Cover Image: Children of Chicago

Children of Chicago

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Member Reviews

4 1/2 Stars

The Children of Chicago goes way beyond a fairy tale retelling as it incorporates Chicago’s rich history, urban legends and Greek mythology into its continuation of the centuries-old Pied Piper tale. With a complicated, unreliable main character, and a twisty plot, I was thoroughly engrossed during the two sittings it took me to read this. It’s an entertaining story that fans of horror and dark fantasy are sure to enjoy.
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I received and ARC of this book in NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

I was going to give 3 stars to this book, but the ending took it down to 2 and half. 

This is a YA fantasy/horror novel set in modern day Chicago. It follows detective Lauren Medina as she investigates the murder of a 17-year old girl. Having lost her sister also at a young age, Lauren is particularly committed to protect the children of the city and takes this case very personally. The subsequent investigation leads to more injured kids and a dark secret lurking in the city.

Lauren is your typical 'dark' cop, who is absolutely obsessed with her work, drinks way too much coffee, and pushes away everyone around her. Despite this trope, I quite enjoyed this book, it had a nice pace and was interesting enough to keep me going. Unfortunately, I felt that Lauren's arc and the overall resolution of the case didn't reach a satisfactory ending and left me with a 'meh' feeling about it.

The other big character of this book is the city of Chicago, the city is presented as both mythical and coursed, with constant comments about the amount of gang violence and how people basically need to leave the city in order to have a good life. As someone who really likes Chicago I felt like the book mistreated the city and made its residents look as if they are trapped in there. The author would also constantly go on info-dumps of facts about the city, these comments where awkwardly placed, (most of the time) unnecessary for the plot, and broke immersion. I appreciate the amount of research into the city the author put into this, but these facts should have been better weaved into the story, instead of feeling as if I just opened an encyclopaedia article.

To sum up, for those who are interested in YA fantasy-horror it is an ok read, if you like the city of Chicago or enjoy living there, keep away from this book.
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I was so excited when the publisher @polisbooks gave me an eARC on @netgalley for Children of Chicago by Cynthia Pelayo. Out 2/9/2021, this book promised a mixture of supernatural, fairy tales and a troubled Chicago detective. The story centers on Detective Lauren Medina, who is investigating a modern day Pied Piper operating in Chicago.  When teenagers are found murdered at the park where her sister was killed when she was young, she knows the Pied Piper is back and the children of the city are not safe. The Piper demands payment. 

This is the Grimm’s version of the Piper and fairy tales feature heavily in the book. In fact, I’m now needing a new copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales to re-read since I can’t find mine. 

I loved this book and it kept me reading until the very end - it was dark, creepy and @cinapelayoauthor did such an amazing job of writing a fairy tale police procedural. The book included common themes of those genres that felt entirely new. I love books that are of their own type, and this definitely was. Lauren’s story is told in parallel to the current mystery, and she has an authentic voice whose story was as engrossing as the current murders she is trying to solve. 

The themes of this - including the history of Chicago - are fascinating. I highly recommend!

#netgalley #childrenofchicago #cynthiapelayo #polisbooks #bookstagram #booksbathsandwine
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Well, I will start with what is good. From what little I read, the characters were well-developed, the dialogue was was done well, and the world-building seemed interesting.

