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The Riddle of the Gnome
by P.W. Catanese
In the past I have exchanged a few notes with Paul Catanese, author of the Further Tales series of exciting sequels to well-known fairy tales. So it was an honor, but not a surprise, to get an advance reviewer copy of his latest book, The Riddle of the Gnome. This time, Catanese gives us the further tale of Rumpel-Stiltskin, the villainous yet (if this book is to be believed) tragically misunderstood gnome who demanded a queens firstborn son in exchange for helping her spin straw into gold when she was just a poor millers daughter a gnome whose plans were undone when the queen guessed his name. Was this the end of an evil plan? Or was it the ruin of the one good thing Rumpel-Stiltskin had ever tried to do? That will be up to you to decide as you read this interesting twist on the old tale.
Here Rumpel-Stiltskin returns with the same anger problem that has made him fascinating, frightening, and perhaps funny to generations of children. So once again, its hard to judge his intentions as he makes young Tom an offer he cant refuse.
Tom, who seems like a veteran of an old fairy tale in his own right, lives under a curse that brings bad luck to everyone who comes near him. This means that even Toms parents, who have cared for him since they found him as an infant, cant come within twenty paces of him. He lives alone in a small hut on a small island, until the marauders sweep through the village looting, burning, and killing. Toms parents are gone, their home destroyed. Then Rumpel-Stiltskins offer becomes truly irresistable: an offer to remove his curse, if Tom will bring bad luck to a certain enemy…who happens to be the secret power behind the invading marauders.
Traveling with the surly gnome, Tom tries to understand his companions constant rage while also working out what it is he is supposed to do. To the gnomes continual fury, Tom keeps trying to do the right thing and refusing to steal what he needs to get the job done. While it isnt hard to care about Tom, as he shows sensitivity about the effects of his curse on the people around him, the fact that you grow increasingly fond of the bristly, nasty Rumpel-Stiltskin comes as a surprise. But there are even bigger surprises in store as Tom discovers where he came from, how his curse came into being, and what gives the marauders their seemingly invincible good luck. And that isnt all.
In this Further Tale you will shudder at the sight of a gigantic, hideous monster. You will bite your nails as Tom contends with robbers, ravenous insects, a dark tomb, and an army of barbarians, while each discovery he makes means that he has more and more to lose. You will catch glimpses of other fairy tales plundering the giants house, breaking the lovers curse, reuniting families that have lost each other, and so on all the sort of thing that happens in Fairy Tale Land. And the novels big payoff will reward you emotionally, while affirming many of the best things in reality or fiction: courage, love, and the possibility of even the worst villain being redeemed.