The Storyspinner

432p. S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry Bks. Mar. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481405652; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9781481405676.
Gr 7 Up—Santarem and Olinda are two lands divided by a magical wall. Those with powers live on the north side while the non-magical people live in Santarem, south of the wall. King Wilhelm of Santarem is murdered and his heir is allegedly dead as well, which jeopardizes the safety of everyone on both sides of the wall. Johanna Von Arlo, a 16-year-old Performer who specializes in the art of spinning stories, travels with her family to perform throughout Santarem, until her dad dies from a mysterious fall and the entire Von Arlo family is exiled from the Performers community. To make ends meet, Johanna takes employment at the DeSilva's estate, performing for nobility, including the honor-bound, handsome, and frustratingly stubborn Duke-to-be, Rafael. Jo finds herself at the center of an age-old story—one she has told many times—and discovers the magic of her tales may be more real than she could ever have imagined. In this beautifully constructed first installment of a new fantasy series, Wallace creates a lush environment, interweaving unique characters. The chapters vary among five different character's points of view, all told in the third-person narrative. The chapters are brief, aiding the novel's quick pacing. Wallace's magical world is populated with clear-cut "good guys" as well as characters with varying and questionable motives. The many layers (political, magical, historical, and romantic) and multiple characters may prove difficult to keep track of for less confident readers. Violence is kept at a minimum and romance is tame.
VERDICT Recommended for fans of classic fantasy (J.R.R. Tolkien) as well as more modern fantasy adventures by Melina Marchetta, Kristin Cashore, and Sarah J. Maas.

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