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200 years ago, the Brothers Grimm unleashed their stories upon the world.
On the eve of her 18th birthday, high school junior Alice Goodenough feels on top of the world. Classes are almost finished. She's about to start her summer job at the local library, where she'll be surrounded by all of her favorite books. And she has a wonderful boyfriend.
Then the rabbit shows up. The giant talking rabbit. He has a message:
200 years ago, the Brothers Grimm unleashed their stories upon the world.
With the help of a magic pen and paper, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm brought all of their characters to life. The world was a more magical place ... for a time. Cinderella found her prince. Briar Rose's spell was broken. The dancing princesses spent their nights hidden away in a secret underground city. The old miller's boy found true love.
Then, slowly, the Grimms' characters began to change for the worse. They became Corrupted. Evil. They didn't belong in our world, but it was too late for the Brothers Grimm to destroy them.
Only a hero can save the day. Every generation for the past 200 years, a hero has been chosen to fight the Corrupted and rid the world of the Grimms' fairy tales. To her horror, Alice has been chosen as the next hero. As her 18th birthday nears, she begins to realize life is never going back to normal. School will never be the same.
As for her boyfriend, Edward ... well, he might be hiding a terrible secret.
This book also contains the following original Brothers Grimm fairy tales:
- Snow White
- The White Snake
- The Poor Miller's Boy and the Cat
- The Godfather
I should have known Edward was too good to be true.
No. Wait. Let me go back to the beginning. Before I had this curse. Before I went around slaying creatures that shouldn’t exist. Before I made friends with a rabbit.
Let’s start at the end of my junior year of high school. That was when all of this really started. I was looking forward to summer. I didn’t have a job but I had something even better: a volunteer spot at the local library. It was the best job in the world—sure, I mostly just put away all of the books and no, I wasn’t getting paid. But I loved being inside that old building. From the outside, it looked like a big old firehouse complete with rusty red bricks a rusted fire escape on one side. All it needed was one of those big garage doors for the fire truck.
Inside, though … that was where it all happened. When you walked in through the front door, you passed the little check-out desk where one of the old librarians would give a smile. Beyond that: rows and rows of old metal bookcases. Fiction. History. Biography. Science. In the center of the massive space was a circular table with five computers, the only hint of technology in the entire place.
Even the light bulbs were old! I’m not kidding—the lights hanging from the tiled ceiling had old steel shades, something out of the nineteenth century. It was a good thing the library closed before it got dark because without sunlight streaming in through the windows, the place might take on a much creepier tone.
But in the daylight, it just looked neat. On the second floor were more bookcases, mostly children’s books and young adult books, but there was a reading room up there, too. I remember going there as a child and sitting on the red carpet of the reading room and following along as one of the librarians read one of the children’s novels. My dad sat outside, reading Star Trek books.
I remember the first time I “graduated” to the first floor. I chose a science book about extinct animals from long ago. I’d been enraptured by a drawing on the first page where a long-extinct saber-toothed tiger was battling a ferocious lion. I just knew the tiger had won because tigers are the greatest.
I remember that time because I’d almost gone into the basement. The basement door was near the bathrooms and I’d opened the door by mistake. A cool breeze had touched my skin. It was so dark that I squinted, trying to make something out. Anything. But it was too dark, and it gave little 13-year-old me the chills.
The basement. If only I’d known what was waiting for me down there.
Needless to say, I was ready for exam week to be over. Even my last class of the day—hardly a class at all—couldn’t keep me entertained. Fencing. Where other girls chose basic gym because the rules for roller skating and badminton were relaxed enough to allow casual gossip, I’d made the choice to fence with six other guys—including my boyfriend Edward—and a girl named Tina who was on the verge of failing.
“You have to attack,” I told her midway through class. She’d lost twice already during the week and we were being graded on our form. Tina didn’t have form. Tina had nothing more than an amazing ability to swing her sword—called a “foil”—left and right as fast as possible and delay the inevitable.
“I can’t attack,” she told me, shifting in the chair. We were in a small weight training room off of the gym. In front of us, two of the other students were fencing in full gear, their shoes squeaking on the red rubber mats. “The boys are stronger.”
“Oh gawd,” I muttered. “Look,” I pointed to the two boys fighting. They were both wearing white uniforms but one of the helmets had an A printed on the back and the other a B so our teacher—Mr. Whitmann—could communicate the scores.
“What am I looking at?” Tina asked.
“Watch Gregg,” I said. “He’s the A. Watch him parry. See how he always uses the same riposte? He loves stabbing after he parries.” We watched them attack and parry again, the thin blades of their fencing swords clanging together. Gregg took two steps back, parrying his opponent’s attacks. When the time was right, he took the offensive, stabbing wildly at his opponent’s ribs. “Just watch their shoulders,” I told Tina.
Mr. Whitmann called an end to the fight and tallied up the scores. Gregg was the surefire winner.
“He’s too good,” Tina moaned. “All these swords just blur my vision. I can’t even see them coming!”
“Just focus,” I said. “We’re not losing to a bunch of stinky boys. Gregg doesn’t even wear deodorant, for crying out loud.”
“Alice,” Mr. Whitmann said, wrinkling his black mustache. “You can’t keep quiet sitting there? You’re up. Gregg, you stay on.”
I grabbed the B mask and foil from the quiet boy who’d just been creamed by Gregg. I adjusted the plastic chest protector underneath my jacket, much to the chagrin of the boys seat at the edge of the mat. Edward simply smiled, giving me a thumbs-up. I have to admit, he looked pretty good sitting there. He was one of the few guys who could wear the bulky fencing gear with any grace, like he was actually comfortable underneath all the padding.
“En guard,” Mr. Whitmann called out. I barely had time to get a grip on the foil before Gregg came crashing at me with all the grace of a football player. I parried his thrusts; the clang of the swords was almost lost inside the mask but not quite and I relished it. I loved this moment. I loved the salty smell of sweat inside the mask. I loved the way the world seemed dark and closed-in from behind the black mesh.
And I loved winning. Especially against boys bigger than me. And as Gregg came in again, I parried low, pulling his foil downward, taking a quick step back and then a quick step forward and thrusting the foil into his chest. The tip of my sword pressed into the protective jacket and the narrow blade bent in a U-shape.
“Point,” Mr. Whitmann called out. “Parry-riposte from the right. Good job, young lady.”
“Can you sound more surprised?” I muttered inside the mask. Mr. Whitmann was a small, portly man with jet-black hair and hairy arms. He favored the boys; that much was obvious. And he loved Edward. Everyone loved Edward. From the very day he transferred to Washington High School, he was universally loved.
Gregg came at me again, this time swinging his sword even more violently. I parried as best I could, stepping away from him. He didn’t even have his free hand behind his back, and if our foils weren’t dulled at the tip I could have nicked the skin of his bare hand. He left me another opening and I took it, stabbing him in the rib.
“Point B,” Mr. Whitmann said. “Excellent job, Alice.”
Gregg stepped back, tearing off his mask in frustration. I took mine off and pulled loose strands of black hair behind my ears. I glanced at Edward, who was sitting with the other boys, smiling approvingly.