TBR Challenge: Series Catch-Up (pick a book from a series you’re behind on reading) – This month’s challenge was to find a book from a series that you had not yet caught up on reading. Huh. Trust me, there’s a plethora of choices for this one, that’s for sure.
The Book & All the Details:
I chose a Transplanted Tales novel by Kate Serine called “The Better to See You”. It is preceded by “Red”, and followed by “Along Came a Spider”. It’s a modernized “what if” retelling of classic fairy tales.
What I Thought:
First off, I picked up the first book in this series, “Red” in error, thinking it was something else. When I realized my error, I did think, “Right, a “Once Upon a Time” style fan fiction piece. Hmmmm.” However, I ended up really enjoying the twist on the usual re-tell, with fairy tale characters brought over by a spell-gone-wrong by Cinderella’s godmother, and now settled into everyday lives and jobs. In the first book, Tess (aka Red Riding Hood) now works for the Fairy Management Agency (FMA), and is paired with Nate Grimm, another agent and a Grimm Reaper. The story was a lot darker than I had anticipated, and one of the characters from this book, Seth, appears as an ex-lover of Tess’ in book one.
In this book we learn more about Lavender, Cinderella’s fairy godmother, and the person responsible for the rift that brought everyone over. She carries a lot of guilt about her actions, and is overcoming a drinking problem (as well as a public falling out with Cindy and her Prince, who is definitely far from Charming these days). To escape the notoriety of her situation and to give herself a chance to think, Lavender heads to the Refuge, a kind of outpost area where fairy tale characters have created their own version of an everyday Ordinary life. There, she meets Seth Wolf – just as a pack of hellhounds tries to devour her. Now Lavender must contend with something more sinister than just the paparazzi and she soon realizes that all is not perfect in the Refuge, either. There’s a force at work that is killing fairy tale characters and leaving strange symbols all over their bodies.
What I really enjoy in this series is the strong voices of the lead characters. These aren’t your typical fairy tale characters – they aren’t perfect, and they have struggled to adapt and to survive in the Ordinary world. Lavender has an alcohol addiction from too many years of guilt, and she has lost her magical powers, leading to a crisis in confidence and self-esteem. Seth continues to struggle with his role as The Big Bad Wolf, and hides away from others, afraid to get close in case he kills someone by accident. Together, they are an angsty and oddball pairing, and despite their rather sudden InstaLoveTM they have great chemistry and someone Serine makes them work.
There are other delightful moments in the story as more familiar characters are introduced – Lavender’s brother is Puck, or Robin Goodfellow from Shakespeare, while the local eatery is run by Hansel & Gretel. Some of the re-introductions are a little darker, as with Bo Peep is a dust addict who mourns the loss of her sheep and her old life. Part of this story is a continuation of the first book, but you don’t miss much as the arc of the story moves briskly into the dénouement, and sets the scene nicely for the next book.
The whole series has great characters with issues that aren’t easily solved for a ‘happily ever after’, despite their fairy tale beginnings. It’s also kind of fun to read a bit about the back stories of the characters –both before and after the Rift event – and to get a sense of the community of characters and how they are connected, as well as how they have transferred their skills from the fairy tale world into the Ordinary world. These are not brain-teasing books, but they are lots of fun to read. I enjoyed this next instalment, and will read the third book when it’s released in August.