- Books, Literature, and Writing»
- Books & Novels
UnEnchanted (An Unfortunate Fairy Tale, Book 1) by Chanda Hahn
I found "UnEnchanted" through a website called BookBub. I'm about done with my third readthrough of the "Sisters Grimm" series and this book sounded like a good compliment to it. Also, it was free. I will buy ebooks if I have a really compelling reason to, such as that I know the author, but in general, I have issues with ebooks. For example, when you "buy" an ebook all you get is a limited right to use the intellectual property of the copyright holder. I am also old enough to remember when a pirated copy of "1984" got into the Kindle store. When Amazon found out about it, they responded by deleting both "1984" and "Animal Farm" from people's Kindles without notifying them beforehand. This bothered me and kept me from even trying ebooks until I discovered that I can check ebooks out of my local library.
BookBub claims that "UnEnchanted" has over 6,000 five-star reviews on GoodReads, so it seems like it might be a good gamble. .
I wanted to love "UnEnchanted." I really did. However, there were just too many problems with it.
The premise is fascinating. The Brothers Grimms' collection of folk tales is not a collection of tales that the brothers put together from around Germany. Neither is it, as in the Sisters Grimm series, a detective's casebook. Instead, it is a series of challenges that they survived. There's a whole backstory where Jakob and Wilhelm went to the land of the fairies and somehow ended up cursed to complete over 200 stories. If they do this, the barrier between the real world and the fairy world will be closed permanently. Since they apparently really wanted the barrier closed (for reasons that are unclear), the brothers added the condition that if they died with the stories unfinished, their descendants could attempt to complete the stories, but they didn't specify that their descendants would be able to start where the brothers left off, so the stories restart in every generation.
In this book, the chosen descendant of the Brothers Grimm is Mina Grime, a high schooler. One of the basic premises of any story has to be that the protagonist has to have a good reason to be the one given the task or, in the cases like this when many have been given the task, why we are following this particular protagonist. And the reason we are following Mina is because she is very motivated. Her younger brother, Charlie has selective mutism. He can hear and there is nothing physically wrong with him, but he doesn't talk. Mina has to complete the stories because if she fails, the task will fall to Charlie and she will do anything to protect her brother.
So far, so good. And the stories that we see in the book are really creatively done. We don't follow the stories in a cookie-cutter fashion -- Hahn takes a lot of poetic license with the fairy tales in question and does a great job with them. We see two get fulfilled in this book, but I think we actually see three in action. I have a theory about that third story that perhaps I should put in a spoiler capsule. I have no problem spoiling the bad parts, but want to keep the good parts unspoiled.
Speaking of the bad parts, there are a lot of them. Here's a selection.
Let's take the setting. Apparently Mina's unnamed town (I finally caught the word "town" on page 69 on my third readthough), where she attends an unnamed high school, is in a void of some sort. We get no impression that there are any nearby towns. Canada exists out there somewhere, because it is referred to as being somewhere not-here. Judging by the fact that Mina goes to high school (rather than colegio or gymnasium or whatever), it is likely that she is in the United States, but what state it's in goes unnamed. The town has a high school, a bakery, a neighborhood where the wealthy live (more on this later), a library, some small stores, some kind of media outlets, and an "international district," which is apparently where all of the immigrants, regardless of their country of origin, and the Grime family, end up. The Grime family live above the Chinese restaurant of the Wong family. The Wongs also apparently live above their restaurant in some way. Maybe the building has three floors? Or maybe a front apartment and a back apartment? Maybe there is only one apartment that is slightly out of phase with itself and they share it. This is unclear.
There are many imprecise sentences. Hahn uses words that are almost the correct one, as when she uses "conscientiously" for "consciously." She uses "primeval" once to describe one of the antagonists, and that definitely is the wrong word. I think she may have been going for "primal" or maybe "primitive." There are also times when Hahn uses headscratching phrases such as "she frequently spilled chocolate milk on herself whenever she became nervous." This makes me think that she somehow exudes chocolate milk from her pores in situations in which normal humans would sweat. Either that, or her anxiety is brought on by chocolate milk, and she should probably cut it out of her diet.
We find that Mina's mom has long known that Mina was going to be the next person that the curse hits, because she once saw Mina talking to a frog, and the frog was talking back. This is a nice little detail. However, if Mina fails to complete any of the stories, she dies, and any story she does complete gets recorded in a book called the "Grimoire." Apparently, in this universe, "oire" is a suffix meaning "book of," so that the Grimoire is not a book of spells but is, in fact, the book of the Grimm family. When we finally see the Grimoire, The Frog Prince is nowhere to be seen. So she didn't complete it, but she didn't die. Or it wasn't The Frog Prince and was just a talking frog. I don't know. On the other hand, Mina's mom says that you aren't subject to the curse until the Grimoire finds you, so maybe the Frog Prince (and, yes, the actual fairy tale is The Frog Prince. "The Princess and the Frog" is the title of the Disney movie) didn't count since Mina didn't have the Grimoire at the time. Back to the first hand, though, Mina's uncle didn't get the Grimoire, but he was killed by the stories. Maybe I should just give up on this one.
There are factual and continuity errors. Mina has had a crush on Brody Carmichael since she moved to this unnamed town. The Carmichaels are the richest family in the state; they raise racehorses and have a clothing line. Their racehorses live on the same plot of land as the family's house, which is in the rich neighborhood in town. And I do mean "neighborhood," since Mina notices the gates of the homes of their neighbors. I don't think you can breed racehorses on a residential lot. I am something of a research junkie so I looked it up. Looking at horse farms, the smallest one I found was five acres and I'm pretty sure that the owners of that land don't breed world-class racehorses.
Mina's mom works as a maid and makes enough money at it to put a roof over the heads of, and food in the stomach of, three people with enough left over to give Mina some spending money and send Charlie to private school. The average tuition for a private school in the United States is over $15,000 a year. So, if other expenses come to $1,000 a month, according to my calculations, Mina's mom is grossing probably $33,000 a year. Also, her mother's boss's name is Terry Goodmother. Terry Goodmother? Really? If I were trying to avoid fairy and/or folk tale influences on my child, I would be on the lookout for anyone with anything like a fairy and/or folktale name. No one with any name like "Terry Goodmother" would get within ten miles of my child. I wonder if her mother dates a skinny guy named "Jack Pratt" in a future book and never notices. Or perhaps we'll find out later that Mina attends Jack Pratt High School.
Worst of all, the front matter state that the version I'm reading is the fourth edition. If this is the result of at least three revision processes, what must the first version have been like?
Overall, I like the premise, but the book should be gone over by a very good editor with a very red pen. I also think that I will not be reading any of the other books in this series.