A mishmash of fairy-tale influences and images underlies this debut.
Kate Hood has only an old grandmother, and they live together in the woods. When wolves set upon her as she carries groceries home from the village and she finds their cottage empty, she flees to Jack Haricot (exiled after that thing with the giant). Nan left a series of tapestries depicting imprisoned young women—one with a shorn head, another surrounded by poisoned apples, and a third locked in a hot cell with her twin brother. Sadly, these characters are mostly neither named nor seen for more than a few minutes in Kate’s visions. Kate and Jack, meanwhile, are summoned to the king and told to rescue the princess, who has been (nonsensically) kidnapped; they set off, fall in love, and save the day. As in the fairy tales that give this some structure, the world is thinly sketched at best, characters are representations, and action occurs because the plot dictates it. The writing is clumsy, overt and unsubtle, with some full-on malapropisms (“clairvoyant lungs”), and the tone is anachronistic (rented rooms and tin cans side by side with a pastoral, industry-free society) and dated at the same time (Kate refers to schooling Jack in “the cautious listening of women”).
Fairy-tale retellings grow like briar hedges; there’s no reason to read this one when so many better efforts exist. (Fantasy. 12-14)