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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.

 

Book 44/100: Rump by Liesl Shurtliff

Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin - Liesl Shurtliff

I wavered between giving this book three and four stars. It's definitely an original retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin story, adapting it for a middle-grade audience and making Rumpelstiltskin just 12 years old when the events of the tale we know so well unfold. The story starts out with a nice set-up and reveals its themes about the power of names right from the beginning. The tension builds at a nice pace, from Rump feeling like an outsider, to discovering his magic, to becoming entangled in its price. In addition to characterizing Rumpelstiltskin in new ways (he's so sympathetic that he almost seems too sweet at times), it also gifts the miller, his daughter, and the king with salient personalities, making them all unlikable in different ways.

The magic system and the "rules" of magic reminded me a lot of Ella Enchanted, where characters are granted pardon for their bad or perplexing behavior because the "magic made me do it." Although the story seems to falter a little bit in its second half, it redeems itself by fitting all the various threads together especially neatly in the end. It was pretty easy to see how it would all turn out, but I did appreciate the way Shurtliff managed to tie all the fairy tale's key elements in even while staying true to her own "take" on the story. I was also delighted to find aspects of other fairy tales making their appearances, so that it has a flavor of "mashup" rather than strict retelling. We see the apple tree that grows from the seeds of Snow White's poisoned apple, and Rump's friend Red is a clear nod to Red Riding Hood. This ended up being just as good as Gail Carson Levine's middle-grade retellings, and I would read more stories set in this world.