Title: Indexing (Indexing #1)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retelling
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
“Never underestimate the power of a good story.”
Good advice…especially when a story can kill you.
For most people, the story of their lives is just that: the accumulation of time, encounters, and actions into a cohesive whole. But for an unfortunate few, that day-to-day existence is affected—perhaps infected is a better word—by memetic incursion: where fairy tale narratives become reality, often with disastrous results.
That’s where the ATI Management Bureau steps in, an organization tasked with protecting the world from fairy tales, even while most of their agents are struggling to keep their own fantastic archetypes from taking over their lives. When you’re dealing with storybook narratives in the real world, it doesn’t matter if you’re Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, or the Wicked Queen: no one gets a happily ever after.
Indexing is New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire’s new urban fantasy where everything you thought you knew about fairy tales gets turned on its head.
There’s a lot of fairy tale retellings being published, and to be honest, it’s getting kinda old. I love me some fairy tales, but seriously, there’s only so much recycling of stories a girl can take. It’s getting hard to sift through all the retellings to find a book that has the perfect balance of retelling a tale yet bringing in something original to the story.
If you want something different, Indexing is the book for you. This book originally began as a Kindle serial, which are books published in episodes. Buying a Kindle serial guarantees you’re getting all the existing episodes + any more future episodes in the book when they’re published.
I read Indexing as a whole, so my reading experience may be different from others. I’ve noticed there’s a difference who watch TV series in bulk vs those who wait for a new episode every week (and a new season every year), so I imagine it might be similar with books. 😄
But I digress.
Indexing follows the story of Henrietta Marchen (Marchen = fairy tale in German, heh), who heads a team at the Aarne-Thompson Index (ATI) Management Bureau. This agency basically protects the world from fairy tales (because in this world, they are real), which are dangerous because they push their way into the world and will do everything to make sure their story gets told, even if it means people will get hurt–or die–in the process.
I’m sure a lot of people would think, hey fairy tales have happy endings anyway, so why don’t they just let them be? The answer is: these fairy tales aren’t the watered down Disney version where no one except the villain gets hurt. Nope, we’ve got the dark, dark original tales where the Little Mermaid kills herself, or Sleeping Beauty gets raped while in a coma. Yikes. There’s also the disturbing fact that anyone who gets in the way of the story–whether they’re aware or not–will definitely get hurt or killed..or manipulated to make sure the narrative continues. Definitely a reason for concern, don’t you think? 😄
Each episode in this book deals with a fairy tale archetype (or sometimes several), and the indexing in the title comes into play as the Index, which collects all information on each fairy tale and its variations. Each fairy tale has its own code in the Index, like Snow White is a 709 and Rapunzel is a 310, etc.
Henrietta, who interestingly is born a Snow White, struggles with her identity every day while running around trying to stop fairy tales from bringing about chaos in the real world. Her team consists of Sloane (once a Wicked Stepsister), Jeff (classified as an Elf from The Elves and the Shoemaker), Demi (a Pied Piper), and Andy (normal but has encountered the tragedy of a fairy tale coming true).
I think this is a really, really original retelling of many different tales, and I like how the fairy tales are so dark and morbid. I thought the many ways Henrietta and her team solve each mystery most of the time were really clever, and several episodes were deliciously creepy (which is both good and bad when you’re huddled in bed trying to read at 2 in the morning lol).
I’ll admit the Index was a bit overwhelming and hard to understand at first, as well as the ATI, but once you get into it, seeing the different fairy tales and how they unfold (or not) is quite interesting. I found a couple of episodes a bit too slow or boring, but most of the episodes are really great.
I really loved the characters too, especially angry, angry Sloane who is always one second away from murdering everyone around her. 😄 They were just so fun and…not normal, and the team’s dynamic was really good (despite their clashing personalities–and stories–at times) so I really liked seeing how everyone got together to solve each puzzle.
I think this is a great book to read if you want a darker and grittier fairy tale retelling. Plus, it’s a lot of retellings in one book! Great bonus, if you ask me.