The Grimm Legacy by Polly Schulman is the first in a series about The New York Circulating Material Repository. It isn’t a very prepossessing name for a building, but the idea behind it is brilliant. The library is magical in and of itself, despite looking ordinary. Like the TARDIS, it is bigger on the inside.
The other thing that makes the library special is that it loans out rare and strange items. It loans medieval musical instruments for example, medical equipment, chairs through the ages, that sort of thing. It also loans out items that were previously thought to have existed only in fiction; things like items from Grimms’ fairy tales for example, or the works of Jules Verne etc. Not only are these things real, but they actually perform the functions that are described by the authors who created them.
Elizabeth Rew is fascinated by the Grimms’ tales, and her life seems to be fairy tale itself in certain aspects. Her mother is dead. Her father has remarried and her step mother is fairly evil, although in a non magical way. Elizabeth’s life is no fun: overworked, under appreciated and with few friends, she struggles on until her teacher reads a paper she has written on the Grimms’ tales and puts her forward for a job at the library.
It is at this point that Elizabeth’s life takes a turn and she becomes immersed in a world of magical possibility that puts her, and the friends she makes at the library in great danger.
The book is written from Elizabeth’s point of view. It is written for the teenage market, and as such it has elements of romance in it which typical boy readers may find a little off putting, despite the fact that Elizabeth is a competent, interesting heroine and the story, once it gets going is really fun to read. The romance is minor in terms of what actually happens, although Elizabeth does moon rather over boys. Certainly nothing more exciting than kissing takes place, which means the book would be suitable for 10 years and up.
I have a few issues with the book.
I have actually read its sequel: ‘The Wells’ Bequest’ first. I was given it to review by Amazon Vine, and Oscar and I absolutely loved the book. We finished it in a week, and immediately rushed out to buy this first book, hoping it would be as good as the sequel.
Where the sequel is punchy, action filled and although romantic, far less navel gazing, this book is slow and ponderous to start. It relies on an air of menace and building tension and relationships and narrative, and everything, slowly.
The book only really picks up pace in the last hundred pages, and where we couldn’t put The Wells Bequest down, we have been reading The Grimm Legacy for months. We finished the last hundred pages in three days, which just shows you that if the book had been better balanced in terms of pace and action, we would have finished it ages ago.
It is good because it fills in lots of the questions The Wells Bequest throws up. It is good because it establishes certain bits of back story of the library and some of the characters overlap. It is essentially one for the purists only, although it isn’t a bad book, and if you didn’t know what great things there were to come in the sequel you would actually probably enjoy this a lot more than we did.
Bear with it, and look forward to the treats in store in the next volume, and hopefully the one after that, The Poe Estate is due to be published in November 2015.