(I received an ebook copy from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)
While the idea of retelling fairy tales and/or making them bastardised versions of darker truths is nothing new in itself, I think Andrew Buckley did a good job in building his world. In this world, nothing is as bright and pure as we were led to believe as children, and Robert Darkly is going to discover it fast. Some were thiefs; some were murderers; some were imprisoned in the Tower, or died, while others managed to remain at large; but all characters from those "tales" lived much different lives in Thiside than human people remember them in Othaside.
I had no problems when it came to imagining Thiside and its twisted landscapes, nor to appreciating the various twists made on stories: the author made the latter seem almost logical, in a convoluted way. And darker. Much darker. If it's happy-ever-afters you're looking for, it's not in those versions of the tales you'll find them. I tend to like this; other readers may not. In any case, this novel is fraught both with darkness and with humour, making the spins strangely amusing; I found myself chuckling more than once, even though some of the events weren't perceived as such by the characters.
However, at times, said characters seemed a little too bland to my taste. I'm not sure why exactly, I just had the feeling that, while in some parts they came truly alive, in others they were "made for the story", so to speak. As a result, a few happenings and evolutions had an aftertaste of artificial. (Well, of course a story is artificial, and the ones who people it are just as artificial; I just don't like feeling it.) In some places, too, the writing wasn't as polished as in others; for instance, I'd spot a fine sentence next to one full of unneeded (in my opinion, that is) adverbs.
It was an amusing book—and I must say, I loved the ending. I sensed it coming, but only in retrospect: only when it happened did I realise it just couldn't end in any other way. I'll remember the story and the atmosphere more than the characters, though.