From Scholastic: It’s a fairy-tale nightmare… One girl is kept in a room where every day the only food she’s given is a poisoned apple. Another is kept in a room covered in needles—and if she pricks her finger, she’ll die. Then there are the brother and sister kept in a cell that keeps getting hotter and hotter… A sinister kidnapper is on the loose in Kate’s world. She’s not involved until one day she heads to her grandmother’s house in the woods—and finds her grandmother has also been taken. Already an outcast, Kate can’t get any help from the villagers who hate her. Only Jack, another outsider, will listen to what’s happened. Then a princess is taken, and suddenly the king is paying attention—even though the girl’s stepmother would rather he didn’t. It’s up to Kate and Jack to track down the victims before an ever after arrives that’s far from happy
Dead Upon a Time by Elizabeth Paulson (Scholastic) is a mash-up of fairy-tales with everyone’s happily-ever-after at stake. The heroine, Kate Hood, arrives at her grandmother’s house deep in the woods only to find her Nan missing. What she finds instead is a room full of gruesome tapestries depicting missing children suffering imaginatively cruel tortures. When the king demands she go after the kidnapper, her only ally is Jack, a boy who’s been on the outs with the town ever since a run-in with a giant.
This book is comparable to an episode of Once Upon a Time, with it’s reimagined fairy-tale world where the stories all co-exist and are altered versions of the tales most of us know from childhood. However, I found the cover copy misleading as it led me to believe that this book was more about all of the characters who had been kidnapped, when they are merely peripheral figures. Cameos, really. I would have liked to know more about those characters’ stories. This story is very much Kate and Jack’s.
That said, I really liked the character Jack Haricot. He had a good head on his shoulders, was resourceful, suspicious and brave. Kate, while brave and smart, didn’t win me over as much. She felt a bit flat.
I think this book could have been a lot darker, given the material. More Grimm-esque. I did enjoy the darker turn it took nearing the end, though.
Dead Upon a Time is imaginative, but a bit too simple for my taste. I just wanted more—more darkness, more world-building, more depth. I think it’s a good starting point for tweens and younger teens looking for something perhaps a bit spookier than their usual reads, but older teens might want to look for something meatier.
♥ ♥ ½ (2.5/5 hearts)