Peter & Max

A friend let me borrow a book recently, Peter & Max, by Bill Willingham. This isn’t a book I would’ve chosen on my own, but I actually enjoyed it much more than I had anticipated. This book is a Fables Novel, meaning that is a part of the Fables comic series. You don’t have to know anything about the comic books or even anything about the Fables world to enjoy this book. It is a stand alone novel.

The book opens with a bit of an explanation of the setting. The people are fairy tale characters who have been driven away from their home world by an invading army of the Adversary. The expanding Empire left no room for these people, and so they fled to another world and are living in Fabletown, New York.

Peter and Max Piper are brothers, but that’s really where the similarities end. At the start of the novel, Peter is informed of Max’s return to this world, and he makes plans to go and meet him, taking a deadly assortment of weapons with him, knowing that his only two options are kill or be killed. He leaves his paraplegic wife, Bo Peep, and sets out for Hamelin, Germany. Bo Peep should be safe on the farm, with Snow White, Red Riding Hood, and the Big Bad Wolf, who is actually now married to Snow White and has a litter of children.

The book flashes back and forth between the past and the present, allowing the reader to really understand the history between Peter and Max. The family is a group of traveling performers, musicians of course, each of them piping on their flutes. The father’s flute is called Frost, and is imbued with much magic due to its origins. It is to be an inheritance for one of the sons someday. Max, as the eldest, believes that Frost is rightfully his, but his father decides otherwise and gives the flute to Peter, who is the better musician of the two. Max never gets over this.

The Pipers are staying with the Peeps when the invading army arrives. They organize an escape plan for the entire household and plan to journey through the Black Forest to Hamelin. Max’s heart is already beginning to harden, and being in the Forest helps the process along. Before long, he believes himself to be another beast of the forest, and he soon becomes one. He murders his father, and tries to murder Peter, but the magic of Frost prevents him from harming him this time.

In time, Max encounters the witch of the forest, who provides him with another flute, that Max calls Fire, and basically guides him on how to use its powers. She is planning on using Max to exact revenge on her enemies. Max becomes much more powerful than she anticipated, but through a bargain, he still fulfills the witch’s plan to lure the children of Hamelin from their parents. And because of Max’s love of colorful garments, he becomes known as the Pied Piper.

Meanwhile, Peter and Bo become separated for a few years, but then are reunited in Hamelin in a very curious way. Again, Max comes after Peter, and again, Frost’s magic saves Peter, but in turn, causes severe injury to Bo, who loses the ability to use her legs. Eventually, the two of them make their way to the new world and become residents of Fabletown, where they find peace for many, many years.

Peter’s journey to Hamelin actually takes a surprise twist when he finally encounters his brother. Of course, I was hoping for an ending where good conquers evil, but the more I read of the book, the more doubtful I became of this ending. Let’s just say I was pleasantly surprised.

Maybe I liked this book better than I expected because of how much I enjoy fairy tales, and like other books I’ve read, this one definitely provided a new spin on the classics. And part of it might be due to the fact that my husband and I, along with my in-laws, will be in Germany in just under three weeks, and I’d already come across information about Hamelin and the pied piper reenactments that supposedly happen there every Sunday. I doubt that we will make it to Hamelin, especially to see this event, but I enjoyed reading about it!

Even though I enjoyed the book, I can definitely say that I will not be following the rest of Fabletown in the Fables comics. I freely admit to being a geek and a nerd, but I haven’t quite made it that far, yet. Not that there’s anything wrong with that in the least, mind you.

Sisters Red

It’s no secret that I love the young adult genre. I also love fairy tales, especially when there is a new spin on an old traditional favorite, which is one point that prompted me to read Jackson Pearce’s Sisters Red.

In this retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, the main characters take matters into their own hands. As children, sisters Scarlett and Rosie March are attacked by a big bad wolf right after he slaughtered their grandmother. Scarlett, being the oldest, shielded Rosie from the Fenris’ attack, losing an eye and gaining many scars in the process. As they grow up, they train to hunt these beasts, along with their neighbor, Silas.

But something is causing the Fenris in the area to work together, the packs combining to form a greater strength. Together, Scarlett, Rosie, and Silas move into the city, where the numbers of Fenris are higher, hoping they can make more of a difference. But the monsters have other things on their mind besides hunting young girls. The girls soon discover that conditions are just right for the wolves to add a member to their numbers. They are searching for a specific guy, designated as “the Potential.” A single, well-timed bite is all that’s required to change him into a soulless monster.

Scarlett is single-minded in her desire for the hunt, feeling it her responsibility to protect others, because she knows the truth. Silas and Rosie, on the other hand, want more out of life besides just hunting. They are drawn together and eventually fall in love. When Scarlett finds out about them, she takes to the Atlanta streets feeling too betrayed to stay at the apartment. During her brief absence, she discovers the identity of the Potential, which definitely changed her perception on what matters in life and those she cares about.

Packed full of action, there was not a dull moment in the novel. It’s as charming as an original fairy tale, but has modern elements that do not disappoint. I’m looking forward to reading Sweetly, Jackson Pearce’s most recently published book in the Fairytale Retellings set.