Pay the Piper

Pay the Piper
by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple
YA fantasy. 176 pp.
Starscape. 2005.

I find it interesting how often Yolen co-authors books. It makes me wonder how much of her own voice I'm getting and what not. This isn't to say I don't like her work. I do. I find her to be an interesting author who tackles a wide range of subjects and styles. There's something a bit admirable about that. This time, she teams up with her son, a professional rock musician.

Pay the Piper is an interesting book. It takes as its premise that the Pied Piper of Hameln was an outcast prince of faerie. Every seven years, he must return a teind to his father of gold, silver, or souls. Typically he manages to scrape together his teind in money, but occasionally he falls short, and children are more susceptible to his magic than adults. Hence Hameln and the number of children who disappeared during the Children's Crusades.

Now, with the name Peter Gringras, he is the lead singer in a band called Brass Rat. They have performed for years now. People are captivated by their music. Callie McCallan is a school reporter in a small Massachusetts town. The band is playing her town just a few days before the teind is due. Unbeknownst to Brass Rat, this concert is for charity, so they don't make the teind, which means that Gringras must resort to souls.

Callie, because of things she's accidentally seen, has nearly figured out what's going on. When the children of the town disappear on Halloween, Callie sets out to save them. In the process she tries to figure out a way to break the curse that subjects Gringras to his fate.

Overall, it's a charming tale and a fairly quick read. It's not stellar, nor is it Yolen's best work/collaboration. But it's an imaginative take on the fairy tale genre, and you get the added bonus of having Brass Rat's lyrics at the end of the book. That's kinda cool. Supposedly, this is the first in a series of Rock 'n' Roll fairy tales. But if you want a good imagining and retelling of the Pied Piper story, I recommend turning to Donna Jo Napoli's Breath instead.

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