You would be forgiven, I think, for believing Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville to be a new kind of fairytale retelling. After all, the title and cover combined could most certainly give that kind of impression—and, indeed, had convinced me I was heading into this aware of its content.
Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Because what I actually found was not a simple fairytale at all, but a multi-faceted story within a story within a story, which was so dark and full of intrigue, I spent the ENTIRE book trying to figure out how everything tied in together. In fact, to begin, it was almost like I’d headed into a bookish yet expertly crafted version of Donnie Darko/The Butterfly Effect—you know those kinds of films that make you consider them long after you’ve finished watching them because they have the possibility of being interpreted differently be each individual viewer—except the closer I crept to the end, the less I believed this evaluation to be correct. And then when I actually did reach the end, only to discover I had absolutely NONE of it right ... it was, with all the pieces in place, heartbreaking.
That said, it doesn’t take long for the reader to become aware that this isn’t what they’re expecting, and the tone alone will warn of the dark and twisted content you will be subjected to quite early on. However, the actual telling of the story combined with excellently portrayed characters will entrance and lure and INSIST that you read on, no matter how much your mind is asking if that’s wise.
Told from multiple POV’s, which hop from timeline to timeline, Gretel and the Dark is one of the best-woven tales I have read in a long time—possibly ever! With the different characters, their backgrounds, circumstance, actions—everything—you will spend the entire book trying to piece together what, at first glance, appears to be one huge jigsaw puzzle of a tale; one of a blackened night sky, where the only variations to shade are the miniscule wisps of cloud, ones that shift and change with the breeze so that, just when you think you’ve grasped it, the tendril is suddenly out of reach again. Am I even making sense? Or maybe my words are intended to advise of the cleverness disguised beneath convolution that is this book. I’m afraid you’ll have to make up your own minds, as I refuse to delve into the who, why, where and how of what happens between its pages, because to do so would ruin absolutely everything there is to love about this one for each individual reader, and I shan’t be held accountable for that.
All you need to know is what I’ve already stated, and that this, my friends, is storytelling at the MUCH finer end of the scale. Because the wordsmithery (it’s a word!) within these pages is nothing short of brilliance made beautiful.
P.S. You will need tissues for the ending, because when your mind finally becomes filled with clarity, and you reflect upon the sadness, the conquers, the sheer content of this one, and then are hit with that heartbreaking final page or two, you … will … cry! So, off you go, grab your own copy, weave your way along these shadowed and twisted paths … but be sure to take tissues, because you’re going to need them.