By: Victor LaValle
Apollo is living the good life. A bookseller in New York he is over the moon about his new son chronicling his every moment until one day his seemingly irrational wife commits and unspeakable act and disappears sending Apollo off the rails and into a dark fairy-tale New York he never imagined existed.
Beware some spoilers for this one though I try to keep things vague:
I had been wanting to read this for a while and then after Labor Day it was like boom! Bring me all the “fall” books, the adult fairy tales, the mysteries and thrillers. Seriously I’ve been on a reading tear between that and finishing off series. I also find changeling stories to be totally creepy.
Writing wise this book was beautiful. If I had to compare LaValle to an author I’ve read and mentioned before he’d probably come closest to Laini Taylor. Man knows how to turn a phrase and create this dream-like atmosphere. There were a lot of interesting ideas in this book. I loved the play on fairy tales that they had been corrupted with morals for children and real fairy tales told you the cold hard truth.
Yet despite the pluses the book was hit and miss for me. It felt like there was almost too much going on. There’s this whole thing about Apollo’s past and father throughout the book and when we finally get to it I was like, “That’s where that was going?” (Basically the same story his wife finds out about her mother.)
Emma’s another interesting thing. There’s like one chapter with her before the incident that actually captured my attention. She’s receiving pictures of the baby that Apollo didn’t take that then disappear from her phone. (FYI- the scariest thing in this book is how people misuse the Internet against you. But that’s something that you don’t really have to imagine.) Apollo is hard to like here because it’s at this point he’s generally treating her like dirt. I mean seriously he was this close to, “Thanks for my baby bitch. Now get lost.”
Then she does what she does and disappears and by the time we see her again we’re supposed to be seeing her as this completely different creature. I feel like we needed more of the build-up to the event and I had a really hard time connecting with any of the characters.
As for the fairy tale aspect I appreciated how rooted in history it was woven. But again it just didn’t really come together for me. All I could think was how did Emma know all this? Where’d she get the ability to do what seemed like magic powers? I had other questions especially about the Kinder Garten dude but I don’t want to give too much away.
I’m really torn on this one because it was beautifully written, ambitious and full of interesting ideas (especially about fairy tales, parenthood and things like that). I thought it could have worked as a mystery/ psychological thriller and it could have worked as a an adult New York fairy tale but those elements didn’t really work together, at least not for me.
Recommend: 50/50. I could take this one or leave it to be honest. But I know other reviewers have loved it. I’m definitely interested in reading more from this author though.
Triggers? If your squeamish about the baby that part is very harrowing but it’s told through the eyes of Apollo and you don’t actually see anything bad happen. However there’s also some second -hand stories about other parents trying to harm and kill their kids. So keep that in mind.