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A good Fairytale retelling
(Updated: July 22, 2022)
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What I Liked: Liesl Shurtliff has created a fun fairytale world where favorite stories get a new spin and Grump is another addition to her other books, Red, Rump, and Jack. This Snow-White retelling is quite different from the Disney version. Borlen is a dwarf born underground, but unlike his kind, he does not enjoy being underground and dreams of the surface. He suffers physically the further down he goes and his disposition suffers from it, making it to where he is not well-liked and is considered a grump. I feel sorry for the way Borlen is an outsider and receives so little empathy from the rest of the dwarves. It really bothers me that his parents thought they were curing him of being spoiled and got him enlisted decades earlier than expected to work one of the deepest mines in their territory which was really a sentence to misery for him.
As the seventh dwarf on his crew, all the others have the right to boss him around and make him do anything they like. Most avoid him because of his temperament. However, Gilpin a strange dwarf with big floppy ears and the inability to speak shows kindness and loyalty with his actions. I enjoyed his character quite a lot. Everyone underestimates Gilpin and are quick to dismiss him, but his magical senses are well tuned and he has hidden depths if they just care to notice.
Borlen finally gets his chance at the surface where he meets Queen Elfrieda Veronika Ingrid Lenore (E.V.I.L) who treats him so well at first that he doesn’t realize how awful she is. I like how the elements of the familiar story are entwined in this story. We see how the queen misunderstands Borlen’s prophecy to mean as long as she is the prettiest, she will rule when he meant the fairest as in the most just. His fate stone is used as a magic mirror and he plays a game where he tells her how fair she is. I also think it was very clever the nods to other familiar tales, like when the Queen starts imprisoning pretty young maidens even a baby and she tells her servant, Gothel, to take the baby far away and hide her where she will never see her again or she will kill the baby.
Things get a bit more familiar when the huntsman is sent to kill Snow White. Grump and his crew shelter her. There is a poison apple and a sleeplike death. Grump calls Snow White spoiled and she is a lot less likable than the movie version. I do like that throughout the book we have seen Snow White with her good friend, Prince Florian, so that their true love’s kiss is grounded in a more believable foundation.
What Left Me Wanting More: Throughout the book, I wondered when the other dwarves would get their familiar nicknames. That was well explained but not until the end. I grew a little impatient to see the parallels to the familiar tale and they did, it just took a while to build the world.
Final Verdict: If you enjoy fairytale retellings then Liesl Shurtliff’s books are a great addition to the genre for Middle-Grade readers. There was a clever mix of original storytelling and the familiar parts of the age-old tale. The cover and name of the book are very intriguing and sure to catch the attention of readers.
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