One of the reasons people try to revoke my gay card is that I proudly announce that I really don't like Sondheim. I find much of his music and musicals trite and annoying, There is one he wrote that I did enjoy though... Into the Woods. Even then, I'm not sure it was the musical itself as much as the plot that made me like it. (Because, really, I almost walked out after the first act. Then the second act started and I was all like, "OK, I kind of like the idea, even if the execution sucks.")
For those who've never seen it, the First act is a retelling of several fairy tales. The second act...well, the narrator dies and suddenly, the characters no longer have any guides to what they're supposed to be doing.
Like I said, loved the idea.
I bring this up, because a similar idea is at play in Death's Apprentice, what is evidently the first book in K. W. Jeter and Gareth Jefferson Jones' new Grimm City series. According to what's available on the book jacket and in blurbs, the unnamed city the book is set in is supposed to based on all of the Grimm Fairytales and other writings by the Bros. Interestingly, while I recognized elements that might have been part of a Fairytale at one point or another, the only out and out storyline I actually recognized in this was Rumpelstiltskin.
We start with Nathaniel, Death's Apprentice. Nathaniel's dad sold him to Death at a very young age in exchange for 10 more years of life. Sadly, daddy sobered up, realized what he did, and jumped off a bridge. Anyway, after witnessing Death claim the soul of a drug addled lawyer in a nightclub bathroom, Nathaniel passes out in pain.
Then we meet Blake, who's come to the nameless city, seeking The Devil. Blake's looking to pay back Lucifer for a rather nasty trick the devil played on him in Afghanistan that ended with Hank getting trapped in the Devil's Overcoat. Said coat more or less makes Hank immortal, although Hank can be wounded quite severely.
And Hank, who gets hired by a dwarf lawyer who works for Lucifer. (Don't they all?) Hank is a man with no fear, making him a fairly unstoppable hit man. Hank gets hired to kill the 3 champions prophesied to kill Lucifer. This gives him carte blanche to pretty much kill anyone he wants.
Lucifer himself sits atop a large tower in the center of town, refusing to extend people's contracts and generally proving Milton right again. (Which is to say Lucifer is probably the most interesting character in this.)
The stories coalesce around a woman who made a deal with the dwarf to get answers to her law exam to make her parents happy. The dwarf ends up stealing her baby. (Not exactly spinning straw into gold, but...)
This is one of those books I finished and felt really at odds about what to think. There's a lot of Christian allegory in here (not quite as obvious as say, Left Behind, but still present in a Narnia type way), and there's also a lot of fate vs. free will discussion, particularly towards the end. There are also a few parts that feel like The Seventh Seal.
By the time I finished and found out what the heck the point of all of this was, I felt cheated in some ways, although there really was no other solution to the whole mess.
Interesting read, but you may want to bookmark a page with the Grimm tales for reference.