The Storyspinner: Review

April 2, 2015 2015, 3.5 star books, fantasy, Kim 31 ★★★½

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
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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.

 

 

A finished copy was provided by the publisher for this review.

 

kim teal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

31 Responses to “The Storyspinner: Review”

  1. J. Oh

    I hadn’t heard about this yet, but now I’m excited for it! :) I prefer high fantasy, but any YA fantasy with strong characters will draw me in. And a slow burn romance is definitely a plus for me! Love those.

  2. Kate

    Just finished this book this morning and thoroughly enjoyed it!

    I am a major flipper, so I totally agree about the map. I flip back to maps constantly while I read – I even flip back to previously chapters to review something that I might have dismissed earlier in the book.

    I also had trouble getting into this novel – but once I was hooked, I found it hard to put down. I am always a bit standoffish when I read just about everything, so I also trudge through the first few chapters of ever book with a bit of distance. Usually by a few chapters in, something will happen that will entrap me. It just took a bit longer with this one. But I will say that once it had me, I was hooked.

    The cast of characters was delightful in this novel and I always appreciated well-developed secondary characters. Everyone felt real and layered, even if they weren’t prominent.

    The Keepers (Pira, Jacare, Leao, and Tex) took me a bit longer to warm up too, mostly because I was a wee bit uncertain about who they were, but once I began to get a better sense of the world, I began to really adore them.

    Once I found myself deeper into the book, I was glad that the world-building was slow. And I went back to reread the first few Chapters with Jacare, Pira, and Leao (which at first, I didn’t pay as much attention too).

    I’m actually pretty excited to see where Becky Wallace takes this story, because it was getting pretty exciting towards the end and I think she’s set-up some pretty fantastic adventures.

    The love-interest is Rafi though, not Dom. Although one day I hope to read a book where the goofy younger-brother actually gets the girl, over the sensible, brooding but secretly-gentle older brother.

  3. Alisa @ Papercuttts

    Huuh the type of reader you recommended this to describes me perfectly, so I added this to my TBR. I’m not generally a fan of series books, but I kind of want to be one of those people, so I have something to really look forward too. This can start my fangirling career!
    Alisa @ Papercuttts recently posted…Life Update || April 2015

    • Kim

      Oh oh? You would like to be a fan of series books? *pulls up chair* *sidles next to you* I can recommend many if you’d like! I am the opposite. I love series because I love being able to follow along and get really involved in characters lives and development. I can give you ALL THE RECS!
      Kim recently posted…Classic Readalong Discussion: A Ring of Endless Light

  4. Bonnie @ For the Love of Words

    Maps are super helpful for me too. With fantasy books, I usually find myself taking a ton of notes and references which also usually involves arrows and stuff which helps make total sense even though it looks like it wouldn’t. hahaha This one was already on my TBR but you’ve definitely sold me on my need to try to obtain this as soon as possible. Fantastic review! :)
    Bonnie @ For the Love of Words recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday – Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

    • Kim

      Everyone in the usual YA fantasy crowd seems to really be enjoying this one and for good reason! I wish I wasn’t quuuuite so map dependent because it kept me distracted from really getting as into it as I would’ve liked but what can you do. There are definitely maps floating around on the internet that you can look up! But I didn’t know it before reading. :( I’m excited to have it for Book 2, though. This is one of those series where you can just tell how Book 1 primed everything for a real take off in action, adventure, and romance. I’m excited! :D
      Kim recently posted…Crimson Bound: guest post + giveaway

  5. Rebecca

    Great review! I’m looking forward to reading this, so I’m glad to hear you liked it. Also, I totally second your comment about the maps. I’m also a “constant flipper” and I find that I’m able to ground myself more in a world when I can look at a map. Right now I’m reading RED QUEEN (which I think you reviewed a while ago and weren’t, ah, totally thrilled with, haha) and I really wish there was a map in that book. Not being able to see the layout of the world is kind of driving me nuts. Sigh.

    • Kim

      Yay! A fellow flipper. *high five* It’s so bad with me. Sometimes with e-galleys I will have the book open on my Kindle and pull the map up on my ipad’s Kindle app. Map Dependent. It’s a real condition! There are dozens of us!

      Also, I am interested in hearing what you made of RED QUEEN. Do feel free to regale me. :) Yes, I was not the biggest fan. But the map didn’t bother me so much there because I am very certain that it takes place in the ruins our future. There were a ton of hints (that I think were supposed to be subtle?) so I just filled in. From what I gathered that takes place in the former Northeastern US.
      Kim recently posted…The Game of Love and Death: Review

      • Rebecca

        Map Dependent is a good term for it! I think that’s why I prefer to read physical copies of fantasies. I love my Kindle, but I hate not being able to easily flip back to the map. I’ll have to try the Kindle/iPad method next time!

        Oh RED QUEEN. Either I was a little slow on the uptake or the hints were TOO subtle, because I didn’t realize it was supposed to be a future America until maybe halfway through? With the title and synopsis, I just assumed it was fantasy. I sort of enjoyed it, although I had to turn my brain off and not think too hard in order to do so (which could be why I missed those hints haha). But I don’t really know what to think of it…it felt like a big mash-up of a bunch of other YA books and it was super predictable, but I was still interested enough to keep reading. And I did like the superpower aspect and the action scenes. So I’m conflicted. I’m just glad borrowed it from the library instead of buying it.

