This middle grade novel tries too hard to be like Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. It really wants to be super quirky and gross-out funny, but honestly it comes off as contrived. The main storyline follows Hansel and Gretel as they leave their own story and weave in and out of other fairytale re-tellings.
Hansel and Gretel are pretty resourceful considering their young age, but they seem to purposely get themselves into trouble by doing "stupid" things. I realize they are children, but in other versions of this story (including the original), the children are exceptionally smart and tenacious.
My favorite story by far was "The Three Golden Hairs". In this story, Hansel outwits the Devil in hell. It reminded me of the famous myths where the hero uses his wits to defeat the villain, free the oppressed and save the day. It was also the turning point of the larger, serialized story; armed with new found truths, Hansel emerges stronger than ever (just like the heros of mythos before him).
On the other hand, the worst story by a mile is "As Red as Blood". Gretel, who should have been more street-smart at this point in the story, falls victim to a monster simply because he was gorgeous. I felt the storyline was incredibly offensive on so many levels considering Gretel is a child and should not be having a "love" story; even a negative one. It was gross to see a man pursue her and for her to think it was legit. I am assuming the author intended it to be a learning experience, but I felt like it went too far. In fact, this story was not needed at all. It provided nothing to the greater plot except to make the writer squirm.
I did like how the larger story came together at the end. There is a clever twist with the last story featuring a dragon. The ending was really well-fought for by the two lead characters and definitely well-earned.