“Fairy tales have their own remorseless logic and their own rules,” Audrey Niffenegger notes in her acknowledgments to this illustrated novella. She’s absolutely right. Would that she had followed those rules.
Niffenegger has a well-earned reputation as a fantasist. She’s also been creating illustrated books since before her bestselling novel “The Time Traveler’s Wife” made her famous. “Raven Girl” was commissioned as a scenario for a ballet choreographed by Wayne McGregor that will debut in London next week. The story is very much in the mode of fairy tales, built around an impossible love and a difficult transformation, although the “once” that opens it seems to refer to the present day.
Niffenegger’s text pauses every few pages for one of her prettily textured if wobbly aquatint illustrations.The most striking sequence is the opening, in which a postman is tasked with delivering a letter to a raven’s nest. He carries home a fledgling and they fall in love. After a witty pause, they have an egg, from which hatches a human girl who can only speak the language of ravens. So far, so fabulistic. But then, unfortunately, Niffenegger’s tale strays from the path — always a bad thing to do in fairy tales — and her book loses its promising strangeness.