Monday, July 01, 2013

Far, Far Away by Tom McNeal

source: review copy
Far, Far Away by Tom McNeal

Jacob Grimm, the eldest of the famous Brothers Grimm, is a troubled soul caught in the Zwischenraum, the place between. After years attempting to discover and resolve "the thing undone" (that which is keeping him in limbo), Jacob learns from another ghost of an Exceptional, one of the few living souls who can hear ghosts speak, and a "Finder of Occasions who would bring harm to the boy" (48). Jacob determines to find the boy and to protect him from the Finder of Occasions.

A social outcast since he admitted, eight years before, to hearing voices, Jeremy Johnson Johnson is struggling with more than a typical fifteen-year-old's problems. His mother is dead and his father's inability to cope has left Jeremy responsible for the management of the household and the family business.

Far, Far Away is filled with references, direct and indirect, to the Grimm Brother's household tales. The novel is listed as "12 and up," which seems appropriate, but I do think it will also appeal to adults, particularly those who enjoy fairy tales and adaptations and/or reimaginings of them.

The pacing of Far, Far Away is slow well through the novel's midpoint, with the author laying the groundwork for the events of its final third.  That final third, though, is well worth the wait. As the narrative turns more Grimm-like there is a wonderful change in atmosphere and an increase in suspense. The fact that the reader knows how things like these tend to turn out in (the Grimm versions of) fairy tales is exploited to great effect by the author.

For what it's worth, as I was reading the novel the pacing didn't bother me at all.  I was engrossed by the relationship between Jacob and Jeremy, and the positive changes that Jeremy (and his friends) seem to be making in his life, that I forgot all about the ominous Finder of Occasions that Jacob warned of at the beginning of his narration.   It was only when that more exciting section of the novel began that the difference became marked.
disclosure: I received a review copy of Far, Far Away from Knopf Books for Young Readers (Random House Children's Books) via NetGalley.

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