by Adrienne Young
Series: Fable #1
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication Date: September 1, 2020
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
As the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home seventeen-year-old Fable has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.
But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him and Fable soon finds that West isn't who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they're going to stay alive.
Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men.
I’m not sure what’s prompted the rash of young adult pirate books lately, but yes, please give me more, thanks. This one is a dark and gritty fantasy filled with found family and adventure on the high seas. Also, I apologize ahead of time for the boatload of nautical puns in this review.
“I’m on the Marigold to crew.”
“No, you’re not.” She sighed, getting to her feet. “You’re on the Marigold to find a family.”
This is basically a “found family” story in two senses. First, Fable is hunting down her father Saint, head of a massive shipping conglomerate with both legal and illegal arms. Four years ago, he left her on the island of Jeval after her mother drowned in a shipwreck, and promised her to help her out if she managed to escape the island and find him. After years of using her gem sense, a sort of magical ability to find and appraise gems, she’s almost made enough to buy passage when events conspire against her again. The end result is that she lands on the Marigold, a ship crewed by an unlikely group of young people who aren’t exactly happy to have her there. They think she’s trouble and they’re right, but eventually she grows on them like, well, a barnacle.
“It doesn’t matter why we’re here, West. We’re here. I need someone to trust with my life.”
Fable’s tenacious and a survivor, and you certainly can’t fault her bravery. She’s not afraid of hard work and she’s tough as a result of having to survive on her own amongst a group of people who’d kill her for the change in her pocket. She doesn’t necessarily always make the right decisions – she tends to act a bit rashly – but it’s all in character. The part where the book ran aground for me was the side characters. West, captain of the Marigold and Fable’s blindingly obvious love interest, has some depth, but the rest of the crew felt more underdeveloped to me. I can give you the basic facts about each of them, and I thought the m/m relationship between two of the crew was sweet, but it’s more snapshots than full personalities. One of Fable’s guiding tenets is to never reveal what matters to you to anyone so they can’t use it against you, so everyone, including her, has secrets. Between that and the crew spending a chunk of the book suspicious of her, it takes a while before each crew member’s personality and interconnections are explored, and it didn’t quite feel like enough to me.
The world building is enjoyable if not particularly inventive and the plot is well-paced but slow, much like an ocean voyage. Fable’s voice – the book is told in her first person POV – really worked for me, and the writing captured my attention. It’s gritty and sometimes brutal, basically grimdark fantasy turned down a notch for a YA audience. And like most grimdark, every time something good happens for Fable, I kept searching the horizon for the next storm to come in and set her even further off course.
Overall, I’d give this 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4, and due to a cliffhanger ending that is absolutely heinous, I will definitely be picking up the sequel.