2.5 out of 5 stars
Anouk lives in a magical world adjacent to ours, and spends her days as a maid in the Parisian townhouse of the witch who created her. That witch, Mada Vittora, made other servants too, all from animals. But this kind of magic wasn’t designed to create downstairs people. It had a much grander purpose, and the man who wrote it, Prince Rennar, has even bigger ideas for it now.
Grim Lovelies is a serviceable, enjoyable story with an appealing protagonist and the required motley crew of backup dancers. When Mada Vittora ends up dead and her “beasties” stand suspected of the crime, their flight from Paris and subsequent conflict with the magical Royals is well-paced, with a little bit of wackiness thrown in. Hard-partying goblins play a role, as do fast cars. The physical world building works, too: The Haute, magic’s ruling class, have a residence in each city that is really one place. It’s many doors around the globe lead into the same building. Inside, each floor is a different country. The whole place rearranges itself on the hour. Charming, enchanted bits like this are the highlight of Shepherd’s writing.
The characters and story didn’t grab me tightly, but they held up fine. If I didn’t find the story’s conflict particularly special, it was still worth a read. Grim Lovelies is a story on it’s way to finding itself: like Anouk, it’s just left the house for the first time, and doesn’t really know what it could become. For now, it’s a sweet and somewhat timid first glance – with potential.