Friday, June 26, 2015

"Perraultimatum" (Happily Upon a Time #1): Review by Samantha Kyle

Artwork created for cover by Manuel Morgado (English cover with text avail to view smaller below)

" The Perraultimatum" (Happily Upon a Time #1) by Filipe Faria

Review by Samantha Kyle

Editor's Note: This novel was originally written and published in Portugal (by Editorial Presença), and is the author's first foray into translating his work and publishing for English readers. 
Jacket description: 

The stories are known by all: Glass slippers, poisoned apples, charming princes and bad wolves; and all know that, in the end, those who deserved it lived happily ever after... 

But then why haven’t they? How could everything have gone so terribly, horribly wrong? And why does everyone act as if nothing were the matter? Those are the questions that torment Ash, one of the few aware that something dire is afoot, and the only one willing to go in search of answers. Answers he shall find in the cryptic verses of the Perraultimatum, which will send him on a quest in search of the happy endings that never came to pass, hoping against hope that not all is lost to gloom and despair. 

Accompanied by four others who share his fate, if not his faith — the unpredictable Hood, the enigmatic Apprentice, the tormented Vasilisa and the dangerous Donkey-Suckle — Ash embarks on an unforgettable adventure in this first book of the fairy-tale dystopia "Happily Upon a Time".
The Perraultimatum takes classic fairy tale characters, has them ask big questions about how and why they got there, then shoves them head-first into challenging adventures in their search for answers. The journey starts out following individual characters—both the famous, like LRRH and Cinderella, as well as the lesser known, like the intriguing Donkey-Suckle—but then, in unpredictable ways, their paths coalesce in the woods. Before long, they are thrown together for an epic quest to rid the world of evils.

The book has a classic fairy tale setting where people get around on foot or horseback in a land full of cottages, kings, and castles. It becomes an interesting mash-up of tales, tropes, and premises. The object of the title itself, The Perraultimatum, is the source of cryptic clues for characters to decipher on their hazardous and intertwining journeys. Myth and magic play a prominent role as well, with magic keys, talking animals, mischievous spirits, and the classic fairy tale villain—the Evil Queen, not to mention a bonus bloodthirsty troll...

Speaking of bloodthirsty – there's quite a bit of gore staining these pages! The first chapter features a man getting his throat ripped out and it only gets more intense from there. A detailed  torture scene, bloody battles, troll rampages, disembowelments and dismemberments are just a sampling of what you’ll find. Walt Disney himself would have a hard time making a family friendly film from this story, so sensitive types may want to pass on this one. However, if violence in fairy tales is something you're okay with reading, you're in for quite a fun ride.

For me, the most interesting part of the book was seeing all the different fairy tale characters meshed together. Although this seems to be a common trope in retellings these days, with varying degrees of success, it works well here. My particular favorite character combination was Ash and Hood. Ash is quiet and contemplative while Hood is bold and unpredictable, mostly due to the fact that she can transform into a wolf. There are hints of romance between the two of them and, in this case, opposites attract. Ash is sometimes intimidated by Hood, not knowing what she’ll do next, which only adds to the romantic tension.

While I did enjoy The Perraultimatum overall, I felt the book’s pacing to be a bit uneven. There were great action packed moments that had me riveted to every word, but there were also some transitional scenes that I felt the urge to skim in order to return to the pulse-pounding action.

I would recommend this book to readers who have read and loved the traditional fairy tales of Perrault, Andersen, the Grimm brothers, and like their fairy tales dark and violent (but still with a traditional style). Since it is labeled as Book 1, we can presume this is only the beginning a much longer search and quest for that elusive - and ultimate - Happily Ever After.
Disclosure: A complimentary e-copy of was given to the reviewer in exchange for an honest review.

Samantha Kyle  is a passionate reader/book blogger whose favorite fairytale of all time is Beauty and the Beast, but she'll basically read anything that is put in front of her. She has a blog called Suicide by Books where she posts reviews, essays, and reading wishlists:

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