Government agents are trying to protect the US from fairy tales because fairy tales are true and trying to suck as many people as possible to unhappy endings.

Publication year: 2013
Format: Audio
Running time: 12 hours and 5 minutes
Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal

Apparently, this came out first in a serial format, one chapter at the time. I got it as a full audio book and the serialization shows a little, because McGuire recounts previous happenings. But I had too much fun with the book to get annoyed. However, this is a book where thinking about certain things later actually turned my initial enthusiasm down.

Henrietta Marchen (whose last name means fairy tale in German) leads a field squad of four people. They all work for the ATI Management Bureau. ATI is short for Aarne-Thompson Index, an index used to measure and keep track of real-life fairy tale manifestations. Fairy tales aren’t actually innocuous but instead they all want to make life terrible for everyone involved. Why? That was never explained. (I guess I have to admit that I’m not happy with a premise that stories are inherently evil. It just feels wrong.)

Anyway, three of the people in Henry’s team are connected to a specific fairy tale but they’ve managed to put their stories on hold (which is called being in abeyance) and that’s why they’re in the team. Henry herself is a Snow White, born to a Sleeping Beauty. Her mother was in a coma when she and her twin were born. Sloane Winters is an Evil Stepsister. While she manages to keep her murderous impulses at bay, she has a really foul temper and mouth, insulting everyone around her and especially Henry (whom she calls Snow-Bitch). She’s the main profiler and also does most of the violence. Jeffrey is an archivist and a fairy tale tailor. Andy Robinson is the only “normal” person in the squad, he’s the PR person who handles most contact with the “civilians”.

I like the pacing. Slone is really the best character in the book and she even has layers which we get to see eventually. Henry is the first-person narrator of most of the story. But there are several third-person POV narrators, as well. A couple of chapters start with the POV of the victim of the story. Each chapter deals with one major tale and in later chapters more than one tale. After a few chapters a longer storyline starts to develop.

The stories range from Sleeping Beauty, who has a contagious sleeping disorder, to Pied Piper, and Goldilocks and the three bears and beyond. The twists in them are enjoyable and McGuire clearly knows them inside and out. However, I had some problems with why all the tales are dark and horrible. I guess the only reason is that otherwise there wouldn’t be much a story to tell. I’m also not so sure if it’s would have been wise for some stories to be evil and others good… Most fairy tales do have darker sides, especially in the older versions. And once you start to think about what the “lessons” are.

The other major element in the book is a police procedural. The team works for a government agency, flashes their badges to normal cops, and even have a boss who doesn’t like or trust them.

Recommended to people who like police procedurals and fairy tales with twists.
There’s a second book and I intend to get it.