By By Christie Franke

By Christie Franke

Michael Buckley has done something that very few other authors can brag about: he’s created a series just as, if not more, compelling than the Harry Potter books.

Magic and mayhem abound without relying on teenage wizards to save the day. Instead, the Sisters Grimm series details the adventures of two young sisters, Sabrina and Daphne, who are sent to live with their long-lost grandmother after their parents mysteriously disappear one dark and stormy night.

Granny Relda is German and as eccentric as they come, and she claims that many of the people in the upstate New York town they live in are fairy tale characters. Sabrina, the older and tougher of the two sisters, thinks that Relda is completely insane until a giant hand comes out of the sky and carries Relda away-literally.

The first book in the series to detail the adventures of the sisters is appropriately named The Fairy Tale Detectives, and it is precisely that hint at mystery that gives the entire series its awesomeness.

Relda Grimm and her granddaughters are the last living descendants of the famous Brothers Grimm, who saved the subjects of their famous tales from persecution by bringing them to upstate New York. To keep them from getting out and wreaking havoc on the world, a powerful witch cast a spell over the town. As long as a Grimm lives in Ferryport Landing, no Everafter, what the fairy tale creatures call themselves, may leave.

The neighbors really are right out of fairy tales and they are both good and evil. There is no straight line that draws these characters-they all have their foibles, which make them interesting. Even William Charming, the mayor formerly known as Prince, is a slightly bad guy (he’s corrupt, but he’s up-front about it), although he aligns himself continually with the Grimms. The inhabitants range from Charming to Mr. Canis (Relda’s best friend and the Big Bad Wolf), to Snow White, Cinderella and Briar Rose, to Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

It very quickly becomes apparent that there is a war brewing between those who ally themselves with the Grimms and those evil Everafters who belong to the shadowy Scarlet Hand, a secret society bent on world domination. And over it all stretches the problem of how to save Sabrina and Daphne’s parents.

The Sisters Grimm series was written for children, but it will appeal to all ages. The books are hilarious (Puck’s pranks, Mr. Canis’s admission that the German government threatened to hang Relda if it ever caught her driving again) as well as scary (the Scarlet Hand is ever-ominous and there’s a fantastic beast called a Jabberwocky involved) and action-packed.

They are also filled to the brim with literary allusions-you cannot have a book about fairy tale characters without having some background in it.

This series is one for both children who love fairy tales and those who have never read any, as well as for adults who want to have some good-old-fashioned fun.

Each book both stands alone in plot and shares over-arching themes with the others, as most series do. There are new villains in each book, as well as the Everafters who are always unpleasant. Add to that mix the bildungsroman genre, which chronicles Sabrina’s growth and acceptance of the “family business,” and you have a series that children and adults alike will love.

For parents who worry about their children reading books about magic, be aware that the characters consider magic addictive, dangerous and not to be toyed with. Sabrina Grimm hates magic for what it does to people, but isn’t above using it to try to save her parents.

The development of the characters and the revelation of their various foibles is part of what makes the series interesting. These are not the true-blue heroes-they’re ordinary people who make mistakes, have bad attitudes, and use the bad guys to get what they want. They’re humans in a fairy tale world, and there is no end to the wackiness that ensues.

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