I've decided to tear my review of Breadcrumbs in half. The obvious way to do this would be to review the first and second halves of the book separately. After all, the first half of Breadcrumbs is about the real world of Hazel and Jack, and the second half is a fairy tale. A very dark fairy tale.
I'm not going to do that. I'm going to review the writing first. This will be part #1. Then I'm going to review the story - part #2.
Part 1 - Writing
Anne Ursu is an artist. Her writing is beautiful, her sentences are magical, and her word choice is both lyrical and jarring in equal measure. Her descriptions of the cold, unforgiving forest of the Snow Queen make me shiver. Literally. Her characters, and there are many, are well-written and easy to imagine. I am especially impressed (envious) of her ability to illicit a visceral response. When she describes the mind control the Snow Queen has over Jack and Hazel, I feel it, too.
"He was afraid she would stop coming, that he would disappoint her-or even worse, bore her. She would lose interest, not even notice him anymore. He would not give up, though. She would not like that."
Part 2 - Story
Anne Ursu wrote a captivating story. The idea is bold and I love the abrupt switch from the real world to the fantastical. The characters in the novel's first half are often sad and occasionally bad, but they are very real. The characters in the second half of the book are quite different. Well-constructed and written well, the characters in the woods are from the darkest regions of the fairy tale world. Deceptive, greedy, mean, and obtuse, they have lost their humanity.
My issue with the Breadcrumbs - and it's a pretty big one - is that I couldn't see this book in the hands of a middle grades reader. I had a nagging concern that I couldn't quite define until the book's conclusion - Breadcrumbs is on the wrong shelf. With a story this complex and writing this studied, Anne Ursu's book needs a more mature crowd. I hope this book will find a crossover audience in young adult book lovers. It deserves to be read.
Blog you later!