Monday, August 24, 2009

This means war!

In his series, The Sisters Grimm, Michael Buckley has invented two descendents of Wilhelm and Jacob who maintain a close connection with the characters created by their storytelling ancestors. Daphne and Sabrina Grimm live in the New York suburbs, a special place called Ferryport Landing (which my listening ears interpreted as Fairyport Landing); a place of refuge for people and creatures of folk and fairy tales, as well as other fantasy stories, to live out their lives fairly normally. The denizens of Ferryport Landing call themselves "everafters."

I think I have this backstory right, but -- alas -- I started with the seventh book in the series (and may I tell you that the series' website led me to believe it was the final one, but it is most definitely not), The Everafter War. Two factions are fighting for control of Ferryport Landing. The good guys (who don't have an official moniker), include the Grimms (three generations), Prince Charming, Mr. Canis (a reformed Big Bad Wolf), Puck, Geppetto, some fairy godmothers, and assorted Merry Men and Knights of the Round Table. The bad guys -- working for a mysterious organization known as The Scarlet Hand -- are led by the Queen of Hearts and the Sheriff of Nottingham. The Scarlet Hand wishes to break down the barrier surrounding Ferryport Landing -- a barrier that keeps the fairy folk in and humans out.

It's never good to come to the baseball game in the seventh inning, likewise a series. I spent a lot of my listening brain trying to keep the many, many characters straight and to figure out the world of Ferryport Landing. Since they were mostly characters with which I have at least a passing familiarity, this wasn't as hard as it could have been. Still, they didn't behave to type in this fractured fairy tale. I did listen to the first disc twice: Very early on, Daphne and Sabrina are "kidnapped" by a social worker to be returned to an orphanage, and it took me two listens to figure out that this particular plot development serves absolutely no purpose (except to put our heroines in jeopardy). After that, the rest of the novel has kind of blended together into preparation for war, periods of danger and excitement for the sisters Grimm and their supporters, and then a resolution (containing a big secret) whose meaning completely eludes me since I have no history with the character. Sigh.

The narrator L.J. Ganser reads the book (he has read all the books). He's got a substantial narrator resume, but this was the first time I've heard him. It is clear he feels comfortable with these books; he's created a number of unique voices for the many characters and he slips in and out of them with confidence and ease. There's a fine distinction between Daphne and Sabrina -- creating two different young girls' voices is no easy feat.

Ganser keeps the pace of this fast-paced book tripping along -- easing up for the quieter moments. Both Daphne and Sabrina have a bit of interior life that Ganser brings out in his narration.

He does tend to shout to express excitement (particularly for the adolescent Puck, who is convinced that Sabrina has given him the "puberty virus"). And I found him a bit sloppy with some of the character names: I would hear Serena as often as Sabrina, Puck was occasionally swallowed whole, and I never did understand Granny's name. The website tells me that it's Relda. The text of the book almost always identifies her as Granny Relda and that combination of consonants seemed to get completely garbled inside the narrator's mouth.

I'm not interested enough to go back to the beginning, but at least now I'll be able to give more than a fake nod of interest when a young reader asks me about this series.

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