The Storyspinner: Review

The Storyspinner: ReviewThe Storyspinner by Becky Wallace
Series: The Keepers’ Chronicles #1
Published by Margaret K. McElderry on March 3, 2015
Genres: fantasy
Pages: 417
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Amazon • Indiebound • Barnes & Noble • Goodreads

three-half-stars

Drama and danger abound in this fantasy realm where dukes play a game for the throne, magical warriors race to find the missing heir, and romance blossoms where it is least expected.

In a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo’s case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father’s death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don’t get along. But while Johanna’s father’s death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren’t so sure.

The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess—the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren’t the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up—girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna.

With dukes, Keepers, and a killer all after the princess, Johanna finds herself caught up in political machinations for the throne, threats on her life, and an unexpected romance that could change everything.

It can be hard to stand out in the saturated YA fantasy market. It seems that inevitably there will be an outrageously evil king/powerful noble, a lost princess, and the recovery of unknown powers. And those elements are all present here, but in the hands of a skilled author they are more than welcome. In taking such an overly done story and making it interesting and original, I am happy to say that Becky Wallace succeeds in spades.

I admit that I stumbled a bit in the beginning of this novel. Even though I am such a veteran fantasy reader, I need maps. They help me orient myself to the world and understand everything so much better. My mind races too much when introduced to foreign proper names and concepts to just let me be and enjoy the reading experience. I am a “constant flipper.” Yes, index finger permanently marked on the map page and going back and forth every time a place name is mentioned. So I admit that not having a map is part of what kept me from immediately connecting with this story in the way I would’ve preferred. The good news is that those without my particular quirk won’t have that problem at all!

The Storyspinner is definitely a fantasy of the “low” nature. The sort where it feels much more like (medieval) historical fiction with an interjection of magic. I loved that this was a Brazilian tinged fantasy with all the magic of both a fantastical and a realistic nature. Yes, of course there is magic in spells and powers. But there is a magic in the rainforest too. A magic born of nature and therefore all the more accessible to the reader.

What eventually really grabbed me is that this is a character driven fantasy and these are characters done very well. I am still so impressed that this is a debut novel. Wallace is juggling more than the fair share of POVs, yet each is a fully fleshed individual who reveal themselves in moments of quiet reflection and outspoken action. They all feel like real people. The story is told through two main plotlines and 5 main alternating POVs (with a few other additional voices occasionally interspersed).

Johanna and Dom tell the story of a young (common) woman and the noble who befriends her and finds unsuspecting reason to take up her cause. Yes, there is banter! Yes, there is a hate to love relationship! Yes, it is adorable! Jacare, Leao, and Pira provide the voice of The Keepers. Beings with magical powers who have been separated from human society for 300 years. They have their own reasons to search for the lost princess but all will be revealed in due time. I enjoyed these characters so much, and the growth they witness is heaven to character readers like me!

I’ve heard a lot about the ships in this book but I honestly thought the book could have stood to put romance more on the front burner. Or at least, for as much as I’d heard of the reputed ships of this book I expected it to be more romance heavy! There are two couples: Johanna and Dom and Pira and Leao. Both are slow burns with only a kiss or two between each couple by book’s end. Still, both ships are 100% adorable and swoonworthy and yes, please, do feel free to go on to full on glorious shippitude in the next book.

Also, this book has a delicious, lady villainess who may or may not be the long lost love of Jacare. Please, Becky Wallace, pleeeeease more of Jacare and Vibora’s story. Okay, you guys, Jacare isn’t a love interest character and is less of a main character than others, but he is a stolid, emotionally closed off captain of the guard (aka Kim Bait). I have to root for him and his (potentially) (villainous) lady love. Please, I adore the story of their tragic love! There is clearly so much more to Vibora who is so beautiful and exudes charisma. If you love ambiguous villains this is a story for you.

The final third of this book is so strong, though. It’s everything you want in an adventure/fantasy. There’s adrenaline fueled fights through the rainforest fraught with nightmare creatures, unexpected turns of plot, and death, and destruction, and heartbreak. There’s a lot packed into the ending and it’s sure to leave you frantically turning pages.

Ultimately, I feel like I wish I had been able to connect with everything just a little bit more. I’m not sure if this was due to my confusion in the beginning regarding getting oriented with the world or not. Perhaps it was just my mood. Reading can be so strange that way! The book doesn’t quite end on a cliffhanger. There are threads of intense interest left up in the air, but also a good amount of satisfaction on the (current) fates of the characters. I heartily recommend this one to lovers of low fantasy, those who don’t like romance overtaking the plot, and those who thirst for a bit of surprise and action in their tales of political intrigue.

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