Concept: Everything from Western fairy tales, fables, and myths is real. The powers of good and evil, light and dark, are locked in an eternal struggle that goes all the way back to the beginning of time. A modern day woman finds herself wrapped up in the war as she discovers she has the power of influence, to command the light and the dark, but the other side of that coin is she has become a target.
Execution: Do nothing that is obvious. Subvert expectations time and again. Build a rich, alluring world that incorporates fantastical elements of old Anglo-Saxon cultures to modern urban contemporaries. Create unique characters based on familiar ideas. Entertain. Stimulate the intellect. Cut the fat and reject nonsense. Tell a simple, powerful story that’s never been told before.
My experience in reading Frightfully Ever After by Nick DeWolf had a recurring theme, which was to be continually impressed by how incredibly imaginative it is. Originality and creativity are planted firmly in the driver’s seat. In trying to analyze the experience, I kept thinking of words like “alluring,” “captivating,” and “immersive.” I’ll no doubt use those words multiple times as I write this.
Though not a tome—and by fantasy standards, it’s relatively short—it secretes imagination. Cracking this book open, breaking its spine for the first time, I had to wonder if this thing was bound in the bone marrow of Beowulf or Edgar Allan Poe.
Okay, maybe I’m overdoing it. Whatever. The point is this book is a like a love letter to all of dark fantasy, but at the same time, it has its own identity.
While the length may be a turnoff for some fantasy fans, I think it’s perfect. After all, this is dark fantasy, and some chapters are legitimately disturbing and terrifying, though they never undermine the overall fun. The point is, with such a concentrated mixture of imaginative storytelling, alluring world building and mythology, and a downright entertaining narrative, there’s really no reason not to recommend this book.
For all of the hurdles it deftly leaps, I was also impressed by how casually Nick approaches the story’s fantastical elements. Frightfully Ever After never pretends to be something it isn’t, and at the same time, it is cognizant that the reader is familiar with its core elements. It doesn’t just presume you grew up knowing about these fairy tales and myths. It progresses with the understanding that, as with Western culture in general, you are intimate with them. The difference is a lesser skilled author might have made a big deal about the fairies, werewolves, witches, trolls, dragons, and giants that appear throughout the narrative. And it would have gotten tiring.
Instead, Nick gives it a tame treatment that is never apathetic. Yes, this is Steve. Yes, he is a troll. Yes, he wears a tie and occupies a cubicle in an office building. Let’s move past that because you get it.
What’s great about it is it affords opportunities to do new things instead of covering old territory.
Some scenes can be dialogue heavy, but the banter is often witty, snappy, and at times humorous. In a word: entertaining
Once the story hits its stride, it doesn’t let up and is easy to keep reading. It’s not hard to put down, as most people like to say. It’s easy to want to keep reading. The difference is, books that are hard to put down often are plot streams without much substance. They’re popcorn or Pringles. They are bland, and their packaging is a reasonable size for one sitting. So you just keep on munching even though you know you’ll regret it.
Frightfully Ever After has much more depth and flavor. It’s easy to keep consuming because it’s delicious and enriches your life. By the same token, you can put it down, but it will call to you. It will bring you back, and holy crap, I think I just stumbled onto an allegory for the book.
You’ll have to read it to understand.
If you’re looking for a truly adult fairy tale with elements of urban fantasy, this is your book. It has a strongly unique identity, is easy to read, and doesn’t demand much from its readers. You just open the pages, hop in, and enjoy the ride. As I wrote above, I really can’t think of a reason not to recommend it.