Magic mirrors always seem to make things go terribly wrong. I’m surprised they keep manufacturing them!
This is a fairytale with a twist (a cliché I know but one that I’m not yet tired of). With lies, love and no small dose of magic, how does Just off the Path compare to the hoards of other fairytale inspired books on the market?
Hansel never asked to be a hero. He never wanted to fall in love with Rapunzel, Queen of the East. He didn’t ask to be raised by Gothel the Wretch, and he certainly never wanted to be credited for her arrest. But more than any of that, Hansel never wanted to lie: but he did. He lied about everything. He thought that he was done with it all when he and his sister Gretel retreated into the woods to reclaim their land, but he should have known better.
Years later, Rapunzel’s guards knock at his door, and they say the words he hoped that he would never hear: Gothel has escaped. As he and Gretel take refuge inside Rapunzel’s castle in the eastern capitol of Hildebrand, Hansel is thrust back into everything he never wanted in the first place: his lies, his legend, and his lust. In the wake of it all, he knows that Gothel has escaped to finish what she started. She is out to make sure that the Sleeping Beauty never wakes, and that Grimm suffocates under her blanket of thorn and vine. In order to find Gothel and save the kingdom, Hansel and Gretel must look for fact in a land of fairy-tale by following a trail of grisly murders, a girl in a red cape, and a powerful little man who can’t stand the sound of his own name.
As they search for answers, Hansel finds that he isn’t the only liar in Grimm, and that there may be a traitor among them of royal proportion.
So yes, it’s a fairytale mashup. Having just read The Carver before I read this it took me a moment to get it straight in my head which fairytale was which. Difficult when everything is already so jumbled.
Let’s look at world building. This is a fairly standard fairytale world, not a huge amount to report. There’s a lot of talk about different kingdoms (e.g. Snow White’s Kingdom is mentioned a lot) but I don’t think it was quite clear how far away that kingdom was as the action of this book is certainly limited to about four locations. Not in itself a bad thing, but I have read more creative fairytale settings in my time.
Magic-wise there wasn’t a great deal when all’s said and done since much of the kingdom is under Rapunzel’s magic ban. Suffice to say, it seems that magic is something to do with having hands…that’s about as detailed as I can get.
So not bad world building just not exceptional world building, I’ve read a lot of books with phenomenally intricate worlds of late and in comparison this is a little bit meh.
Characters, now this was a lot better than the world building. I’m not going to spoil things, but the way Sullivan handled the Hansel and Gretel backstory was very cool. Any time you pull together multiple fairytales you’re going to have a lot of characters to choose from, I personally thought this selection was pretty good. I enjoyed the addition of Little Red Riding Hood as well as Rumplestiltskin. There’s a lot of characters none of whom struck me as badly written.
Plot. This is where things get a little muddled. I just think this book jumped from one thing to another too quickly and it’s hard to keep a handle on the rudder (as it were) and actually steer yourself to a satisfactory conclusion. I had to keep skipping back and reading bits again (which is fine on a re-read but I want the first read to be smooth!). There’s a decent plot underneath all the confusion though, with some nice twists that keep you on your toes. It’s not a predictable fairytale plot as such.
Is this book a groundbreaking addition to a market already flooded with fairytale inspired stories? Not so much. Is it a perfectly good fairytale mashup in and of itself? I would say so. I don’t know that there was enough in this for me to really love it, but it was a perfectly enjoyable read.
My rating: 3/5 stars
By the way, I received a digital review copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
What say you? Getting a bit bored with fairytale retellings or can’t get enough? Let me know in the comments below!
Can’t wait to hear from you