I love a good, dark twist on classic fairy tales, and on that front, “Second Hand Curses” definitely delivered. Our main characters (Jack, Frank, and Marie) have formed a mercenary band that tackles the jobs that are deemed “morally grey” by the Narrative—which is this land’s more active god figure, swooping in to help princesses and good guys in danger. In this land, beings like the Blue Fairy are not good, where their boons are curses (usually barely in disguise) and our mercenary trio will not stand for that. So, tell me why then, when you have a story that sounds like it should be an exciting, twisty adventure that’s read by a group of great narrators, was I not having more fun?
For starters, this was more a collection of short stories loosely tied together by our main characters as they go looking for the Blue Fairy. For a little while, it was great to see the dark twist stories like Cinderella, Pinocchio, and the Pied Piper take. But I found the novelty to start wearing off when the main quest—this groups search for the Blue Fairy—wasn’t really as vital as I originally thought it would be. Which meant that, after a little while, the adventure itself was just no longer much fun. Coupled with the fact that the voice the narrator gives Jack started to irk me after a while, and this audio book quickly lost its charm.
Perhaps it was just my mood, or the fact that the chapters are really long because of how this book was written for why I didn’t like it more. Because the book is clever! Some of the subtle touches that the author throws in about our main characters backstories are fantastic! The premise is great and I wish more fairy tale retellings took the darker, more violent path that this one did. But because the author used well known tales, the rest of the world building was nonexistent, the characters reasoning for hating the Blue Fairy was missing (the back flap says she cursed the characters but she actually didn’t? lol), and the characters that are meant to be funny fell flat for me. Honestly, if you’re looking for well-crafted reimaging’s of common fairy tales with great characters, go read pretty much anything by Gregory Maguire. All in all, this one was just an ok audio book but toed the line of being disappointing, hence the 2.5 stars from me.
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