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4th January
written by Steph
No greyzone here - I loved this book!

No greyzone here - I loved this book!

My review of the first book in Jasper Fforde's newest series, Shades of Grey, is now up on the BookPage website and can be found in the January issue.  I'm posting this under "books read in 2009", since that's when I read it, and it was technically launched here in the U.S. before 2010 was rung in. What can I say about Jasper Fforde here that I have not already said?  I think he's brilliant and Shades of Grey definitely does not disappoint. This one was a bit of a slow boil for me as the first half of the book can be overwhelming since Fforde is trying out something completely new here and there's a lot of worldbuilding and backstory that needs to happen.  Those who have any experience with Fforde's fiction know that his writing and speculative leaps can sometimes be discombobulating, even to those who have been initiated and where their Fforde fan badges with pride.  I promise that the disorientation passes and your efforts at the beginning will be richly rewarded.  I'll always be a Thursday girl, and I know that for many fellow book lovers, that series is beloved for a reason, but I really admire the risk Fforde has taken here; whether he intended to or not, he explores new depths both in terms of content and as a writer.  For someone who characterizes his own books as silly and whimsical, there is a lot of intellectual and emotional heft in Shades of Grey that may not necessarily surprise his readers, but will certainly satisfy them.  I went from being uncertain about this series to being completely ravenous for the next installment!  I hope that fellow fans feel the same way, and suggest that those who were not unequivocally won over by The Eyre Affair may want to try this on for size and see if it's a better fit.  Make no mistake, it's still a Jasper Fforde novel, but it is different from the Thursday Next and Nursery Crime series. If I were reading and reviewing it on this site, I would have given the book a 4.5 out of 5. [And yes, I received my review copy for free, but y'all know that something being free doesn't change how I feel about things!] Also, if all goes according to plan, my interview with Jasper should be going up sometime in the next week or so.  I'll keep you posted!


  1. 01/04/2010

    I am taking my Jasper Fforde books very, very slowly. I read The Eyre Affair last January, then Lost in a Good Book last summer. It’s about time to read the next one. This way, they will hopefully last me a few years. Can’t wait to get myhands on this one!

  2. 01/04/2010

    Oh, so glad to hear it’s a wonderful book! I have been excited about this book since I first heard of it and I think it will be nice to see Fforde tackle a new type of writing. I love the Thursday Next books and think that they are some of the most fun meta-books that I have ever come across, but I am also anxious to see Fforde spread his wings with something new as well. So, so glad you loved this book…it’s moving up a few spots in the wish list. Awesome review, going to check out your BookPage review now!

  3. 01/04/2010

    As I think you know, I was not as enamored of the Thursday Next books as I expected to be, but Cara over at Ooh Books just about convinced me this weekend that Shades of Grey might be a better match for me. Now you’ve added another mark to the “yes I should try Fforde again” column.

  4. I enjoyed The Eyre Affair, but haven’t read any of his others yet. I’m sure I’ll get round to this one day, but I think I’ll start with the pile of his books I already own!

  5. 01/05/2010

    I haven’t read a Fford book in awhile, mostly due to my own scatterbrainedness – I forgot to keep up with Thursday. Actually the last book of his that I read had to do with Humpty Dumpty…how many books ago was that?! Anyway, this one looks fun – GREAT cover. 🙂

  6. 01/05/2010

    @ Amanda: I never seem able to exhibit self-control when it comes to Fforde’s books! I guess knowing that he pretty much publishes a book a year makes me feel less terrible when I race through them – only 11 months or so before the next one! 😉
    @ zibilee: I think the best way to sum up this book is a quote that will likely feature in my upcoming interview: It’s not Thursday, but it’s definitely a Jasper book. Without an author page, you’d still know this was Jasper Ffore, it’s just him doing something new and exciting, and not borrowing from the cannon! It’s great stuff, really provocative, and of course full of the humor we’ve come to love and expect from him!
    @ Teresa: I was thinking of you when I mentioned that Fforde skeptics might want to give this one a shot! As I said, there’s no denying it’s Jasper Fforde, and you may still find it’s trying too hard to be clever, but I think because he’s starting from scratch here and drawing on his own resources that thins are a lot less tongue in cheek, which you may appreciate.
    @ Jackie: That seems completely reasonable! No sense rushing out and starting a new series when you still have one to make your way through!
    @ Sarah: Well, I have to say that Fforde apologist that I am, I wouldn’t blame you if The Big Over Easy (which is the one featuring Humpty) left you in a bit of a Ffore slump – it’s my least favorite book by him to date. I’m happy to report, however, that it was a blip since the next book in his nursery crime series is much better, and Shades of Grey is even better still!

  7. 01/06/2010

    I am so very jealous of you that you’ve read this! I’m reading the latest installment of the Thursday Next series now and it’s everything I love about Jasper Fforde: fun, fun, and fun. I can’t wait to get my hands on this one. I’ll always be Thursday girl as well, but I’ll read anything Fforde writes. If nothing else, I know I’ll have a good time.

  8. 01/07/2010

    @ J.S.: Over the past few years I have been slowly re-reading my way through the Thursday books, so I hope to read book 5 this year… all in preparation for Fforde’s next book which will be a Thursday book! I love that with Fforde he always manages to both surprise you AND give you exactly what you want. As a reader, it’s the best of both possible worlds!

  9. 01/08/2010

    I loved this book and can’t wait for more in this new series! You’re right — plot-wise it takes a long time to get going, but this world is so wholly original I didn’t mind.

  10. I can’t wait for my copy of this to arrive (Tanabata in Japan received hers from the book depository today!) I think I mentioned to you that I received a sampler of the first two chapters from the publisher and I am already hooked! I love the Dystopian feel to it and the chromatic theme is already discombobulating! I agree that it is very different from the Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes series.

  11. 01/08/2010

    @ Isabella: I went and read your review and I thought it was spot-on as well – the plot does get a bit unfocused at time, but for the first in a new series it is a strong “debut”. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it so much!
    @ Claire: I hope your copy arrives soon (I can’t remember what the official release date was in the UK, but surely if someone in Japan has received it yours should be showing up soon, right? Let me know if it doesn’t and I’ll raise some heck!). I am confident you’re really going to like this one.

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