~ A Book Review: The Grimm Conclusion, by Adam Gidwitz ~

Posted: January 12, 2023 in book review, Book reviewing, books, children's writing, creativity, Fantasy fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, readers, Story, traditional publishing, words, Writing
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In 2020, I challenged myself to get back into reading. That year I set the bar high by completing twelve novels. A big step up from 0. Then I went further by reading a total of eighteen books in 2021. But, somehow, last year, I fell back to thirteen. As a person who sets high standards for herself, this came as quite a blow. A fellow blogger said she had read 166 books and that the standard number read by most Americans is thirteen or fourteen. The goal for this Kiwi in 2023 is to read more than thirteen! The challenge is on! And I’m proud to say I have already finished reading my first novel for 2023, The Grimm Conclusion, A Tale Dark & Grimm #3 by Adam Gidwitz.

I bought this book while cruising around the secondhand bookstores at Christmas. I thought anything to do with the Brothers Grimm would be interesting. Boy, it did not disappoint. The Grimm Conclusion is the final book in Gidwitz’s acclaimed series, A Tale Dark & Grimm, preceded by A Tale Dark and Grimm and In a Glass Grimmly. Gidwitz did the brilliant thing of retelling the famous Grimm fairytales with a stroke of genius, adhering more closely to their original gruesome forms. Blood, gore, and death abound. So horrifying are these tales that the Middle-Grade reading age is sometimes questioned. Are these children’s stories?
But, I was entertained from the first minute of reading because I have read a number of the original fairytales. I remember vividly reading an early version of Cinderella. There was a scene where the ugly sisters were so desperate to fit their feet into the glass slipper they cut off their toes and stuffed their feet into the shoe, blood dripping everywhere. I could not believe a modern author would have the audacity to retell these stories. And let’s face it, that’s where the richness, the weight, and the true meaning of the stories lie.

As an adult reader, the opening line amused me. “Once upon a time, fairy tales were grim.” Surprise after surprise followed. When one considers the 8 -12-year-olds reading this book. Raised on the diluted fodder of today, I imagine the child reader would immediately devour the book whole. The narrator is hilarious in a dark, daring, dangerous way. On the first page, he talks directly to the reader – which drags you in, like being sucked into Jumanji (you can’t resist). He wants to tell us the story of Ashputtle. “‘Cinderella’ is the name of the cute version of the story, the one that makes little girls want to dress up like pretty princesses. That story makes me want to hit myself in the head with a sledgehammer, also.”

We then shift perspective and hear the tale of twins Joringel and Jorinda. The pair are conceived magically by infertile parents from the blood of their mother after cutting her finger and making a wish. Joringel and Jorinda grow up, but where we would expect the twins would have the best childhood ever with a family made whole at last, they become afflicted in every way. Straight away, their father is so happy he dies the night they are born. Their neglectful mother remarries, giving them an evil stepfather. The cruelty shown to the twins by their parents is disturbing. And the twins, rather than growing into wonderful human beings, become twisted people.
Our gleefully unapologetic narrator leads us through the world of Grimm-inspired fairy tales, like The Juniper Tree, Cinderella, and Rumpelstiltskin telling us their story. Our emotionally crippled protagonists proceed to make terrible mistakes and then try to make reparation for them. Somewhere along the way, the author brings the characters to the classroom where the narrator (author/teacher?) is reading this story to his students. Things get very confusing. Yet, always, the story has a pulsing heart of truth that is its salvation. Gidwitz deals with the fall-out of abuse in a way that we never feel preached to. Kudos to the author for an ambitious project.

American author, Adam Gidwitz, was a teacher for eight years before deciding to write, which (according to his bio) ‘means he writes a couple of hours a day and lies on his couch staring at the ceiling the rest of the time.’ Since producing the first book in the Grimm series in 2010, Gidwitz hit the New York Times Bestseller list. The idea was unique and well-written. It was fresh, different, and shocking. I admired the author’s willingness to break the 4th wall, too. Always a risky move.
I think where it fell short for me was when the story shifted from the realm of a fictional story being told to students to the protagonist characters somehow crossing into the ‘real world,’ meeting the narrator, and so on. Whoa, it gave me vertigo. It was hard to keep clear on what was happening. However, kudos to Gidwitz that he kept me reading despite this setback.
The Grimm Conclusion bravely tackles life, death, and the intense emotions in between. It’s an impressive undertaking.
My rating: Three stars

Talk to you later.
Keep reading!
Yvette Carol

“Because, you see, every triumph begins with failure.”—The Grimm Conclusion


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  1. A Happy New Year, Carol! Thanks for sharing your review on an interesting book, i never had heard before. Congratulations also to your progression in reading. You are all putting me down, as i stuck in reading since some month. 😉 I need to have some progress too. Best wishes, Michael

    Liked by 1 person

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