Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sara's Library: Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin

Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff
Knopf 2013

Summary from Goodreads: "In a magic kingdom where your name is your destiny, 12-year-old Rump is the butt of everyone's joke. But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change. Rump discovers he has a gift for spinning straw into gold. His best friend, Red, warns him that magic is dangerous, and she’s right. With each thread he spins, he weaves himself deeper into a curse.

"To break the spell, Rump must go on a perilous quest, fighting off pixies, trolls, poison apples, and a wickedly foolish queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship—and a cheeky sense of humor—he just might triumph in the end."

Another entry into the crowded reimagined fairy tale villain pool, Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin introduces readers to an orphan boy with an unfortunate name who happens to be able to spin straw into gold.  This is a far cry from the Grimms' version, or even the fan favorite Rumpel from Once Upon a Time.  This Rump knows next to nothing about magic, where he came from, how he came to have powers, or how to use them.  And yes, this makes up the backbone of plot development.  Because he knows so little about his special skill, he accidentally makes a bargain with the queen for her firstborn child, then spends the remainder of the book trying to undo said bargain.

Ms. Shurtliff writes an appealing protagonist, although her writing is not quite ready for primetime.  The majority of the book is marked by telling, though given the conversational style in which the book is written, perhaps this was intentional.  The only character with any dimension is Rump himself with everyone else existing only to further the plot, whether it be for good (Rump's aunt) or ill (the miserly miller). Despite its flaws, it is still an enjoyable, if a simplistic, read.

One thing Ms. Shurtliff does well is concoct new stories for familiar mythological creatures.  In her world, trolls are friendly, magic-sensing creatures and pixies attack like hornets if gold is nearby.  While those with knowledge of German may be annoyed with her erroneous etymology for rumpelstiltskin, the majority of readers will enjoy the new spin given to the character.

While it's not the most innovative or best written fairy tale retelling around, Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin is sure to please young fantasy readers in search of a quick, enjoyable read.

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