Review: The Storyteller's Daughter

I was recently offered an advance copy of The Storyteller's Daughter by Victoria McCombs in exchange for my honest review. This book is a retelling of "Rumpelstiltskin," a story I've read a couple other adaptations of. This version was more similar to the way it was presented in ABC's Once Upon a Time than the loose interpretations I've read in the past. The book also seems more appropriate for younger audiences than some of the ones I've read in the past. It is marketed toward fans of Gail Carson Levine and Jessica Day George, which seems appropriate due to the simplistic storytelling style and first person narrative. There were aspects of it that bugged me as an older ready, but I think it's a great book for teenagers who love fairy tales and princesses. It will be released by Parliament Press on July 14th.

The Storyteller's Daughter is set in a world where everyone has a magical power except for the main character, Cosette. The world reminded me of the anime My Hero Academia, though it never quite reached that level of creativity. Most of the powers listed were mundane such as singing, storytelling, and a hilariously bizarre ability to turn apples into peaches on Saturdays. I would have loved to see more about how these powers are incorporated into the kingdom of Westfallen, but there is little mention aside from needing the abilities to help with the war effort. However, the soldiers' abilities must not be enough for the kingdom to win the war or the king wouldn't have needed someone who can spin straw into gold so he can end it through monetary means. The only character whose magical abilities have any relevance to the story is Rumpelstiltskin, who has seemingly limitless magic despite being under a mysterious curse.

No matter how hard I tried, I found that I had trouble relating to Cosette. She was supposed to sympathetic because of her insecurities over not having a superpower like the rest of the people in her kingdom, but she came off as a Mary Sue regardless. Every eligible man she met seemed to be madly in love with her, and her rejections of them seemed to come from a place of arrogant elitism. Aside from that, she had all of her problems solved for her by Rumpelstiltskin, even at times when it didn't seem feasible for him to be able to help her. I appreciate that he briefly addressed the issue of Cosette getting too spoiled after being taken from her parents' tavern to live in a palace with a maid, but that was never brought up again after Cosette decided that he was wrong. There was no point in the book where I felt as though she earned any of the things that were offered to her as a result of her father's story that she could spin straw into gold. She reminded me of Bella Swan from the Twilight books.

Rumpelstiltskin, on the other hand, was more flawed and interesting than Cosette, but calling his situation a curse seemed like a gross exaggeration. Sure, he couldn't leave the castle, but in exchange, he had unlimited power at his command and an extended lifespan without any of the detriments of growing old. It seems like the author wanted to build him up as a tragic Phantom of the Opera/"Beauty and the Beast" figure, but he was often described as handsome and didn't require Cosette to look past any sort of gruff exterior to see his true self. It's no wonder he was attracted to someone as young and lovely as Cosette at his age, but making him a love interest bordered on creepy territory for me. He came off as a father figure, giving her sage advice from his long life and helping her stay out of trouble by keeping up the guise that she could spin straw into gold. Rumpelstiltskin had a difficult life and lost his first wife, but it felt more appropriate to me for him to want one last reprieve than to start over again as though his past never happened.

The Storyteller's Daughter was a nice light romance that was a quick and easy read. It would be great for teenage readers who enjoy paranormal love triangles like the Twilight series. In spite of all the king's threats to kill Cosette if she didn't succeed to spin straw into gold, I never felt worried for her because Rumpelstiltskin was there to save her at every turn. If I could make a suggestion to the author, it would be to include a situation where Rumpelstiltskin was unable to help Cosette, forcing her to come up with a way out on her own merit despite not having a superpower. I also wished she had chosen a different love interest because I think she would have had more to offer to a relationship with someone her own age. Overall, The Storyteller's Daughter is a nice starter book for young readers who want to break into the fairy tale adaptation genre. Look for it at your preferred bookseller on July 14th.


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