The Fairytale Trilogy is a collection of three books by Valerie Gribben titled Fairytale, The Emperor's Realm, and The Three Crowns. The stories follow the adventures of Marianne, a young woman who discovers on the morning of her arranged marriage that she is not the person she believed herself to be. Left with nothing but a faithful dragon and a brother she barely knows, Marianne sets out on a journey to uncover the secrets of her past and a purpose for her future.
Although Valerie Gribben retains enough longstanding fairytale elements to give the stories a warm, familiar feel, she weaves in creative twists, intriguing new interpretations, and flashes of humor that keep the plotlines from becoming too predictable. Reflecting that, the writing freely mixes more fanciful and flowery words with the occasional modern and prosaic one, and I'll confess that I did find that a little distracting. While the books do take darker turns at times, especially as Marianne draws closer to the truth of her past, Kevin can attest to the fact that I often caught myself laughing out loud at lighter points.
The books are short but eventful. Kevin and I have discussed the fact that sometimes it seems like two authors could take the exact same story, and one could turn it into a hundred page novel while the other draws it out into a six hundred page tome. It seems only natural that some readers would prefer the directness of the former version and others the experience of the latter, but either style can be done well. In my opinion, The Fairytale Trilogy is more in the tradition of Prydain than Hogwarts, its protagonist more Turtle Wexler than the unnamed narrator of Rebecca.
Marianne herself is a strong heroine, opinionated and resilient. Her brother Robin, a lighthearted dreamer, is the perfect complementary character, or perhaps antidote, to Marianne's forceful personality. My favorite element of the trilogy is the colorful cast of characters. Charming or terrifying, pompous or generous, trivial or scheming, the vast array of ensemble members is impressive not only in numbers but in the intricacies of detail. It is fun to watch seemingly minor characters experience their own story arcs throughout the books, to cheer or boo for those who deserve it, and to occasionally be surprised when just as in real life people take different paths than one might have expected. The intensity of joy or of disappointment that such surprises inspire is a testimony to just how involving these characters are.
I received an ARC of The Fairytale Trilogy, and while I freely admit that much delighted squealing was heard throughout the house as I opened the package, this review is an expression of honest opinion. Since the copy that I read was still being proofread, it was not completely polished, but as a whole I very much enjoyed all three books. I'm not sure how one would get hands on the published book, but I'll be keeping an eye on the facebook page and Valerie Gribben's website.
(Incidentally, as I was reading The Fairytale Trilogy, my husband was reading a pair of fantasy novels he very much recommended I check out. It was only after I finished the trilogy that I noticed that the books he had read were written by Sherwood Smith, who had written one of the featured praises for The Fairytale Trilogy. More on that later.)