Series: Transplanted Tales, Book 1
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Length: 330 Pages
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Kensington Publishing Co. via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
One Dark, Sexy Fairy Tale
It was a spell, of course. A spell that went very wrong. Since then, characters from fairy tales and nursery rhymes, literary legends, and fictional creatures large and small have been crossing over into the Here and Now. Most Tales blend in with normal humans, or Ordinaries, with little problem. Some, though, don't do blending so well. For those, there is the Fairytale Management Authority, Make Believe's answer to crime and punishment.
Tess "Red" Little, FMA enforcer, makes her living tracking down rogue Tales and bringing them in to face justice, Make Believe style. She's come a long way since the Riding Hood, which, for the record, she outgrew when she was twelve (and that whole wolf thing was horribly misrepresented, too). Now Red keeps the mean streets of Chicago free from the sort of havoc the less savory Tales can wreak.
It's normally a job she enjoys, but her latest case is striking a little too close to home. Several Tales have been butchered by what appears to be a Tale serial killer, and the FMA's three prime suspects all have one thing in common: a history with Red. And as if tracking down three ex's to ask them if they've torn anyone apart lately isn't awkward enough, she's been partnered with FMA homicide detective Nate Grimm, and the reaper is doing weird things to her equilibrium.
Some days it just doesn't pay to get out of bed, even if you're fictional.
SeRine's intriguing new series debut may not have been a perfect read for me, but it had enough strong points to appeal. I absolutely love the concept of the world, which in several ways is similar to that of the television series Once Upon a Time. Have no fear, though, this version of Chicago is no one's Storybrooke.
Call me twisted, but I adored the different incarnations of Tales. Snow White? High dollar prostitute. Things with the Prince went south and she got screwed in the divorce. Pied Piper? Exterminator...and registered sex offender. The Sandman? Major pharmaceutical distributor and illegal drug czar. And Mistress Mary Quite Contrary is a prosecuting attorney.
The awesomeness of that alone was enough to push many of my Happy Reader buttons, and the good times didn't stop there. The plot surrounding the investigation into two of Red's cases was solid, if a little light on complexity. I had some problems with a few specific plot points, and there were some elements, like the fact that almost every male character in the book either had sexual history with Red or wanted to, that rubbed me the wrong way, but the execution was smooth and relatively trouble-free.
A few notably rocky places in the plot came late in the book, with twists that felt fairly obvious long before they were revealed, and more than once I felt Red donned the Stupid hat as the story reached its climax, but overall it worked for me. I was less thrilled with Red as the main character. She was fairly typical for an urban fantasy heroine, but that was actually part of the problem, as the book reads like an urban fantasy but tries to pull off a romance.
The leather-wearing, ass-kicking, sarcastic bitch elements were there. She was also a hot mess emotionally. She had commitment and trust issues a mile wide courtesy of a past that was never explained to my satisfaction, and a disturbing propensity for sleeping with dangerous men. One such dangerous man gives her a couple of big happies during the book, and considering he was not romantic lead Nate, those scenes were a huge fail for me and went a long way towards turning me off Red.
Had the reasons for Red's many, many issues been better developed or more clearly defined, maybe I could have accepted them. Instead, they're sort of just thrown out there, remain fairly constant throughout the book, then go through a sudden and unsupported about-face when she realizes her heart belongs to Nate. It made it hard to find her at all sympathetic - or, in a couple of places, tolerable - and as the book is told in first person from her perspective, that's a lot of time to spend in a character's head without caring too much about what happens to her.
For all that she disappointed me, though, Nate thrilled me. I loved his character from the moment he's introduced. I loved his commitment and his understated dedication, his strength of purpose and his endearing kindness. I love that he obviously had feelings for Red from the very beginning, but was always his own man living his own life, even if that meant he was at odds with her. He wasn't the alpha male stereotype, but neither was he ever just an appendage to her life in the story. I just loved everything about him.
Had I been better able to warm up to Red, the good points of the book would have outweighed most of my other issues, but she was just too much of a stumbling block. The good news is that while she kept me from fully embracing this book, this isn't an urban fantasy series with a recurring main character. With the goldmine of story potential inherent in this very exciting world and the opportunity for more unique and engaging characters like Nate in stories to come, that's very good news indeed.