Magical realms call to me. You know it. You’ve seen what I like to read – and write. It’s no surprise that Becky Wallace’s The Storyspinner has been on my Goodreads to be read list for many months.
In fact, each time I see the cover and read the blurb, I want to open the book. This is why I’m thankful for Amazon wish lists (note to self: add that to your 365 days of gratitude list).
I added the book to my wish list. One of my children purchased the book for me at Christmas. Of course, the pile of books I hauled in that day (which doesn’t include the electronic versions) will take a few months to devour.
(On a side note: I love the title to this book. As a spinner of stories, it set my imagination on fire. Kudos to the author for writing a story worthy of such a compelling title.)
I should have started with The Storyspinner. It is an epic fantasy (even by the definition given be fantasy faction) and I loved it anyway.
Yes, you read that right.
Usually, epic fantasy doesn’t float my book boat. There are too many characters that I don’t like, but I have to be in their heads for the sake of the story sprawl. The author generally kills off the ones I do like (yes, George R.R. Martin, I’m looking at you). And there’s too much description bogging down the pace.
Why am I giving five stars to this book that is the first in a new young adult epic fantasy series then?
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.
This book has the main ingredients any fantasy novel needs to grab my interest: an interesting magical system and a strong heroine (or hero, preferably both).
The books starts off with only a few pages from Johanna’s normal world. We get to meet her father and see inside her idyllic family life. By the end of the prologue, all that changes.
I’m intrigued by The Keepers. The small glimpse we get inside their government makes me think of wizards only more political. The magic they wield is elemental magic, but accessed in a unique way. In fact, much about the magic was left to my imagination (which I prefer), but it will be interesting to learn more about its origin and adaptation as the series continues.
There is romance – two of them even. I’m usually not a fan of the “hate each other at first sight” trope, however, Wallace uses it effectively. The first meeting between Rafael and Johanna can’t help but create some animosity. It took me longer to understand and accept Rafi’s negative responses, but in retrospect I see this as well-written by the author.
Action piles on top of action. There are sword fights, magical fights, and tension on every page.
If you like the bard character in medieval literature, you’ll enjoy this story since that’s Johanna’s performing strength. Although some stereotypical Gypsy performer elements were present, there was a new element infused into it that made those characters more than that.
I’m interested to see where the author will go with the idea of The Keepers being considered deities among some of the people. I like that the “good guys” are appalled by this idea, while the “bad guys” use that reverence. They twist it into fear and use it to enslave people.
Johanna didn’t act like a typical teenager. She’s older and thrust into a position of responsibility, which explains part of it. Most of the time I forgot I was reading about a sixteen-year-old.
Still, all the characters were well-drawn and pulled me further into the story. I enjoyed jumping between the different perspectives, not finding any of them tedious to read.
There are a few thematic elements and scenes of violence that might be difficult for younger readers. I would suggest this book for mature teens only (I won’t put an age because some are more mature at thirteen than others at eighteen).
This novel is perfect for a fantasy lover (like myself), someone who enjoys action and adventure and even those who like historical fiction. Yes, this is set in a different world, but it has many elements associated with the medieval time frame. Apparently, that’s a requisite for epic fantasy (see this post).
The romantic elements are present but not overwhelming. The adult romance toes the line of becoming too descriptive, but it isn’t a book that needs disclaimers about sex.
Upon finishing, I raced to Amazon to purchase the sequel. Sadly, it isn’t available until March 22.
And, yes, it’s on my Amazon wish list.
Because sometimes those wishes are granted.