“Happily ever after” looks like a real long shot for an Everylad who finds himself the quarry of an ancient, powerful witch.
Kicked off (so to speak) in style by a 17th-century hanging, this modern-day tale pitches young Jack into the clutches of his many-times-great-aunt Gee Gee…who turns out to be Gretel, vilest of spellcasting cat ladies and bent on turning him into a living statue (partly as an object lesson for cellphone-obsessed youth everywhere but mostly just for chuckles). Luckily, she decides to toy with him for a bit—which gives him time to set out on multiple quests with some of her earlier victims. Following terrifying encounters with Ariel the mermaid’s sharklike sisters and a host of heavily armed fairy folk (“They generally only kill you when they’re bored”), he is able, at the very last tick, to fulfill a prophecy that whisks the hag off to a dismal fate. Tucking in decidedly atypical versions of characters from folk and fairy tales, as well as some dandy gross-outs (“Gretel’s eyeball lay in a soggy pile on the floor”), Easson puts her increasingly self-confident protagonist through severe tests of both courage and cleverness that leave him, by the end, able to style himself, with some justice, “kind of a warrior now. Well, -ish.” Aside from one of Jack’s school friends, a minor character, the human cast presents as white.
A rousing addition to the dark and Grimm shelf. (Fantasy. 10-13)