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THE GIRL IN THE RED HOOD has been looking for her mother for six months, searching from the depths of New York’s subways to the heights of its skyscrapers . . .

THE PRINCE looks like he’s from another time entirely, or maybe he’s just too good at his job at Ye Old Renaissance Faire . . .

THE ACTRESS is lighting up Hollywood Boulevard with her spellbinding and strikingly convincing portrayal of a famous fairy. Her name may be big, but her secrets barely fit in one world . . .

Fifteen-year-old Crescenzo never would have believed his father’s carvings were anything more than “stupid toys.” All he knows is a boring life in an ordinary Virginia suburb, from which his mother and his best friend have been missing for years. When his father disappears next, all Crescenzo has left is his goofy neighbor, Pietro, who believes he’s really Peter Pan and that Crescenzo is the son of Pinocchio. What’s more: Pietro insists that they can find their loved ones by looking to the strange collection of wooden figurines Crescenzo’s father left behind.

With Pietro’s help, Crescenzo sets off on an adventure to unite the real life counterparts to his figurines. It’s enough of a shock that they’re actually real, but the night he meets the Girl in the Red Hood, dark truths burst from the past. Suddenly, Crescenzo is tangled in a nightmare where magic mirrors and evil queens rule, and where everyone he loves is running out of time.

***Disclaimer: I received a free copy in exchange for a review.***

What’s Good: an decent twist on what’s becoming a clichéd, stale idea.  Fantasy characters migrating to the Real World and having to return to save everything is nothing new.  Author Jacob Devlin invests the tropes with a bit of new life, which is all you can ask for.  He also works all the loose ends of the plot into a neat little package; at about 65% or so you’re all caught up.  Chapters are short, making for fast and easy reading.

What’s Bad: all the inconsistency.  The setting seems lifted- or should I say ‘inspired by’- practically every existing Disney cartoon.  It’s more mish-mash than mashup; all manner of fictional and historical characters- including Merlin, Kaa the Snake, Dr. Frankenstein and Mulan- come and go in Fairyland but no rhyme or reason as to how they got there or how it all works- especially at the finale when some of the characters end up in yet another fantasy realm.  It’s all there to support the story without consequence and you’re just going to have to roll with it.

Dialogue- like most everything about the book, it seems to be kind of all over the place, almost like it was written freeform.  One moment characters are speaking proper, stilted language and the next they’re saying ‘wanna, gonna, ain’t, buddy…’

Typical of a mish-mash, the characters exhibit some of the dumbest behavior at the worst times simply to advance the plot.  And it’s pretty tiresome.  This kind of stuff isn’t heroic- it’s idiotic, and far too often a crutch authors lean on.  How about smarter, more capable villains?

There’s also the plot device of telling the story out of phase, alternating between Real World Now for the current situation and Fairyland Three Years Ago or Fairyland Twenty-Five Years Ago to reveal the backstory.  Just when you’d be in the flow of one scenario you’re thrown into another, breaking up the rhythm.  And sometimes it’d take several chapters to return to a setting, so you may have forgotten a thing or two and have to go back.

What’s Left: some badly executed good ideas.  Nuggets of a story that need sharpening up, otherwise this isn’t a Young Adult story but a Middle Grade one.

2.5/5 stars.

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