The Fairy-Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley

The Fairy Tale DetectivesInformation

Goodreads: The Fairy-Tale Detectives
Series: The Sisters Grimm #1
Source: Library
Published: 2005


Sabrina and Daphne Grimm have lived with a series of terrible foster parents after the mysterious disappearance of their mother and father, but they think the adoption agency has really outdone itself when they are sent to live with a woman claiming to be their deceased grandmother.  As it turns out, however, not only is their grandmother alive, but she is also the latest in a series of descendants of the Brothers Grimm dedicated to solving crime.  Because the Brothers Grimm were not just collecting fairy tales but actually chronicling real-life events that later became case files.  Now it’s up to Sabrina and Daphne to take on the family business and take down a giant.


I’m always up for a fairy-tale mash-up and I was excited finally to be able to get this one from my local library (The Sisters Grimm books are, judging by how frequently they are not on the shelves, very popular).  Unfortunately, however, despite my initial plans to grab the next two or three books in the series as soon as I had finished this one, I never became invested in the story.  The premise seemed compelling, as did the idea of two sisters taking on the world alone.  And yet somehow the story never took flight.

The story seems so flat to me that I find it difficult even to write a review.  Sabrina and Daphne, though cut from familiar cloth–clever orphans who manage time and again to outwit mean or clueless adults–never actually do or say anything that makes them appear particularly clever.  I understand that defeating giants and investigating crimes is a little out of their line and that they will need a lot of help navigating their new world, but they still seem remarkably slow in putting clues together.  Eventually the crazy plot takes over the story and the personalities of the girls trying to solve the mystery do not seem to matter at all.

The other characters are not that much more remarkable, except in that Buckley seems to delight in making them as unlike their original fairy-tale depiction as possible.  Prince Charming is arrogant and bossy, an apparent player who married most of the famous fairy-tale princesses at one point.  He spends his time now overtaxing the populace in hopes of one day buying up all the land and setting himself up as ruler.  The Big Bad Wolf, meanwhile, is neither particularly big nor bad.  Pan says he is bad, but has such an innocent air of boyish mischievous that Daphne initially thinks he must be Peter Pan.  The rest of the characters continue on like this until it seems as if these are not the fairy-tale characters at all, that maybe there is not much point in saying this is a fairy-tale mash-up.

Needless to say, I have no plans to continue this series.  Fairy-tale mash-ups are fairly prevalent right now and I have no doubt I can find one that I will enjoy more.

7 thoughts on “The Fairy-Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley

  1. emziixgx says:

    I read this book last year as part of a meme about fair tale retellings and came to a similar conclusion. There just wasn’t enough to hold on to in terms of character or plot and I never picked up any of the others in the series.


    • Krysta says:

      It’s good to find someone who agrees with me. From the amount of books in the series and the way they never seem to be available at the library, I got the impression that I must be the only one who felt a little let down. It’s a shame, though–the premise is great and I think I could have really enjoyed the series if the characters and plot were more compelling.


  2. revgeorge says:

    Thanks for another great review! Saves me from being tempted by the series. Disappointing, though, since it does sound like something that could be really good & interesting.


    • Krysta says:

      Part of my disappointment may stem from the fact that I don’t really enjoy spoofs of fairy tales or cynical reinterpretations. If I wanted to read about a greedy, bullying Prince Charming who’s also a player I probably wouldn’t have picked up a fairy tale. But, of course, that’s just a personal preference of mine. I know, for instance, that Into the Woods is highly regarded by a lot of people.


    • Krysta says:

      It can be kind of disappointing when I don’t like the start of a new series–I think of the other nine books I could have read and enjoyed! 😉


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