A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Violence & Scariness
Fighting; attacks by wolves; a man falls to his death; a woman is burned alive; children, including a toddler, are injured, kidnapped, enslaved, and in constant peril.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A kiss. An evil man plans to force a girl who just turned 16 to marry him.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A witch uses drugs hidden in sweets to control children; the children then use this drug to overcome adults.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that children, including a toddler, are in constant peril -- injured, kidnapped, enslaved, threatened, tormented, and manipulated. Some children may find the parents, neglectful and disinterested at best, disturbing, especially when the father abandons his children.
Is It Any Good?
The Rowling curse strikes again. If author Lyn Gardner had followed the example of Lemony Snicket (whose tightly constructed little books are a clear influence) instead of J. K. Rowling (who virtually invented the fat children's fantasy) this book would have been far better. Buried in its over 400 pages is a fun 200-page fairy-tale melodrama; it's really Snicket crossed with Stephen Sondheim (whose musical play is referenced with more than just the title).
Kids with patience will find an intermittently exciting mash-up of fairy tales. One of the real pleasures of the book is finding all the references. There are also some plot surprises, interestingly flawed characters, and a twisty ethical dilemma to discuss. It's a pleasant yet plodding first effort.
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Our Editors Recommend
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