Title: The Storyteller’s Daughter
Author: Victoria McCombs
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: July 14th, 2020 (Parliament House Press)
Synopsis: His shadowed face lit by flames,
Rumpelstiltskin is my name…
For as long as anyone can remember, every child in Westfallen has been born with a Gift, and these Gifts defined them. Then Cosette is born, Giftless.
An attempt to hide her misfortune brings her before the King, who entraps her to use her Gift as a pawn in his war.
Caught in a lie, Cosette desperately searches for a power strong enough to free her. Intrigued by whispers of an old king and a dark curse, she calls upon Rumpelstiltskin and finds him trapped in a magic deeper than she bargained for. Now, Cosette must fight to reclaim her freedom from the King and break Rumpel’s curse. When time runs out, she’ll lose more than her heart. She’ll lose her life.
Ever since magic was invited into the land, every child in Westfallen has been born with a Gift that eventually defines their path in life – except Cosette, who remains Giftless. When her father, whose Gift is storytelling, narrates a fantastical tale of Cosette being able to spin straw into gold one night, the rumour spreads like wildfire, reaching the King himself, who orders Cosette to use her non-existent Gift to make gold for the kingdom during the war. In a desperate attempt to save her life, Cosette calls out to the spirit in the castle she has heard whispers about, and Rumpelstiltskin answers. As he willingly spins gold for her night after night, Cosette learns of his past and a curse he is under, and is determined to break it. But he is not the only one in danger – she is virtually a prisoner in the castle, and every day that passes is one where her secret might be revealed, placing her life in danger. Cosette must find a way to not only break Rumpel’s curse but also gain her own freedom before time runs out.
It has been a long time since I read a book that was so simple and sweet. This is the first retelling of Rumpelstiltskin I’ve seen where he is a sympathetic character, and that made for a very interesting change. The elements of the original story are still there, just jumbled up into something new. This is honestly, a lovely characterization of Rumpel, who has changed after being cursed, from arrogant to more kind and even accepting of his fate. I loved his arc in this retelling, especially learning about his history and how he came to be cursed.
As long as you read this like you would a fairytale, without expectations of any complex machinations or dramatic magics, there is very little to criticize. The one thing I would have liked to see was a clearer arc for Prince Conrad, after all the agonizing over if he was a good person or not, there was surprisingly little resolution for his plotline. The narration of the story is exclusively from Cosette’s POV, which wasn’t all bad, it just gave a very one-sided view of the plot. I get that Rumpel is a character whose motivations we’re supposed to question, but it’s pretty obvious about halfway through that this story isn’t going to complicate things that far, so some chapters from Rumpel’s POV would have been great, especially considering the ending we never got to see. There was quite the dramatic ending – it just happened off-page, which I really didn’t appreciate since it sounds like it would have been more exciting than the entire book put together!
There seems to be a sequel, or rather, a companion novel of sorts planned, which I don’t see the point of since everything tied up rather neatly, so I doubt I’ll be reading it. While this is categorized as YA, it is definitely appropriate for younger audiences as well. A good comparison that comes to mind in terms of the feel of the book is that of the Princesses of Westfalin trilogy or Ella Enchanted. If you’re looking for an easy-paced, engaging and magical read, this is one I would definitely recommend! There’s just something about a happily-ever-after read that always works!
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!