Ahoy there me mateys! I received this middle-grade fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. So here be me honest musings . . .
saving fable (Scott Reintgen)
Title: saving fable
Author: Scott Reintgen
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: Tomorrow, September 17, 2019!!! (hardback/e-book)
When I was offered an eArc of this book, I jumped at the chance. The premise be awesome. The story centers around Indira Story who has been a character-in-waiting who yearns to be a protagonist in an author’s book one day. But to do so, she has to be selected to go to Fable to attend the Protagonist Preparatory. Indira is excited to get her chance but be upset to discover herself in the side-character tract. Indira is determined to earn protagonist status. But everything seems to be going wrong . . .
On the novel’s Goodreads page the author says, “This book is a love letter to the world of literature. I wrapped up everything we love about books and shoved it all inside a breathless adventure story about a girl trying to figure out what it means to be a hero.”
This love of literature can certainly be seen in the lovely world-building. I really did like the idea of a school where characters train to be more rounded, to develop interests and quirks, and to broaden their horizons in order to catch the eye of a potential author. I loved that famous characters from other stories are teachers. Particular favourites include Alice, Mr. Darcy, and Romeo Montague. I loved the set-up for the book with its different towns and jobs for the characters.
I also think that Indira Story was a fantastic character. I was rooting for her the entire time. I absolutely adored her host family and thought many of their scenes were some of the strongest of the book. Her other character friends were fun but I do wish they had a more page time and were fleshed out further. I especially would have liked Peeve to not have disappeared for the entire second-half of the story. But this being a first book of the series, maybe those characters will make bigger appearances in later books.
I did think the first half of the plot was much stronger than the second. Once Indira got to the school and had her first day of classes, the story did get a bit muddled. Also the world-building suffered after this point too. There was never really enough description of the town of Fable or the inside of the school itself. The classes themselves weren’t discussed in much detail either. The evil character in this book did have a believable backstory which I enjoyed. I just think that the mystery plot elements and resolutions weren’t particularly strong.
Also the comparison of this to the Phantom Tollbooth is over-reaching. While the concepts are fun, the story is not overly clever and certainly doesn’t have the magnitude of the magic of language like that classic. It lead me to having high expectations that weren’t fulfulled. That said, I do think this be a story that kids should love. This adult did like it and would certainly be willing to read the next installment of the series. As the author says:
As you enter a world where everything about books has literally come to life, I’d encourage you to keep a few things in mind::
1. Bookmarks are bad at giving advice, because they miss entire chapters in the story.
2. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes.
3. Mr. Darcy’s class, Love by Page 12, always takes place in the Rainy Courtyard.
4. Down in the Sepulcher, one can find every Unfinished story that’s ever been written.
5. Every story YOU write creates new jobs for these characters. It’d be a shame for you to leave them unemployed. So go ahead and write the story that only you could write. These characters are training hard in school to make sure they’re ready for the day you do.
So lastly . . .
Thank you Crown Books for Young Readers!
Goodread’s website has this to say about the novel:
Side characters can be heroes too in this charming and fast-paced adventure that is The Land of Stories meets The Phantom Tollbooth!
Indira has been a character-in-waiting her entire life. So she can’t believe her luck when she’s finally chosen to travel to Fable and study at the renowned Protagonist Preparatory, a school known for producing the best heroes.
But Indira’s dreams of achieving hero status don’t exactly go as planned. A failed audition lands her in the school’s side-character track, and her best efforts to prove advisors–famous characters like Alice from Wonderland and Professor Darcy–wrong are constantly sabotaged. Indira is starting to feel like an evil antagonist might be to blame.
As the danger spreads, Indira discovers all of Fable is under siege. With her friends Maxi and Phoenix by her side, she pieces together clues that will reveal who is behind the dark magic threatening them all. But the more Indira uncovers, the more doubt she feels about her place in this world of stories. After all, can a side character really save the day?
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