Book Review: The Sisters Grimm: Once Upon a Crime by Michael Buckley

The Sisters Grimm Series by Michael Buckley follows the adventures of Sabrina (age 11) and Daphne (age 7) Grimm, descendants of the Brothers Grimm as they investigate magical crimes with their Grandmother, Granny Relda, and her faithful companion Mr. Canis, also known as the Big Bad Wolf. Once Upon A Crime is the fourth book of nine in the series.

Once Upon A Crime suffers from being in the dead middle of the series. The book is woefully short on exposition. In fact, to understand what is happening and who the characters are the reader will be required to at least have read The Problem Child, Book Three in the series. And is well advised to have read the first two books as well; The Fairy Tale Detectives (Book one) and The Unusual Suspects (Book two).

At the start of the book, Puck, a 4,000 year old Prince of Fairy, who lives life as a 12-year-old boy and has a crush on Sabrina, has been badly hurt (the writer does not share how he was injured). The Grimm Sisters, Granny Relda and Mr. Canis must take him to New York City, where the land of Fairy intersects the mundane world, to be healed by his father, King Oberon. After arriving in the Big Apple, the foursome find out that King Oberon has been murdered and are asked to solve the crime.

Buckley plays his usual games by introducing classical literary characters to the story, usually with a twist. In this book the sisters meet an alternate Tiny Tim and Scrooge, also literal pirates from Wall Street, magic wielding crime bosses and dwarves that live in the subway system. The introduction of these characters and the human girls’ interactions with them are the best parts of the book.

Clearly written to appeal to pre-adolescent girls, the novel is clean and the prose concise. One place where the book falls down is the fact that it does not advance the main story arc as all, making it essential a pause in the series main story. The other big fault of this book and in fact the rest of the series is that Sabrina Grimm is an incredibly annoying literary creation, constantly whining and complaining. Puck is little better, while clearly an attempt at some comic relief, he too is mostly irritating. This is a terrible fault for two of the three main characters of any novel.

To sum up, if you enjoyed the rest of the Sisters Grimm series Once Upon A Crime is a must read. But otherwise this book has little to recommend it.

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Book Review: The Artefacts of Power by Maggie Furey

Maggie Furey’s Artefacts of Power is a series of four “sword and sorcery” fantasy books. The books in series order are: Aurian, Harp of Winds, The Sword of Flame and Dhiammara. Each book focuses in turn on one of the “Artefacts of Power”. The Artefacts are based on the ancient concept of the four elements of the universe: Earth (the Staff of Earth), Air (the Harp of Winds), Fire (The Sword of Flame) and Water (The Cauldron or Grail of Rebirth).

These four objects are used by different magical beings, the Magefolk. There are only a few of these Magefolk who can use the Artefacts. As the series advances some of the magical people are killed making them even rarer. The Archmage, Miathan, is finally killed but he is a bit of bad guy and gets what he deserves. The Weather Mage, Eliseth, seizes some of Miathan’s power and does a lot of damage with the Grail of Rebirth than the dead Archmage did. She also uses the Grail resurrect the people she has killed making them zombies to her will.

Meriel the Healer’s lover is killed and she goes insane, killing many others until she herself is finally brought down. D’Arvan’s half-brother, Davorshan, tries to kill him but D’Arvan kills Davorshan instead in self defense. Then he learns that he is half-Phaerie and half-Mage. He also finds himself running the City of Nexis and protecting the city from the attacks of, the Lord of the Phaerie, who is his father.

The Archivist, Finbarr, dies protecting innocents from Miathan’s creatures created by the Grail of Rebirth. The Fire-Mage, Bragar, is giving up by Eliseth to merely protect herself. The Earth-Mage, Eilin, resides far from the City of Nexis in a self-imposed exile after Miathan manages to lead her husband to his death. This leaves, Aurian, Eilin’s daughter, using the Staff of Earth and Aurian’s partner, the half-Mage and half-Mortal, Anvar, using the Harp of Winds (also Anvar is Miathan’s unrecognized son) to lead the opposition to Eliseth and Miathan. The two lovers are helped by incongruent groups of mortals and a set of telepathic cats.

This series is pretty standard “sword and sorcery” fare, except the main characters are female. The narration changes points of view and jumps time frames regularly. Furey’s writing is fairly neat and clean and while easy to follow is not very innovative. If the reader enjoyed “Lord of The Rings” then “The Artefacts of Power” would be worth a read.