But the poor editing was a real issue for me. On the first page there's a glaring dangling modifier that made me read the sentence a couple times to figure out. There are run on sentences (separated by a comma), words left out of sentences in several places - and this was just on the first few pages. I think some better editing before releasing for review would be a good idea. I did hear about it from another librarian, and was looking forward to it, but the above-mentioned issues made it a dnf for me.
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Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.  Great re-telling if the Pied Piper story. Great descriptions and   I loved that it was horror and crime combined.  Truly a rewarding read
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Pelayo’s Children of Chicago is equal parts horror, crime, and magical realism, which may not sound like it’d work but it absolutely does. Right from the start, you feel as if you’ve stepped into a dream (sometimes nightmare) as tortured Detective Lauren Medina takes on a case both too close to home and wholly unpredictable. It’s the unpredictable nature of this creepy tale which kept the pages turning late at night (with a light on nearby), but it’s Medina’s oftentimes difficult relationships with other officers that grounds this tale as do the gritty, beautiful descriptions and history of Chicago. If you’ve never visited the city, you’ll want to after this read. You might even try to find a certain location from the book and track down a certain item. And if you’re smart, you’ll listen to the little voice saying, “Don’t.”
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As a native Chicagoin, this really captured the vibe of the city. Add in the dark tones and psychological aspects and you have a really intriguing book.
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I waited awhile after I finished this one before reviewing. I had to reconcile the police procedural and very character-driven crime novel elements with the mystical supernatural overtones concerning the Pied Piper as the “taker” and killer of Chicago’s children. I was not previously familiar with this author, though I tried to get a sense of her work through descriptions and comments. A Latinx author, Ms. Pelayo has received acclaim for poetry and ethnic offerings. In this book, the focus on the motivations of children and teenagers gave the novel a YA tone, yet the police sections read adult crime novels. In the end, I most enjoyed the atmospheric descriptions of Chicago landmarks and neighborhoods, but couldn’t buy into the Pied Piper/urban legend theme.
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His book was written really well but it just wasn’t for me unfortunately..............................................
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A terrifying modern take of The Pied Piper that is part horror, part crime thriller, and a whole lot of fun!

Lauren Medina is a detective in Chicago who is investigating the horrific deaths of children when she starts noticing a connection. The Pied Piper may be more than just a fairy tale. When the investigation brings back echoes of her troubled past, the lines get blurred, and Medina is faced with tough decisions.

This is a horror-crime novel that’s fast paced, action packed, and hauntingly scary. Pelayo excels at the dark creepy bits that will keep you up night. Yes, riding shotgun with a badass like Lauren Medina through the streets of Chicago was a blast, but for me the horror was the star of the novel. 

Pelayo’s love for Chicago is front and center, and bleeds through the page. I do think that at times it felt a bit too academic in its descriptions of the city and occasionally the fairy tale lore. The facts made a very juicy story feel dry at times, but it did always pick right back up.

Overall, it’s a great, frightening novel should appeal to fans of horror, thrillers, and all the shades in-between.
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The stories that we are told when we are young by our parents in the hope that they will teach us a lesson, an urban legend to warn girls to check their back seats alone or the one about the hookman at the popular makeout spot. We assume that these stories are just that stories, but what happens when these stories aren't just the stories that they are real!
Detective Lauren Medina is grieving her late father when she gets called to a case where a young girl is found. Now, background she has a difficult relationship with the public after she shot an offender. Now as they are surveying the scene they find a graffiti tag "PIED PIPER''. While this could just be a new tagger trying to make a name for themselves but Lauren can't help but feeling like this is something more, something more sinister than she ever thought possible.
As additional children are found dead Lauren sees similarities with her past and she jumps off the deep end into folklore and fairytales to try to get to the bottom of the situation.
When I was younger my grandparents bought me the Brother's Grimm Fairytale, and the Pied Piper was one of my favorites. I loved how the author brought the Pied Piper back to life with a horrifying twist!
I loved how Pelayo put a new twist to the Pied Piper, she made him come to life in her writing and he is terrifying! I love that not only do we see folklore, but this story gave chills that follow you even after the book is finished. You will feel anxious at times, even looking out your own windows at night because you swore you heard a bump in the night outside. I loved how creepy and chilling this story was. Definitely one that you won't want to miss!!!!
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Thank you @netgalley and @polisbooks for my e-arc of Children of Chicago.  I was looking forward to reading this book after having read Into the Forest and All the Way Through.  

The story is a beautiful retelling of the Pied Piper that centers on Detective Lauren Medina. She is currently in the middle of an investigation of children being murdered in the city of Chicago. The killer leaves the name Pied Piper written at the scene of the crime.

There were some quite scary and creepy elements to this book. Although, I was constantly looking up facts about the Grimm Brothers and about The Pied Piper that was part of the fun. I had forgotten how scary those fairy tales actually are. I love how Pelayo used other fairy tales into her story. Very creative.

Overall I highly recommend this book!!
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What can I say? This book is weird and wonderful. It tied elements of history, folklore, fairytales and horror together with grace. I’m from near Chicago and loved all the references to Chicago architecture and location. Especially Humboldt Park! All of the references to Grimes Fairy Tales were awesome. I own that book and love all the darkness that is a “real” fairy tale.

