Reviewed by Caroline Hodges
Published by Random House Children's Books in July 2012
Pages - 4000
Something stirred in the gravelly yard beneath their window A soft slippery nuzzle, the sort of sounds you'd expect a pig to make with its snout in a trough.
The small mining town of Grymm perched on the very edge of the Great Desert is the kind of town you leave - but when Dad gets a three-month contract in the mine there, Mina and Jacob, unwilling stepbrother and sister, are reluctantly arriving From a grotesque letting agent who seems to want to eat their baby brother, a cafe owner whose milkshakes contain actual maggots and the horribly creepy butcher, baker and candlestick-maker, Mina and Jacob soon realize that nothing in Grymm is what is appears to be And then things get seriously weird when their baby brother disappears - and no one seems to even notice! In Grymm, your worst nightmares really do come true
I was really excited to read GRYMM. When I read the description, two of my favourite things jumped to mind; Labyrinth and Tim Burton. In a strange past-its-prime town in the middle of nowhere, a new family are moving in, including step-siblings Mina and Jacob. Within a day, their baby brother has disappeared and no one else seems to remember him ever existing. What follows is an investigation into his disappearance which has the children meeting some characters which are all relatively, creepy, weird and down right disgusting. There’s the blood-thirsty butcher with a bad case of OCD, the baker tempting children with his tasty treats, and the kooky milkshake shop owner who’s re-inventing tequila through milk by adding a maggot or two to the bottom. Grymm is the kind of place that will incite fascination with the sickening and morbid which so often appeals to children and young adults. The setting and characters makes this the perfect book for horror-loving boys and girls alike.
The way the tumultuous relationship between Mina and Jacob develops through the story is lovely and, at times, I really just wanted to give Jacob a big hug. Fighting between siblings is normal, but Mina and Jacob drew the short straw and are also step-siblings, so carrying a lot of baggage over new step mothers/fathers – not to mention a new baby brother. But the shared experience of beating Grymm and its bizarre occupants draws them closer together and gives them a new found respect for one another.
Aside from the Burtonesque characters and Labyrinth theme (the GRYMM version of the ‘Goblin King’ is far from a seductive Bowie however!), there are some fabulous fun references to Lord of the Rings and I found the character of Cleaver Flay distinctly inspired by Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast.
The downside is that I found the novel just too long and in parts, very repetitive and unnecessary. The plot settles into a formulaic pattern – kids go out, meet a weirdo, something creepy happens, kids narrowly escape. This happens so many times, I found myself skim-reading... something I usually only do reading a boring document at work... not good. I get that the author wants to establish how the people within the town are being influenced by the evil ‘Goblin King’ in the mine, but ultimately, most of them add very little to the climax of the novel. Having said that, I did find the characters imaginative and the evil Anhangar with his cockroachy movements is a villain worthy of most young people’s nightmares.
Overall I’m undecided on this book. I really loved the cover and the corresponding drawings at the start of each chapter and the story is quirky and devilish. Random House have really got a winner here in appealing to those that love quirky horror. I liked the twist at the end relating to baby brother Bryan as one I just didn’t see coming. But for me, the tale dragged on too long and I think in the end, I rushed through what was actually a pretty good ending just to get the book over and done with.