This week, I am pleased to announce that I have found another book off the Calligraphy Guild comp titles list which I actually enjoyed. The Story Peddler was a great read, and I’m quite excited to get my hands on the remainder of the series. But before we get into it, what is The Story Peddler?
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.
The Story Peddler suffered from a little bit of Large Cast Syndrome (i.e. there were characters I got confused because I didn’t have enough brain space to keep quite everyone straight), but not as badly as some other books I’ve read (and, being a writer of large casts myself, I have a fair amount of grace for LCS). That said, I really enjoyed the characters, both those I kept straight in my head long-term and the couple that got scrambled from time to time.
Tannie was a good balance of outspoken and independent on the one hand with reasonable and humble on the other hand. Last week I talked about my dislike for Xingyin in Daughter of the Moon Goddess for her independence and brazenness, and I think this balance is what made the difference between my dislike for Xingyin and my appreciation for Tannie. Tannie speaks her mind… but she knows when speaking her mind is a bad idea–even if that realization sometimes comes a moment too late. And she’s independent, but not to the point of arrogance; she appreciates those around her, and she values their help when it’s needed.
Braith was also a well-balanced female lead. She was somewhat more traditionally feminine than Tannie, which made for a good balance between the two perspectives, and her gracious resistance to the king’s cruelty was a great example of the strengths within classic femininity.
Then there were all the side characters, and each had their own strengths and qualities. Brac was a great support for Tannie, and I appreciate his seriousness about settling down and providing for a family. I feel like that’s something lacking in a lot of male characters, and I like seeing characters–of both genders–seek out and find fulfillment in family and dominion. Mor was, of course, sweet and charming, and his dedication to Gryfelle was also admirable. Zel immediately caught my attention for very similar reasons as Brac did, but without the drama that came with Brac being interested in Tanwen since Zel is already married and has a family to care for. Warmil is a fantastic gruff mentor character and I love him to death. Basically, all of the side characters are great and I’m really interested to learn more about them in consequent books.
The worldbuilding isn’t the most ground-breaking as far as setting is concerned, but it was described wonderfully in voice, so I’ll give it a pass. Especially because the magic system is so cool. Music and colors and stories that become tangible? That create physical effects? It’s so much fun. I’m super interested to see more of how it works and what it can do.
Now, the love triangle. Y’all know I hated the love triangle in Daughter of the Moon Goddess, where one of the guys was committed to someone else and the other wanted the independent main character to settle down with him… Well… this love triangle has very similar dynamics. And yet, I didn’t hate this one. Why? Because of the main character and the underlying worldview of the book. You can see my complaints with the DotMG love triangle in that review, so I won’t repeat myself here. But in The Story Peddler, Tannie understands and appreciates the second love interest’s commitment to someone else and does her best to quench her feelings because she knows to put the other characters involved ahead of herself. And with the first love interest, she appreciates his desire to settle down, appreciates the potential of finding happiness with him, and appreciates his dedication to her and true love for her. Her internal struggles with both feel realistic, and the love triangle didn’t feel like it overtook the plot (another issue I had with Daughter of the Moon Goddess). And, honestly, I was right with her in being conflicted over the idea of her with Suitor One. ;P
Also, I have to mention the quote that “art has a queer way of revealing truth.” (Karlith’s faith elements were another subtle highlight of the book.)
Overall, I really liked this one and I’m excited to see how this story unfolds (or crystalizes, perhaps?)
Rating: 5 stars
Similarity to CG: 3 stars (for themes of community, family, and the importance of the arts)
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