There was a definite theme of child neglect through this book. The main character felt ignored by the “evil stepmother”, all of the teenage characters were left to fend for themselves. It speaks to how something insidious can worm itself into your life when there are empty spaces to fill.

“It’s bad this time. I feel it. The house isn’t right. The city isn’t right. It’s like there’s this odd vibration everywhere, and I can’t turn it off.”

I can’t help but relate this to the violence of the city itself. Especially this year. Hopefully we have some hero’s from the fairy tales to save us.
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Children of Chicago is a must read for everyone who lives in or who has lived in Chicago. The plot is unique and well written. I started reading the book early Saturday morning and read straight through until late night.
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A fantastic and chilling revival of the classical tale "Pied Piper makes "Childen of Chicago" by Cynthia Pelayo a must-read novel for fans of crime, horror, and twisted spins on popular tales.

In this novel, Pelayo brings to life the violent history of Chicago's past, intertwined with present-day crimes carried out by a vicious modern-day serial killer operating under the alias of "Pied Piper." Children are dying in the city of Chicago under mysterious and gruesome circumstances. The only person who has an inkling of what's going on is Detective Lauren Medina, but to admit to knowing any detail about this case would open up dark secrets from her past that she's been trying to close shut for years. 

As more children die on Chicago's streets and the "Pied Piper" becomes a notorious modern-day killer, Medina fights tooth and nail to hunt down this killer before complete and utter control over the city is lost. The more involved she becomes in the case, the more persistent the killer becomes in reminding Medina of her past and exactly why the name "Pied Piper" sounds so familiar.

Pelayo's novel was a brutal but honest depiction of what a lifetime of crime looks like in Chicago where people will demand justice for lives lost, but will never be surprised by the bodies that litter their streets. Learning about Chicago's violent history was heartbreaking, but it added depth and realism to the crimes Pelayo created in her novel. This didn't feel like another crime novel where the detectives are scrambling to reassure the public of their safety while they're chasing down thinly veiled clues and discovering one gruesome crime scene after another. On the contrary, "Children of Chicago" had the atmosphere of a classic gothic tale with the surprising addition of the unnatural twist on the tale of "Pied Piper." 

I absolutely loved this novel and its twisted version of the "Pied Piper." "Children of Chicago" still had the same anxiety-inducing tensions and heart-racing suspense of most crime novels, but added its own unique paranormal subgenre with sinister themes running throughout. There were a few areas within the novel where sentence structure and wording got a little confusing and disrupted my understanding and the flow of the story. Though, I do understand the version I read is a rough edition of what will be published. The only other issue I had was the reference to Chicago's past crimes. In certain areas of this novel, it was highly effective and really drove home the important points Detective Medina was attempting to make about the city: how she wants to make it a safe place for everyone to live in but also how unrealistic and daunting that feels with such a long and tragic past of crime. At other points in the novel, it felt like a deviation from the events currently taking place, namely, the destructive and chaotic consequences of the serial killer called "Pied Piper." 

Overall, this was an incredible story with an original and unique perspective of the "Pied Piper." Pelayo comes prepared with knowledge of fairy tales and the hidden sinister meanings behind many of them that people either choose to ignore or twist into a happily ever after. This is definitely a novel those who enjoy horror, fairy tales, and crime should pick up and read. The expected publication date is February 09, 2020. Keep an eye out and add it to your TBR's.

A warm thank you to NetGalley and Polis Books for providing me with a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
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Of course it is alarming to think of all the children (many of them teens) that go missing in a city as large as Chicago every year. What Pelayo has imagined as the cause for many of these disappearances is both fascinating and terrifying. To think of the Pied Piper as a supernatural creature, perhaps even a mythological one, turns the traditional tale on its head--or at least gives it a gut-wrenching twist. Pelayo's characters and deeply-rooted setting are vivid and gritty. And as a librarian, I adore the key role that a rare book in the Newberry Library plays. With just a bit of the book left, I was concerned that the story would be wrapped up too quickly, but then thrilled to see that although some closure was acheived the rest is yet to come in book two.
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I can say that this book holds promise, but I felt like I read a rough draft that needs more polishing. The plot is intriguing: a re-telling of the disturbing tale of Pied Piper of Hamelin, who lured children with his magical pipe as revenge for the village’s failure to pay for his services as a rat-catcher. This one is set in present-day Chicago, where teens are turning up dead with graffiti of “Pied Piper” on the crime scene.

