Book Love, Christian fiction

Book Review: The Story Peddler by Lindsay A. Franklin

Book cover The Story PeddlerBack cover copy: Selling stories is a deadly business.

Tanwen doesn’t just tell stories — she weaves them into crystallized sculptures that sell for more than a few bits. But the only way to escape the control of her cruel mentor and claw her way from poverty is to set her sights on something grander: becoming Royal Storyteller to the king.

During her final story peddling tour, a tale of treason spills from her hands, threatening the king himself. Tanwen goes from peddler to prey as the king’s guard hunts her down … and they’re not known for their mercy. As Tanwen flees for her life, she unearths long-buried secrets and discovers she’s not the only outlaw in the empire. There’s a rebel group of weavers … and they’re after her too.

My review: My favorite part of The Story Peddler was the magical “system”—colored ribbons literally flow from the hands of people who are gifted as storytellers as they share tales of the kingdom, crystallizing into objects that represent the story. How cool (and imaginative) is that? Tanwen is exceptionally good at storytelling, especially considering that she’s not old enough to be a registered storyteller yet.

Years ago, storytellers were appreciated and had a wide repertoire from which to entertain their audiences. But that changed when King Gareth gained the throne and outlawed any stories that didn’t show him in a favorable light (known as “crowned stories”). Tanwen knows this and follows the rules when she’s selling stories. But odd feelings begin to crop up while she tells stories—odd feelings that get harder to squish into submission and that begin to show themselves as rogue story strands that alarm Tanwen, her listeners—and the king himself.

As Tanwen runs from the king and his henchmen, she learns valuable lessons in trust and loyalty from a rogue group of weavers who take her under their protection. She also learns that there’s a lot more to family than the people from your bloodline and that making dreams come true often involves layers both good and bad that you never imagined.

The story didn’t have a definitive faith plot thread, but that’s not a deal breaker for me. There are references to the state-sanctioned religion based on goddesses (which is quite corrupt and often ignored )and mentions of a Creator, but nothing extensive. Values such as honesty always being best—even when it carries a cost—are a big part of the story and Princess Braith is one of the few people close to the king who routinely shows compassion, acceptance, and forgiveness. That’s a message in itself: setting an example and standing true to your convictions no matter what the people around you might think.

Who should read it: Tanwen’s story continues with The Story Raider and The Story Hunter. I’m not planning to read them right now because I have so many other books on my to-read pile, but might look at them someday. If they’re along the same lines as The Story Peddler, I would classify them as good material for middle school or early high school. See my first peek at The Story Peddler in this First Line Friday post from January and learn more about author Lindsay A. Franklin on her website.

Book Love, Christian fiction

Book review: Romanov by Nadine Brandes

Book cover of Romanov by Nadine BrandesBack cover copy: The history books say I died. They don’t know the half of it. Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them, and he’s hunted Romanov before.

Nastya’s only chances of saving herself and her family are either to release the spell and deal with the consequences, or to enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya has only dabbled in magic, but it doesn’t frighten her half as much as her growing attraction for Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her.

That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad … and he’s on the other.

My review: I read Romanov by Nadine Brandes for my historical fiction choice in the Read Something New 2021 Book Challenge. It wasn’t the book I originally planned to read for that spot but kept begging me to take it from my ever-growing to-read stack. So I finally gave in – and am glad I did.

Portions of Romanov are based on historical fact. The father, Emperor Nicholas II, was the last czar of Russia. Their family was exiled and later executed by a Bolshevik firing squad in 1918. When the gravesite of the family was found years later, two members were missing: Anastasia and her younger brother Alexei. Rumors persisted for years that they had somehow survived the firing squad and lived out their lives in secret and/or under different identities. Their remains were not found until 2007, buried in a separate grave near the rest of the family.

Romanov adds magical aspects to historical facts to weave a fantastical but believable story. Anastasia is a beginning-level spell master who knows just enough magic to create spells that help relieve the pain and injuries that Alexei experiences because of hemophilia. She is fiercely loyal and feels tremendous responsibility to help him however she can, but the Bolsheviks are hunting down and killing spell masters (in addition to wanting the Romanov family out of their way).

But Anastasia also is a typical teenage girl in many ways – playing pranks, doing things to make her sisters or Alexei laugh, navigating the feelings associated with her first crush, and learning to remain hopeful despite grappling with frustration, anger, and forgiveness.

The characters of Romanov are multi-layered and believable, even the secondary characters and antagonists. That’s part of what kept me reading and enjoying the story.

Faith elements are also strong, despite having magic be such an important element in the story. The family prays together and talks about things related to their faith, plus topics related to living a life of faith (hope, respect, forgiveness, grace) are integral to the story.

Who should read it: Historical fiction fans should enjoy Romanov, though sticklers who might get hung up on the magical aspect might enjoy reading something like I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon more (I read that one a couple years ago and liked it). Romanov is categorized as young adult fiction, but I can see it appealing to readers from middle school to adult. It covers some fairly heavy topics related to the war and violence, but they aren’t too much for a mature middle schooler to handle (and are much less graphic than plenty of other books targeting that age group).

Your turn: Did you read a historical novel for this month’s challenge? If so, tell us which one and what you thought of it! If not, share what you did read – because there had to be something, right?

Coming next month: The February book category for our reading challenge is science fiction or fantasy. Any idea what you’ll read?

Book Love, Just for Fun

First Line Friday: The Story Peddler

Happy Friday, friends!

Welcome to First Line Friday, where book lovers across blogland share the opening line from a nearby book (since we all have books everywhere we turn).

Today I chose The Story Peddler by Lindsay A. Franklin. It’s the first book in the Weaver Trilogy and is my choice for next month’s fantasy/science fiction book in the 2021 Read Something New Challenge. I’ve not read any of her books but they keep popping up in my Instagram feed, so why not give it a try?

Book cover The Story Peddler

First line:

Colored ribbons of light poured from my fingers.

Sets the stage for all sorts of interesting things, I think. Read more at:

Lindsay A. Franklin’s website   |   Goodreads

Your turn: What’s your first line for today? Open the book nearest you and post the first line in the comments. Then hop over to Hoarding Books (the blog I’m joining in this fun) to see what they’re sharing.

Happy reading!

 

Book Love

First Line Friday: Heart of a Royal

Welcome to First Line Friday, where book lovers across blogland share the opening line from a nearby book (since we all have books everywhere we turn). It’s a fun thing I hope to do more often in 2021, so I’m kicking off my participation for the New Year with a story from an Australian YA author I recently discovered:

Heart of a Royal by Hannah Currie

Heart of a Royal book cover

The first line is:

If mortification could kill, I’d be six feet under.

Talk about an opening line I could relate to (plus, what a gorgeous cover)! And so begins the story of Kenna, the companion/practically sister to Princess Alina of Peverell. But Kenna and Alina are about to turn 18 and Alina will soon be engaged to Prince Marcos of the neighboring kingdom — which means everything is about to change for both of them.

I enjoyed Heart of a Royal so much that I read it and the second story in the series, Heart of a Princess, about Princess Alina’s own journey over the 4-day weekend. They reminded me of the Selection Series by Kiera Cass, which is saying a lot.

The final book in the series, Heart of the Crown, releases next week: January 15. I’ll definitely be reading it and keeping an eye out for others by Hannah Currie. I’ve also been participating in Hannah’s Instagram challenge leading up to Heart of the Crown, if you want to check out the photos I’ve shared.

Your turn: Share the first line from one of your books in the comments. Then hop over to Hoarding Books (the blog I’m joining in this fun) to see what they’re sharing.

Happy reading!