Having introduced us to Sabrina and Daphne, the Sisters Grimm, and the colorful cast of characters residing in Ferryport Landing in “The Fairy-Tale Detectives”, Michael Buckley continues his fantasy series in “The Unusual Suspects”, starting off roughly two weeks after the first book ended, where the sisters and their granny are helping Sheriff Hammstead (Who also happens to be one of the three little pigs in disguise) solve the case of who’s been stealing from Gepetto’s toy shop.
Once the mystery is solved, the sisters are forced to start attending school by their social worker, who threatens with taking them back to the orphanage if Relda Grimm doesn’t step up and start taking the expected care of the children, which includes sending them to the school they had been avoiding for several weeks.
After a rather horrible first day at school for Sabrina, the story takes a turn and the Grimm family find themselves tangled up in the murder of several of the local school’s employees, all of which ends up being a part of a bigger plan being executed by a sinister character, which puts the whole of Ferryport Landing and the secrecy about the fairy creatures that was long before ensured by Baba Yaga at risk.
NOTE: This review contains information about the plot that, though small in nature and abstract when possible, might spoil the reading experience. In order to help keeping possible spoilers hidden, they’ve been coloured white, so that they can only be seen when selected over the white background.
In this second installment, Michael Buckley continues on introducing us to several aspects of the life in Ferryport Landing, and to several more of its inhabitants, all of this by the use of a plot that, even though nice and satisfactory, is at moments cliché, and becomes in several moments weak enough to make the reader lose interest. In other words, the sophomore slump hits the sisters Grimm, and it hits them hard.
That, however, does not mean that this is a terrible book. In fact, it is quite enjoyable overall, but the weakness of the plot along with the clichéd situations (SPOILERS: Snow White acting as a school teacher and a character apparently dying and then being brought back to life by snow white a good while later by stating he had something stuck on its throat) make it a bit harder to bear than it should’ve been and a little too ridiculous and tangled up for its own good.
The general pacing, though generally good, suffers from the same fate than the previous iteration of the series did: The parts that are well paced are excellently paced, but the parts that aren’t (Mainly the chase and fight scenes, and Buckley seems to just LOVE those) become quite a drag on their own, sometimes with way too many things happening at the same time or too fast to actually allow the reader to become fully aware of just exactly what’s going on.
Then, there’s the story. It is a fun story, and it has its original parts, but it’s hard not to feel like you’re receiving a cliché after the other when Snow White has a romance with a certain elected official, the children of several ever afters retain the very same abilities said ever afters had and Rumpelstiltskin uses children he stole from other characters as his partners in crime.
Then, there are also the issues with character development that tend to permeate the story, with most characters being stuck to their points of view (or to their fairy tales), with little or nothing being shown that actually improves the characters in most cases. It also doesn’t help that several characters just act in ways that become hard to believe for their ages and positions – Daphne taking the cake by displaying in several points of the story a level of maturity many twenty year olds yet don’t have, while being barely 8 according to the canon.
In the end, however, it all comes down to how much fun a person can have while reading a book and, in this case, it is fair enough. It never made me feel like stopping reading it (then again it is short enough to make such an idea silly), and it made me chuckle a couple times, while it also kept me wondering what’d happen next – In several occasions with not so good results, as the story took turns that were pretty predictable, though the book does end on a rather high note with an unexpected cliffhanger-like twist.
Nevertheless, this is a children’s book we’re talking of, and I’m positive most children will like, or even love the story and its characters, since they’re interesting, yet simple enough to be grasped and understood by nearly everyone. My personal issues with the plot and its depth are just the results of having been spoiled by such terrific writers as J. K. Rowling, C. S. Lewis and Lewis Carroll, all of whom created amazing, interesting worlds to set their stories in and populated them with very believable characters.
Final review score: 3.5/5
Availability: The book is currently available on physical and digital form from Amazon.com
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