  6. Alexa S.

    I’m really looking forward to reading The Storyspinner! It sounds like a fantasy I will probably wind up enjoying, particularly with all the elements you’ve highlighted. Glad you wound up liking it by the end! (Also, captain of the guards are definitely just my type too! I’m pretty sure we like mostly the same fantasy boys… which rocks!)
    Alexa S. recently posted…Time Travel To: Regency England

    • Kim

      Oh it is definitely an Alexa book! I’m actually surprised you haven’t read it already! And you will totalllllly be rooting for Jacare (and honestly–pretty much all of the POV characters, and the side characters…just everyone who’s not a villain!) It’s hard not to, such is the skill of Ms. Wallace. I can’t wait for you to read it too! :D
      Kim recently posted…Classic Readalong Discussion: The Secret Garden

    • Kim

      Yes, fingers crossed for more romance in the sequel! I should think so now that we’ve had all the set up necessary for the a Book 1. I was overall so impressed that this was a debut! I would never have known. This just portends to me that we’re in store for even more of a treat in Book 2 which, yes, is basically me betting on more romance. ;)
      Kim recently posted…Classic Readalong Discussion: The Secret Garden

  7. Layla

    I cannot believe that you are the person for whom those maps are created. I like looking at them and like the idea of them but NEVER USE THEM EVER EVER EVER. It is incredible. I had no idea you were a constant flipper! Do you actually use the maps to envision what is happening as the story is progressing?

    (My mind is BLOWN.)

    I will think about picking this up at some point if there are not one but TWO (two!) ships to ship, and maybe another evil shippy-ship to ship besides. I do enjoy shippitude, I don’t need maps, and as long as the character development is solid, this sounds totes awesome to me. Rainforest with nightmare creatures! (Are they spiders or seedpods? ;)) Say no more!
    Layla recently posted…Classic Readalong Discussion: The Secret Garden

    • Kim

      Omg, it’s sooooo bad. I need maps. Sometimes if there isn’t a map I may be basically incapable of reading the book. I tried reading A GAME OF THRONES three times before I could actually get into the book. And the only way I was able to do this was by sitting at my computer with a detailed map of the world in front of me that I could keep glancing at for reference every time the characters went to a new place (I was reading them as ebooks). I pretty much *never* read fantasy books as ebooks. It’s sort of impossible for me! I think this all ties back around to how I was telling you about how I always need subtitles on when I’m watching TV and movies. I’m just very intensely visually oriented. So yes, to answer your question. I basically have trouble envisioning what is happening in fantasy without a map so that is what i use them for!

      Oh yeahhhhhh. You should pick this up! Most people were able to connect to it a lot more than I did (Emily loved it!). Honestly, I think it was just my mood more than anything. Bad ass fantasy girl yeah! Shippity ships yeah! Lady villain yeah!

      This book is blessedly free of both spider eyes and seed pods. Otherwise I would have rapidly DNF’ed it in a fit of panic and banished the book to the dark corners of the universe.
      Kim recently posted…Classic Readalong Discussion: The Secret Garden

      • Kate

        For me, your description was bang on!
        I really enjoyed this book, but something was holding me back from connecting to these characters as much as I would have liked… It did come, towards the end of the novel, but in the beginning I really struggled.

        I think that the second book could be amazing though. :)

    • Kim

      Oh you would love it, Pili! I know you would! It takes a lot to stand out in YA fantasy and I can assure Becky Wallace did a great job! And, you know, there are ships but the romance takes a back seat so you don’t have to worry there! (Of course, with me, I always want mooooooooar) :p
      Kim recently posted…The Storyspinner: Review

    • Kim

      Yay! I’m always so happy to make people aware of a book they hadn’t heard of before. And especially because it sounds like you would love this one! I hope you get to read it and soon. It’s definitely of a favorite of 2015 so far!
      Kim recently posted…The Storyspinner: Review

    • Kim

      I knowwww. More Vibora pretty please, Becky??? I loved her but I am always a sucker for a lady villain. Totally impressed that this was a debut. I can’t wait for Book 2 and more from this author. :)
      Kim recently posted…The Storyspinner: Review

    • Kim

      I had a feeling this one might’ve been flying under the radar. I hope I can help get it into the hands of the right reader–sounds like you are one, Anne! I really enjoyed it too. The right balance of adventure, political intrigue, and romance!
      Kim recently posted…The Storyspinner: Review

    • Kim

      Oh that’s okay. I still enjoyed it very much and it still even gets a “2015 favorites” tag on Goodreads. It’s a genuinely good book! My silly map insistence just got in the way, I think. Boo at my brain! Silly brain.
      Kim recently posted…The Storyspinner: Review

  8. Carina Olsen

    Gorgeous review Kim. <3 I'm so happy you really liked this book, despite not fully loving it :D I'm so excited about reading it. Which I shall be doing soonish. Hopefully :) I was also a bit worried about the plot.. lost princess.. done so many times :p but YAY for it working in this book :D And I'm so happy you loved the characters too. I can't wait to read it :) Hope I'll like it like you did; if not more, hih. <3
    Carina Olsen recently posted…The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

    • Kim

      I did enjoy it so much! It’s the sort of review where I need to make clear that the failure was all mine in just not connecting *as much* as I had wanted to. It’s a stellar story with strong writing! Like, it might just not have been the right time, you know? Sometimes I’ll start a book and I’m not really feeling it so I put it aside. I’ll try later and get instantly absorbed. Ugh, I’m such a terribly bad mood reader. It can be so inconvenient! But anyway, yes! I think you’ll adore this one! If for nothing else but those glorious ships! :D
      Kim recently posted…The Storyspinner: Review