Saturday, October 27, 2012

Review: The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis

The StorytellerBook: The Storyteller (Der Märchenerzähler)
Author: Antonia Michaelis
Publication Date: January 1st, 2012
Publisher: ABRAMS
Rating: 4.5 Stars

A good girl.
A bad boy.
A fairy tale that's true.
A truth that is no fairy tale.

It begins the day Anna finds the child's doll on the floor of the student lounge. When it's claimed by Abel, the school drug dealer, Anna becomes determined to learn more about this mysterious boy with the military haircut and deep blue eyes. She follows him after school and discovers a secret: Abel is caring for his six-year-old sister, Micha, alone. Anna listens in as he tells her a fairy tale, the story of a little orphan queen pursued by hunters across the oceans for the treasure she carries: her pure, diamond heart.

It's a story with parallels to reality. Social services and Micha's abusive father could take her from Abel if they discover the truth.

Despite friend's warnings, Anna is drawn to Abel and Micha, and falls under the spell of the story of the little queen and her desperate voyage.

But when people Abel has woven into his tale turns up dead, it's Anna whose heart is in danger. Is she in love with a killer? And has she set out on a journey from which there is no return?
"...big, burst droplets of blood the color of poppies. A sea of blood, a red endless sea, crimson waves, carmine froth, splashing color..."

Lately, I've been having this problem. I've been wanting to go to Neverland. I want to experience the worlds of pirates, assassins, princesses, and golden apples again. And I have. But the problem is that I just don't believe anymore.
Somewhere, a fairy is dying...

The thing about The Storyteller is that it made me believe again. It was spellbinding in all the right ways, and it was the perfect book to urge me back into the world of dark fantasy. Michaelis combines a fairytale and reality, and she does it so well that even Abel's and Anna's story seems like something out of a dream, despite all the mentions of study dates and spilled hot chocolate (by the way, if Micha drinks that much hot chocolate, she must be a very happy--and chubby--little girl indeed). It gives this element of reality, yet when Anna and Abel are together, it seems so much more magical. Which is weird, since they're just being coupley. I'm chalking it up to Michaelis's writing style; the fairytale that Abel tells seems to weave its way into reality.

I'm still pretty awed at the genius of the book, the way the fairytale matches up with everything that's going on in Anna's and Abel's lives. Michaelis is essentially tells two stories at the same time, paralleling them exactly. That takes some serious skill (and probably hardcore outlining).

I was surprised at how dark this book is. I mean, you kind of get that from the blurb, but there's other stuff that's not hinted at in the blurb. It really took me by surprise. I had no idea there'd be so many mentions to problems that afflict children and different castes (Abel hates me for saying that word, but I can't think of something else).

It really reminds me of Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma in that there are these momentary gleams of happiness that make the darkness brighter and more real. Because without those moments, can we really count as humans? We need the happiness and the sadness, too. As with Forbidden, this couldn't have had a happy ending. The hope is there, and so is the fairytale, but in the end, reality triumphs. But there is hope that continues in the heart of a little girl.

The mystery added to the darkness, something that always lurked in the background and wouldn't come to light. Michaelis throws out so many different hints, and I totally thought I suspected the right person, but in the end I was still wrong, and I admire her for leading me on such a goose chase. The only thing that's keeping me from the 5 stars is that I didn't like Anna until towards the end. She seemed too fickle and irresponsible, even if she was doing the things she did for Abel. But Michaelis has executed almost every aspect of this story well, from giving all the characters different motives and traits, to making the plot twist and turn but ultimately come to a satisfactory conclusion.

I feel so melancholy now. Going to listen to some Leonard Cohen.
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  1. This book sounds really interesting. I will keep an eye on it.

    1. It's a gorgeous book. Definitely worth reading.