolt that calls upon the loyalties of both the living and the dead. 

Based not only upon the well-known fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, but also upon their unknown sagas and essays, the Grimm City books are the first novels to be based upon the entire Grimm Canon. Such comprehensive, in-depth adaptations of the works of the Brothers Grimm have never been published before!

So I initially became interested in this novel simply with the word "Grimm" on its cover. I took a class on fairy tales in college (and how they compared to their Disney remakes but that's something I won't discuss here) and was fascinated by the many dark themes that permeated those tales that were meant for children, or really terrifying stories that taught children to be clever, quick and cheat death by any means necessary. Additionally I really was intrigued by the "unknown sagas and essays" that the synopsis spoke of. Plus, Death has an apprentice. Some part of this has got to be cool.

The first chapter, i have to say, was amazingly written and sucked me in within the first few lines. I was so eager and pumped to join our main (or so we thought) protagonist on his journey through this dark underworld so brutally kept under the thumb of the Devil. And then you find out that there are actually two other protagonists in this story; a giant called Hank with an extreme case of pantophobia or basically the absence of fear, and Blake, a man who was tricked by the devil to wear his overcoat which merged with his flesh and while giving him super powers, also eats away at him. So yeah, I was on a "let's follow Nathaniel kick" originally, but then as the authors delved more into these separate stories and then gives us a terrific look at the Devil himself, I forgave them. And it's not like they completely abandon Nathaniel either. We see him again. The violence in this was spectacular, and not even in an overdone way. I guess the only word I can think of to describe it would be 'sophisticated.'

Here's where the problems set in: when all of these exciting and intriguing characters met. I feel like the three comrades who are pretty much thrown together and are completely unawares of the roles they play in taking down the Devil would have been a little less united. In fact, really all you get from them when they all meet up together is that they all want to save this one baby that none of them have met. Yes, Hank has his reasons because of his connection with the mother, and I guess Nathaniel does because he sees how bad it would be if the baby is left to die in the hands of this "lawyer" dwarf, but if he's Death's apprentice, he wouldn't be all that in a hurry to rescue her after having rules of "balance, life and death, one must die so the other lives" drilled into him. Plus, he even says that he's been to the place where Ren-Lei, our special baby in this story,  is being taken, where millions of babies have been killed. Why has this baby made him suddenly object? If the authors had been more specific in explaining his motivations, I probably would have been less annoyed. And then there's Blake; what's his motivation? He just wants to reach the Devil to take his revenge for tricking him, and Nathaniel promises he'll take him to the Devil if he helps him get the baby because APPARENTLY no one knows where the Devil lives in this city, except...well....EVERYONE, it seems. Additionally, the characters barely play off one another, There is no "Hi I'm so-and-so," or no actual interaction between them, really. Just them telling each other what they need to know to save this woman's baby, which then somehow leads to them killing the Devil. Strangely, sometimes I felt like the writing went from being eloquent to downright CHEESY after they met up. I mean, I went from reading something akin to epic verse to corny one liners from bad-ass Blake:

Devil: The child will be the first to go. I'll scoop out her brains myself, just to punish her for being born.
 Blake: Before you do that, try taking on a man.


Interestingly enough, as beautiful as most of this book's writing was, there were also portions that were SO dense (i.e. Chapter 2) and complex that I struggled just to comprehend what was going on. When I thought something incredibly important was happening, it was really in fact Blake readjusting his coat. Maybe I'm just slow and being picky and trying to make myself feel better, but I just thought it could be way less wordy in some places, a stark contrast to the other portions of the book which exhibited aforementioned cheesiness.

Anywho, it was a quick read, but I think that's what was one of its major downfalls. I think if the authors had put maybe a hundred more or so pages in this and went into the three characters' interactions with each other, I could have enjoyed this book even more. I think they got super into developing these three characters, then got super impatient and wanted to just bolt into the battle against the Devil and hack at it; really, there's a lot of that and more, horror readers will NOT be disappointed. If you like the macabre and seeing the Devil, demons, baby-eaters and walking dead go at it, this book is definitely for you. If you're super into Grimm fairy tales I wouldn't go looking for any resemblance to those stories, this definitely stands on its own. I'd read the second, but if it doesn't seem like the three characters are going to say more than a few sentences to one another, I'll probably look for another book that is solely about an apprentice to Death.

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