Detective Lauren Medina is just as troubled as the teens themselves, and she is hard to like. She’s flawed in many ways, but you couldn’t blame her: she grew up with the trauma of her biological mother leaving, her father remarrying and her younger sister dying. While I sympathize with her, I just didn’t see any sort of redemption from her flawed character. All that was presented in the end was the truth she has been seeking all her life (consciously or unconsciously).

I also know that the author wanted to present Chicago as this problematic city filled with dark pasts and it’s consuming the present, but the way it was presented wasn’t as atmospheric as what I expect it to be. There’s just more telling than showing on the city, and I hate that it ate up what could have been a nice scene on those certain parts of the book.

Still, it was a good reading experience for me. There are chilling parts of the story that really scared me (yep, I turned on the light that night). I think this is where the author’s strength lies. But the flat narration of Chicago, the jumbled scenes (jumping here and there, past and present) didn’t work out for me.

Still, I am willing to read more from this author.
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Children of Chicago has been on my most-anticipated list since I first read about it on Twitter. I absolutely adored Pelayo's crime poetry collection (Into the Forest and All the Way Through), and after reading the synopsis, I was thrilled to be approved for this title. Out in February 2021, but I could not wait that long to start reading.

Detective Lauren Medina is grieving the loss of her father when a young girl is found dead. In and of itself, this is tragic but not unheard of. The city is no stranger to violence. What Medina finds concerning is a piece of graffiti in close proximity to the body. PIED PIPER, it reads, and while her new partner believes this to be another tagger making a name for himself, Medina suspects there's something more to it. She's seen this before, in her own tragedy, and as more kids wind up dead, Medina dives headfirst into a world of myths and legends. Fairy tales, it seems, may be more than stories told to children to teach them lessons. Sometimes, they are alive, and they are hungry.

I loved this book.

As a protagonist, Lauren is one of the most authentic voices I've read in a long time. She's passionate and smart and driven yet deeply troubled. I wouldn't say flawed--that word doesn't quite encompass the layers of turmoil she struggles with--but hurt by multiple things in her past and aware not only of the damage that has been done, but her own walls she constructs to compartmentalize and protect herself. At times sarcastic and lighthearted and others gritty and raw, Lauren is a strong character demanding to be heard.

The plot, too, I found fast-paced and engrossing. The Pied Piper is as exciting as he is terrifying, and there are a few choice moments that will squeeze the bravery right out of you. Pelayo breathes fresh life into this well-known classic. I'd go so far as to say this isn't a retelling, but a studied portrait of oral tradition and its effects on culture. There are some truly fascinating details here, and I think this will appeal to a wide variety of readers, both literary and leisure.

At its core, this felt like a complex and honest love letter to Chicago. An infamous city with centuries of history, Pelayo gives us both the good and the bad, the magic and the murder. We see Walt Disney and H.H. Holmes. We see fairy tales, but we also see monsters. We see a city plagued with crime and gangs and hardships--but we also see concerned neighbors. Small kindnesses. Every day acts of decency that are as much a part of Lauren's story as her work in homicide. 

Overall, Children of Chicago is a taut, thrilling, insightful read with more than a story to tell. Trust me when I say this is one you don't want to miss. 

Huge thanks to Polis Books and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.
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WoW this book was so interesting. 
I don't think I've ever read a book like this before! 
Children of Chicago are dying in unexplained ways and Lauren is determined to find out why. 
Highly recommend grabbing this book!
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"Children of Chicago," or at least the version of it which I read, is a rough but promising first draft.  It is nowhere near ready for publication in February of next year.  It requires intensive copy editing, not just to remove sloppy typos like "fury skin" but to delete all the carelessly Googled factoids dropped into random points of the narrative in order to provide atmosphere but turning the book into a series of Wikipedia articles interspersed with a predictable horror plot.  Some of the haphazardness, like "Guy Legend" (that's the name of the club, not the singer), is just stupid.  And some of it, like naming a teenage murder victim "Hadiya" after the very real Hadiya Pendleton, is offensive, and must change.
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