Having finally returned to the first book in this Fables
series I can most certainly state that I am glad I did not begin here. Sure, it's a much shorter work than some of the others - at 127 pages it was a half hour's short demolition job. But, it lacked the wow factor and fantasy elements of later novels.
What this became instead was a graphic novel mystery. A book with fairytale characters in it, but that was concerned more with its own little internal arc - a police procedural style graphic story - handled by Bigby Wolf. As such there were few references to the world-building depth of the entire series and what there were were minor tokens, dropped there to let the reader know they wanted to keep reading.
To a degree I understand why this volume proceeded as such. It seems that this entire story can be seen as the 'pilot' for the series and so, as the writers would have been unsure as to whether they could get a readership, they would have played it safe in order to have a more self contained story if the series would not have been able to continue. Which, in hindsight and with the knowledge that this became a series, appears to create an odd, self-contained work. And to me, I would much rather anyone beginning a series take more of a risk with the storytelling. But that is me, because I run with a sense that it is better to shoot for the stars than to never leave the ground. And I think the writers remain more on the ground in this volume.