Dust City by Robert Paul Weston
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 299 pages
Genre: Fairytale retelling
Release date: September 20, 2010
Reviewed by: Stéphanie
Source: Promotional gift from the publisher
When your dad is the wolf who killed Little Red Riding Hood, life is no fairy tale.
Henry Whelp is a Big Bad Wolf. Or will be, someday. His dad is doing time for the double murder of Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother so everyone assumes crime is in Henry's blood. For years, he's kept a low profile in a Home for Wayward Wolves on the outskirts of Dust City--a gritty metropolis known for its black market, mind-altering dust. And the entire population of foxes, ravens, and hominids are hooked. But it's not just any dust the creatures of this grim underground are slinging and sniffing. It's fairydust.
When a murder at the Home forces Henry to escape, he begins to suspect his dad may have been framed. With a daring she wolf named Fiona by his side, Henry travels into the dark alleyways and cavernous tunnels of Dust City. There, he'll come face to snout with legendary mobster Skinner and his Water Nixie henchmen to discover what really happened to his father in the woods that infamous night...and the shocking truth about fairydust.
Fairytale retellings have been quite popular these days, and it seems like each and every one of them are original, despite them being about similar stories. DUST CITY is no exception and it’s without a doubt inventive and one of a kind. Robert Paul Weston did a wonderful job in inspiring his novel from the fairytales of the Grimm Brothers. Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Giant Bean Stock and Humpty Dumpty are a few tales that appear in this novel. I really admire how easily Weston included these into his story because even as you read, you don’t automatically realize that new fairy tale details have made their way into the novel.
At first, I was a little confused when it came to the animal characters of the story. I understood that the population of the city was divided into two major groups, the animalia and the hominids. I guess, before even starting to read the book, I assumed that the main character was a werewolf, however, I was completely wrong. Henry, is in fact a sentient wolf, with only the one shape, the shape of a humanlike wolf. He still has fur, claws, paws and a tail, but his hands and most importantly his mind, work a lot like human ones. It took me a few page to realize this, but still, it really did confuse me a little in the beginning.
The setting is the most notable aspect of the book, in my opinion. A city where animalia and hominids live together, but in fear of one another isn’t all that fantastic. The prejudice that still exists in our world today because of how people look is very similar to the prejudice encountered in DUST CITY. It’s a reality we try to ignore in our own world, but the fact is, some types of prejudice will always be present whatever the society. Another similarity to our world is the use of fairydust. In the novel, fairydust is used in mostly as medication but some versions of the dust is used as drugs and enhancers. It’s a very sensitive issue to write about, especially in a YA novel, but I think the author did a wonderful job to show the devastating effects of recreational and unknown drugs.
Henry was the perfect narrator for this book. He’s not an overly confident wolf, nor a very street smart wolf, but he does have the heart to do the right thing. When he sets out to find the truth about the disappearance of the fairies, he does it in a manner in which he makes sure will hurt the least amount of people. He’s a selfless young man/wolf that would do everything to help those he loves, even his dead beat dad who’s in prison telling extraordinary and unbelievable tales about the reason why the fairies are gone and why he killed two people in the first place. When he meets Fiona, another young wolf, it’s almost as if he found a reason to start searching for the truth and do whatever it takes to get to it.
DUST CITY is not the type of story made for a series. It stands on its own and entertain a wide range of readers. Robert Paul Weston did a great job in inspiring his story from the Brothers Grimm tales. I’m glad he didn’t expand too much on the fairytales, but simply limited himself to a few notable characteristics here and there. The fairydust will enchant you and the characters will captivate you. While not being my favorite novel about fairytales, it’s still a very entertaining read. Anybody who’s a fan of the Grimm Brothers, and fairy tales in general, will have to read DUST CITY and see a whole new version of the tales.