Book Review: Grump

Dec 19, 2019 by Erin Yun

A boy is sitting on the title and wearing a blue pointy hat and green suspenders while angrily looking at a bunny who is cuddling him. A blue bird sits on his foot and a bitten apple is close to the subtitle which shows the book deals with Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
I’ve always been a big fan of retellings. I love returning to characters or plots or tropes that I’ve heard before but experiencing those elements in a completely new way. That’s why I knew I had to pick up a book by Liesl Shurtliff, the best-selling author of several fractured fairy tales. Grump was the first book of hers that I picked up, and after racing through this fun, exciting Snow White retelling, I know I’ll definitely be back for her others.


Borlen has never fit in with the other dwarves. Born only a few feet from The Surface, Borlen dreams to one day visit the aboveground world despite the dangerous legends he has heard about humans. So, when Borlen—or, as he is sometimes called, Grump—sees a chance to explore The Surface, he abandons his mining crew and makes a new life for himself—as Queen Elfrieda Veronika Ingrid Lenore’s advisor. Fooled by her sweet words and gifts of delicious rubies, Grump fails to see the Queen’s true, evil nature . . . until the queen grabs Grump by the beard, binding him via magic to do as she commands. Namely: help kill her stepdaughter, Snow White. However, when Snow White also grabs Grump by the beard, he finds himself bound by magic to both help the queen and protect Snow White. And, as the back of the book proclaims, “that’s enough to make any dwarf Grumpy indeed.”


I loved that Shurtliff chose to retell the story of Snow White from the perspective of one of the dwarves for a few reasons. One is that I adored the world building. The first part of the book takes place completely underground, and the reader learns a lot about dwarf customs, from their increased life span to the food they eat, which happens to be gems—diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and more, each with their own unique flavor.


I also liked the POV switch because . . . well, I’ve just never found Snow White all that interesting of a character. I mean, come on, she’s clean, pretty, and sings nicely, but what is she like? And sure, she wishes for true love, but the romance in Snow White is so underdeveloped that it’s like taking a bag of flour and calling it cake. Grump might not be the sweetest character (as you might have guessed from the name), and sometimes he makes choices that make me want to groan, but at least he brings some flavor to the story! The actual character of Snow White in Grump is much improved, as well. She’s sort of bratty at times but also adventurous and talented, and she’s one of the only people who can make a nickname like Grump sound friendly.


I usually gravitate toward reimaginings of stories that I personally loved the first time around, but despite never being a huge fan of Snow White, I solidly enjoyed Grump. Perhaps that’s one of the amazing things about retellings; when done right, they can entice and entertain readers who weren’t huge fans of the source material. Filled with charm, magic, and heart, Grump truly made me appreciate the world of Snow White in a way that I never have before.

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