The medieval adventures of the teen-aged Grimpow tapped into the potentially vast bonanza of sales to Young Adults that was created by the Harry Potter series. But, the first volume of the Grimpow series, Grimpow—The Invisible Road, didn’t quite measure up. The Spanish language original sold well in Spain, but the English translation sold poorly (Grimpow: Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #905,195).
I purchased on Amazon the Spanish language Grimpow and, with a second inadvertent click I also bought the English translation (on-line buying has its dangers). My error gave me the opportunity to read and compare the original and English translation.
Mega-publisher Random House put its marketing might behind the Grimpow story, but the book didn’t catch hold. American readers were not impressed by a strangely named medieval teen-ager on a quest through France in search of a “powerful, mysterious secret”. Perhaps a gifted boy aided by a wise older man and a precocious girl can conquer all obstacles and achieve the unachievable in fiction, but that formula is hardly innovative. Maybe American teen-agers just didn’t relate to the story or the characters. Or maybe, the villains, henchmen of the King of France and the French Inquisitor, may seem a bit abstract for a generation who grew up on Darth Vader movies. Whatever the reasons, the English translation did not sell well to American readers.
I read and enjoyed the Spanish Grimpow. Perhaps because I like stories set in 14th century Europe where the Kings and Popes are evil. The story, although predictable, captured my interest. The story ends with Grimpow, the fetching Weinell, and the wise knight Salietti finding themselves in the great Cathedral at Reims (Notre-Dame de Reims). They had solved the enigma set before them at the beginning of the book and plan to retire to a castle in Italy far from the evil hands of the King of France and the Inquisitor who wish to do them harm.
Volume 2, Grimbow y la bruja de la estirpe, takes up where volume 1 ends and, predictably, the protagonists’ retirement plans are postponed by a new adventure. The first two chapters are available for download at the Spanish on-line bookstore Casa del Libro. No translation is presently available.
If you read Grimpow in Spanish, I recommend you start with volume 1, which is available on Amazon. If you read in English, avoid Grimpow altogether and, assuming you have already read Harry Potter, pick a book like The City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende (La Ciudad de las Bestias) or The Lights of September by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (Las luces de septiembre).
Allende’s The City of the Beasts takes place in the jungles of Venezuela and the jungle scenes are pretty scary; it features a teen-age American boy, his travel writer Grandmother and an absolutely great teen-age Venezuelan girl. It’s a fascinating book. The series has two more volumes: adventures in the Himalayas (Kingdom of the Golden Dragon) and Africa (Forest of the Pygmies). Allende has a site on the WWW for you to visit.
The Lights of September is an early novel by the great Barcelona writer Ruiz Zafón (Shadow of the Winds, The Angels Game) that features a teen-age French girl and her good-looking sidekick fighting mysterious automatons on the French coast. The bad guy is a truly evil Nazi that everyone can hate. Check out Ruiz Zafón on the WWW.
But, I have wandered off topic, this blog is about cleaning out my library—what to do with the English translation of Grimpow? Clearly it has to go.
The deaccession count: Posts 9, Books 19.