BOOK REVIEW: The Story Peddler
Author: Lindsay A. Franklin
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: 5/5 Stars
The Story Peddler is one of those "stay with you, can't put it down, think about it all the time" books that I simultaneously wish I'd read sooner and am so glad I read it right now.
This book came at the high recommendation of a trusted friend and fellow author, and the moment she loaned me her copy my first thought was "WOW. THIS COVER." My second thought was - well, I'm in a reading slump, so maybe later. Through a string of events I had to give my friend her copy back to get it signed (SO JEALOUS) before I could read it, and it took me months of being in that reading slump before I finally remembered I needed to get a copy of my own.
I can't believe how fast this book hooked me once I opened it. There was never a time where I questioned if I wanted to continue it; I drank it down like water and immediately moved on to the sequel. This book is a captivating, block-busting experience. I can't recommend it highly enough!
The Story Peddler is a powerful story of self-discovery, secrets, beauty and danger, and the life-changing, kingdom-shaking power of art--and why it must never be silenced.
One such silenced artist is our heroine, Tanwen En-Yestin - an orphan from a pokey town who makes ends meet using her gift: the power of storytelling with tangible threads that weave crystallized figurines of her tales. Her dreams is to sell these figurines across the land of Tir and make a living on her way to becoming Royal Storyteller for King Gareth. But when rogue story strands emerge from one telling - and paint King Gareth as a murderer - Tanwen finds herself on the run, not toward the capital, but away from it. And away from her own execution.
Picked up by a wild band of Weavers - people with mastery over the different arts - Tanwen comes face-to-face with the depth of true storytelling power, the risks of stifling her abilities, and why the King is fighting to silence all but the crown-sanctioned arts. Together with her new friends, Tanwen faces the danger of learning her art, risking her life, and setting the kingdom free...and the consequences of choosing to let art reveal the truth.
These. Characters. You guys, I can't speak highly enough of this entire cast. Everyone knows I am a sucker for found family, and what we get with Tanwen and the Corsyth weavers is just *chef kiss* It's what I've been looking for in my reads for so long.
We start off seeing the bond between Tanwen and her surly mentor, Riwor, and then with her childhood friend Brac (which is exactly as complicated as you might think with them both approaching marrying age). I'll admit, Brac rubbed me wrong - as the author fully intended - and the way Riwor treated Tanwen made me want to shove her off her donkey cart.
And then Franklin had the audacity to introduce a smirky, dark-haired, blue-eyed pirate and that was the end of me, farewell RIP I have p e r i s h e d.
Coming back from the dead, it's probably fairly obvious Mor is my favorite next to Tanwen; but honestly ALL of the Corsyth weavers are amazing. From maternal Karlith, to suffering Gryfelle, to hotheaded Dylun, lovestruck Zelyth and the sharp-edged Warmil and Aeron dancing around their feelings for each other, not to mention Mor with the dark past he's trying to atone for, this group captured my heart from the very first moment and never let go. I was equally invested in each of them - something ensemble casts don't always do for me - and I found myself enjoying every last second of their interactions with each other and with Tanwen.
In addition we have a group of royalty to follow - Princess Braith and her maid and best friend, Cameria, and the slew of villainous types swirling around them in the capital. I worried I'd be bored by Braith's POV, being so intrigued by Tanwen's story, but Braith is a princess worth rooting for; her desperation to help the people her father harms and bring peace and balance to the Tirian Empire makes her an absolute sweetheart to read about. I was equally happy in both POVs and enamored with each cast - even the hateable ones, because they're the sort you LOVE to hate!
The worldbuilding in TSP is phenomenal. Everything fits together like puzzle pieces, from locational matters to the naming style to the magic system.
The Corsyth, Pembrone, and Urian all leaped off the pages in my mind, colorful, dull, flourishing in turn. Each place felt like it had the proper time to build up without wasting words on excess description. While there was a map provided, I never really had to use it; the writing laid out the world so crisp and clear, for the most part I could navigate with my head rather than referring to the map, which is a big deal for someone as visual as me!
The naming system. I just have to comment on this. I love the way full names are linked together in this book. It's another added layer of depth that, once you see how to works, you can learn a lot about characters just by reading their names!
And the magic system. GOOD GRIEF. This could not be any cooler, tbh. I utterly adored that art was at the center of their magic and it was being censored by a King who fears art exposing the truth about him. Yet this powerful system is not without its cost, which we're introduced to by way of a certain character's suffering - a glimpse that resonated with me to a degree as a storyteller who has suppressed her won craft many times to her personal detriment.
If I had to pick one word to describe the worldbuilding in this series, it would be COOL. Everything about it is just COOL.
The plot in TSP is uncomplicated in a good way - not dull, but fairly striaghtforward. In addition to Tanwen's journey into the Corsyth - and into her powers - we also see the POV of Princess Braith, King Gareth's daughter, fighting an uphill battle to influence her father's cruel court. So there's the hero's journey into learning the truth of their world and their power, but concurrent to that we have a depth of political intrigue as Braith's story weaves into Tanwen's - and eventually intersects.
The plot may not be for everyone - there isn't a ton of fighting and close-quarters action - but as a reader I found it to be precisely what I wanted, with just enough internal and external tension to keep a steady clip from start to finish. I loved seeing Tanwen grow in her knowledge and the stakes increase while Braith danced through the court on a knife's edge with the likes of High Priest Naith and Sir Dray. There was just so much layer and depth to it!
The prose is probably what will stick with me the longest from this series. Tanwen's POV has a true storyteller's cadence; at many times I felt like a peasant sitting at one of her peddling shows, listening to her tell this book as a story. The First Person narrative in Tanwen's sections stays perfectly true to her speaking voice - something I find myself wishing for more of in particularly YA First Person books - and kept a solid, swift, beautiful structure in the Third Person sections for Braith and The One in the Dark as well.
The Story Peddler is a fantastic beginning to the Weaver trilogy; bold in its message, warm in its heart, swift and powerful in its delivery, this is a book that will stay with me for a long time. I'm dragging my heels on reading the sequel simply because I dread the wait until Book 3!
If you're looking for a well-voiced, expertly-built, intriguing hook of a YA fantasy book, pick up a copy of The Story Peddler and its sequel, The Story Raider, today!