Oh, what a refreshing and unbelievable fairy tale this is! The book begins with a witch who finds a child in a basket outside her home with a child so ugly his mother has abandoned it with only a note that says “a devil’s child for the devil’s wife.” The note hurts the witch; she is misunderstood but fancies she will keep the child. She does so against the advice of her familiar and gets a bear to be the boy’s nanny and an enslaved and conniving djinn to be the boy’s tutor.
Lump, as the boy is called grows up not realizing he is ugly. The witch has little time for him and his bear nanny raises him as she would a cub. Eventually, Lump is exposed to cruelty and the realization of his ugliness.
Lump eventually finds his way into the world, always wearing a mask to hide his face and the ugliness he is so sensitive about. He overcomes bitterness and hurt, makes friends and enemies and finds himself. He fights battles both in the world and within his own heart to find self-worth, love and happiness.
Mr. Gruber weaves a fine tale, tying in old and familiar fairy tales into this one with a twist. His insight into parents and their children, the misunderstandings and the hurt they unknowingly bestow on each other is amazingly accurate. He exposes prejudice and fear, love and forgiveness with a skilled hand. His fantasy world is just wondrous and his tale that much more so. I hope to read more in this genre from Mr. Gruber, as this was one of the most brilliantly written stories I’ve ever had the pleasure to read.