The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace
Book One of the Keepers' Chronicles
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss
Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
What I Liked:
I KNEW I WOULD LIKE THIS ONE! Granted, it's fantasy, it has all the makings of an "Alyssa" book, and many bloggers I trust really enjoyed this book. It's a pretty unique book, as far as fantasy goes, and I'm really intrigued!
Johanna and her family have been exiled from the Performers camp, since her father fell to his death during a performance. Johanna becomes employed under Lord Rafael, future Duke of Santiago. They meet by chance; Johanna is hunting to feed her family, and Rafi thinks she is poaching (which is illegal). He accosts her, thinking that she is a poacher and a male. But she is neither, and Rafi is indebted to her (kind of, as punishment for harming her). So she performs (sings and tells stories) for the guests. Meanwhile, the Keepers are real, and they are looking for the lost princess. This was spurred on by the death of the guardian of a pendant of which the princess is the heir. Johanna has no idea about anything related to the dukedom, the Keepers, the magic that shouldn't exist, the lost princess, but she is involved more than she thinks she is.
Johanna is a very likable protagonist - she is selfless and kind, fierce and loyal. She takes care of her two younger brothers, and her older brother, and her drunk mother. She was caught by Lord Rafael because she was trying to provide for her three growing brothers, her mother, and herself. Johanna is a very capable huntress, as well as sister, and Performer. She captives those she meets, those for whom she sings or tells stories.
This book is written in third person, and we are not limited to Johanna's narrative. Rafi is a significant character whose perspective is shared, as well as several of the Keepers looking for the lost princess. Jacare is a Keeper who leads the other three Keepers. His half-sister, Pira, is a prickly Commander and soldier with an affinity for Earth. Leao is a Mage, strong in all five elements. Tex is an ancient Keeper, with plenty of wisdom and advice.
Keepers have and wield magic, and most characters have an affinity for one of the four elements. Pira, for example, is extremely strong with Earth. Leao can control all of the elements (which is why he is a mage). Jacare and Tex are strong Keepers as well. These four Keepers spend this book trying to uncover the death of Johanna's father (though they do not know of Johanna, or that the man they are looking for is her father).
Having so many different third-person narratives was really helpful, for me. I liked reading from different characters' perspectives. It was easier for me to understand and connect with them. For example, I probably would not have liked Jacare at all, if I didn't get to understand his motives and thinking. Same with Leao.
I enjoyed the plot with the Keepers, but I really, really liked the plot with Johanna, and Rafi. Their interactions were much more interesting, and I loved seeing them fight. Literally and figuratively. They do not like each other at first, yet they're constantly saving each other. If there wasn't a romance budding between them, I'd be furious, because there is a lot of tension between them, and it has to go somewhere, in my opinion...
So, the romance. It's very, very slow and subtle in this book. I say "slow" but it's not a bad thing. I loved the slow-burn progression of the romance. The two characters don't just bump heads and fall in love. They start off hating each other and keep getting on each other's nerves and even in the end, they're aggravating each other, but it's wonderful and passionate... yes. I love these types of relationships. Fire turned passionate.
There is another romance in this story, between two different characters. Take a guess - it's two Keepers. Pira and Leao definitely do NOT start off liking each other. If anything, Pira has some serious contempt for Leao, and Leao is a bit intimidated by Pira. But their relationship is so sweet (and jealousy-filled, on Pira's side, because Leao is very good-looking and attracts a lot of girls).
I know I haven't said too much about the story, but I'm doing that on purpose, and keeping the plot a bit vague. The synopsis does a pretty good job of summarizing the book, but there's nothing like reading the book yourself! And it's a bit complicated to explain (as with most fantasy novels). But seriously! I would recommend you read this one yourself! The ending isn't tragic or cliffhanger-y or crazy. Definitely a great first novel!
What I Did Not Like:
I know I said this one was pretty unique - and it is, with the Performers thing - but the lost princess thing is so cliche. I mean, I know, it's high fantasy, and they all start to sound the same, but the whole "lost royal" thing is a bit overdone. There are plenty of fabulously unique elements in this book, like the Performers, the forgotten Keepers, the sexy duke (hehe), but the lost princess trope is definitely not unique.
I really enjoyed this book! Fantasy is my favorite genre, and I read so much of it, and I love it, and I love this one. I would highly recommend this one to fantasy lovers - although I will say, if you're looking for a super heavy romance, you won't find that in this book (not that I thought that was a bad thing - I was a HUGE fan of the romance). Just a note!
4 stars. I'll definitely be reading the second book! It's too long a wait until then. More fantasy please! More Rafi and Johanna...
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