Grim Lovelies by Megan Shepherd, 375 pp, RL: TEEN

The Grim Lovelies by Megan Shepherd
Review Copy from Houghton Mifflin Co.
Plot: Anouk is one of five animals that have been enchanted into humans to serve Madda Vittoria, a power-hungry witch living in Paris. In the few years that she has been a human, the timid Anouk has never left the elegant house she slavishly cleans, but she watches the Pretties (humans) from the windows when she can. When Madda Vittoria is murdered in her own bedroom, a chaotic chain of events is set in motion. With only three days to find the spell that will allow Anouk and the four other Beasties - Beau, the charming chauffeur who is always looking out for Anouk, Luc, the mysterious gardener and storyteller, Cricket, the street-savvy errand girl and Hunter Black, the devoted left-hand man to Viggo, Madda Vittoria's adopted son - they have to think fast and act faster. But with Prince Rennar and the Haute, the ruling class of magicians, seeking the Beasties for his own reasons, their chances are slim.

Why Read? Why Buy?: With Grim Lovelies, Shepherd accomplishes a tremendous amount of innovative world building that make this book worth reading and buying. Over centuries, the magicians have used enchantments to trick humans into delivering the best there is to offer (gold, furs, jewels, wine, etc.) to them, unknowingly living their lives as Pretties with fakes and knock-offs of the luxuries they thought they were enjoying. However, the explosion of technology has begun to interfere with the magic. And the magic as practiced in Grim Lovelies is equally intriguing. While casting a spell, a practice that witches spend years and years studying the craft of, they consume a variety of herbs and spices, flowers and even bugs when in a pinch, to make the spell work. But, with every spell cast, especially those that bring harm to another, a part of a witch's body turns to stone, wood or worse. To this world, Shepherd adds goblins, who have been kicked out of England, their ancestral home, and have a wild sense of fashion and take tea time very seriously, a witch's boy who chooses to be a girl, a marvelous fairy tale that also has transgender themes, and a good amount of attention to and fashion talk. In an echo of the original Cinderella, Madda Vittoria cuts off Anouk's pinky toes so that she can fit into a pair of designer shoes during a dress-up session. The secret behind why the Haute want the Beasties alive is compelling and promises more suspense in this series to come.

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