Chronicles of the Grim Peddler 1

Lee Jeong-A – Udon Entertainment – 2008 – 2+ volumes

I’m really sad that Udon’s manhwa line seems to be on an extended hold, because all the series I sampled were really, really interesting.  Both this and Reading Club were pretty unique and showed a lot of potential, and Evyione was quite simply one of the most amazing books I read in 2008.  I loved it.  I think its sad the second volume never came out.  On the plus side, other lines of Udon Entertainment books seem to still be hopping, so there’s still hope for these series.

The premise is something that immediately sucked me in, because anything having to do with evil variations of fairy tales has my attention.  The framing device had me a little worried, though, since there are a lot of variations on the “omniscient purveyor of goods/advice/help to characters in fairy tale themed one-shot stories” series.  This wasn’t quite like that, though it comes pretty close.  While the Peddler does offer an item to the characters in the first chapter, he’s really more of an observer, or not involved at all.  Sort of like the girl in Presents, I think, except even less so.

The first several pages had me very, very worried since they made no sense whatsoever.  It starts off with some Alice in Wonderland allusions, then hops around a little bit before settling into the first story, which was an alternate take on Sleeping Beauty.  The story was a very close retelling on the original, except the Peddler gave a “seed” to the princess’s mother so she could give birth, something that wouldn’t have happened since the King neglected her in favor of sculpting.  The ending was bizarre and different, too, and involved a character that seemed like he would be important, then wasn’t.  This story was okay, but also extremely disorganized.  The other stories get better.

The second story is about the Peddler himself at home, and he’s visited by Hansel and Gretel.  This was the most solid story in the volume and my favorite by far, since it featured a nice twist, had little to do with the original fairy tale, and also presumably gave us some information that will prove to be important to the plot of the series.

The third story was a retelling of The Little Mermaid with a mermaid who is more or less a terrible person.  She tries to win over the prince as part of a bet with the Peddler rather than because she is smitten, and the prince sees straight through her.  There wasn’t quite enough variation on the original story for my taste, but it was still a fun read.

The last story made no sense to me, and seemed to be a very liberal take on Cinderella, except involving vengeful twins and greedy parents and child abuse.  The Peddler doesn’t have much to do with this story, either.  That’s probably for the best.

Now, I liked this volume, but the storytelling definitely had some flaws to it.  It’s still definitely worth reading though, and they seem like the kind of issues that will easily iron themselves out in future volumes.  I do hope we see more, because I see this being along the same lines as Nightmare Inspector, another excellent series of fairy tale-like one-shots involving a character with insight into the stories being told.  I’m interested in where the plot eventually goes, too, or if it’ll be mostly one-shots with the little bit of plot development left behind.

One other thing: the art is very pretty.  Nice costumes, detailed settings, all the right stuff to really bring the stories to life.  It’s rough, but is definitely worth picking up to anyone who is at all interested.


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