Fairy tales are real! And that’s not a good thing. Do we really want whole towns falling asleep for 100 years because a Sleeping Beauty’s story has gone active? In this book fairy tales are like a constantly mutating force of nature that’s trying to manifest in our “real” world, so of course there’s a secret government agency, the ATI Management Bureau, whose agents spend their time running between potential story disasters in the struggle to keep us all safe.
Most of the members of the team we follow have had their own lives almost derailed by fairy tales–there’s a Snow White (who’s haunted by the smell of apples and pursued by determined woodland creatures), a cobbler elf (who’s constantly trying to make, fix or organize things), an evil stepsister (who has to suppress her natural urge to kill other team members) and a Pied Piper (who’s new on the job and is having a hard time adjusting to her changed reality.)
The book has an urban fantasy tone that’s light on romance, somewhat dark, often funny, and very imaginative. Seanan McGuire knows a lot about fairy tales, myths, and nursery rhymes, which she uses to great effect. As a bibliophile I can’t resist a good “stories are real!” motif (another example being Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series.) Indexing began its life as a Kindle Serial, with chapters released every few weeks, but I listened to the audio version, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal, who is fantastic at giving each character a distinctive voice–a great boon since I was “reading” while driving.