By Andrew Buckley
First published: December 2013 by Curiosity Quills Press
Read: 19-26 January 2014
Goodreads | Amazon
Disclaimer: I received a review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
What would you do if you found an evil dwarf in your bathtub?
In Robert Darkly’s case you scream like a girl… and then you get taken on a journey to an entirely different world living just on the other side of our own reality; a world where fairy tales are real but not in the way we’ve come to expect them.
The aforementioned dwarf, Rumpelstiltskin, has escaped the Tower prison of Thiside determined to finish the sinister plot he started so many years ago.
Robert Darkly, oblivious that he is the son of the Mad Hatter, must partner with the mysterious ‘Agency’ to pursue Rumpelstiltskin across our world and the world of Thiside and uncover the treacherous secret that threatens to throw both realities into eternal chaos. (Goodreads)
I love re-tellings of fairy tales, especially when they surprise you with something fresh and exciting, and Stiltskin certainly did that for me. Buckley has thrown together elements from several different well-known fairy tales, added a bit of our own world to the mix and the result is very entertaining.
I think the best word to describe this book is "unpredictable". The minute you think you know where the story is going, you're instantly proven wrong. There are twists and turns on every page, but it doesn't feel hectic or overwhelming. At one point you just have to let go of your expectations and go with the flow. And the story flows well. I was never bored or confused, and the action is pretty much non-stop. I could easily have finished the book in a day or two if real life hadn't interfered (and that's very quick for me).
The style is somewhat reminiscent of Terry Pratchett with the same sort of surrealistic humour. I didn't find it laugh-out-loud funny (except in a few places) but I was constantly chuckling because of lines like this:
"People should know better," piped up Jerry, a thirty-something grocery store clerk who moonlighted as a completely ineffective contract killer.This line is actually a good example of how this book, even while being very funny, is still quite a dark tale. There is plenty of madness, graveyards, monsters and bad weather, and it's not a story you read to your kids before bedtime (unless you want them to have nightmares).
As for the characters, I pretty much loved them all, from the slightly awkward Robert Darkly to the evil dwarf Rumpelstiltskin, the warrior gnomes Gnarly and Gnick and the Mad Hatter himself. Thiside is populated by characters from many different fairy tales and while still recognisable to us "Othasiders", most of them are far from what you'd expect.
I think the concept of parallell worlds is done very well in the book, and I enjoyed hearing the "real" story behind the fairy tales we all know and love. The ending sets the premise for a sequel, which I can't wait to read.
Bottom line: Stiltskin is fresh and funny and definitely worth a read for any fairy tale fan - or if you're simply looking for a quick and exciting read.