Review: “The Grimoire of Kensington Market,” Lauren B. Davis

Pros: Wonderful modern-day fairy tale
Cons: Slow start
Rating: 4 out of 5

In Lauren B. Davis’s The Grimoire of Kensington Market, Maggie is the proprietor of the Grimoire, a mysterious bookshop that can only be found by people who are “meant” to find it. The bookshop is constantly rearranging itself as new books come into being and old books vanish from the world. Maggie receives several mysterious messages from her addict brother, Kyle, asking her to come find him. At the same time, the city is rearranging itself. Maggie’s store is getting smaller. “The Forest,” where addicts go to smoke elysium, is taking over the city. Maggie’s afraid that if she goes after Kyle she’ll fall back under elysium’s spell–she hasn’t been free of it all that long–but she can’t leave her brother to his fate. Elysium is a bizarre drug that allows people access to the Silver World, and she’s going to have to go there in order to find where Kyle has gone. Unfortunately, it’s possible that the entire turn of events is a trap devised by Srebrenka, the mysterious elysium dealer, to lure Maggie back.

It seemed odd that in a book with a magical shop that people are either meant or not meant to find, that shop doesn’t play more of a role in the story. At first things are a bit slow; the focus is largely on Maggie’s relationship with Kyle in the past, and that’s pretty depressing. He even stole money from a friend of hers who gave him a job. However, although it isn’t the easiest material to read, this is what builds up Kyle as a believable addict.

Once things headed into fairy-tale territory I got into the story much more easily. Maggie sets out into the Silver World with only her dog and a pair of ravens who seem to be going with her. This is a variant on The Snow Queen, and it’s really nicely told. Maggie of course gets delayed on her way by a seemingly well-intentioned woman. She spends a night at a mysterious hotel. She gets caught by robbers and has to convince one of them to open herself to a wider way of thinking. And always she continues North, toward the cold, mysterious land ruled by a very dark creature.

I very much like the ending, although I won’t give it away. If you enjoy fairy tales and don’t mind a bit of real-world darkness mixed in, this is a great tale to read on a winter’s night.

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