By Polly Shulman
Published by Oxford
ISBN 978 0 19 279310 2
Everyone knows libraries are places to go to if you want to borrow books, but imagine a library that loans out historical objects. Polly Shulman's The Grimm Legacy is set in the New York Circulating Materials Repository, an institution that lends special objects to an elite circle of members.
Would you like to borrow Abraham Lincoln's actual stovepipe hat? Or a real Picasso painting? At the NYCMR, you can. The building may not look like much from the outside, but its contents will take your breath away.
The basement houses a very special group of objects - the Grimm Collection, a set of magical objects that feature in the famous stories by the Brothers Grimm. You can borrow one of the magic slippers worn by the Twelve Dancing Princesses, or the mirror owned by Snow White's stepmother. Extra special care has to be taken with these artifacts, though - magic is very dangerous if it gets into the wrong hands.
Elizabeth Rew is a typical New York teenager. She's not having an easy time at the moment because her father has remarried and she's struggling to adapt.
When Elizabeth's social studies teacher asks her if she would like an after-school job, she accepts with pleasure, and becomes an assistant at the NYCMR. Very soon, Elizabeth has proved she can be trusted with the most valuable objects in the Repository.
She is then allowed to look after the Grimm Collection. Elizabeth makes friends with three other teenage pages, and it dawns on the four protectors that something is not quite right with the Repository's most precious collection.
Someone has been taking the objects and removing their magical powers before returning them. Elizabeth and the other pages embark on a dangerous quest to expose the thief. It is a perilous journey that takes them to the very centre of the magic in the timeless stories of the Brothers Grimm.
There is much to enjoy in this fast-paced fantasy novel. The storyline is an original premise full of intrigue, suspense and wonder, with a bit of romance tossed in for good measure. Shulman is a witty, modern writer and her tale is very much a New York story told in sparkling and lively prose.
This is a compelling novel and stand-out piece of young-adult fiction that deserves not to be lost among all the other fantasy fiction swilling around at the moment.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com