By Marissa Burt
By Marissa Burt
In the land of Story, children go to school to learn to be characters: a perfect Hero, a trusty Sidekick, even the most dastardly Villain. They take classes on Outdoor Experiential Questing and Backstory, while adults search for full-time character work in stories written just for them.
In our world, twelve-year-old Una Fairchild has always felt invisible. But all that changes when she stumbles upon a mysterious book buried deep in the basement of her school library, opens the cover, and suddenly finds herself transported to the magical land of Story.
But Story is not a perfect fairy tale. Una’s new friend Peter warns her about the grave danger she could face if anyone discovers her true identity. The devious Tale Keeper watches her every move. And there are whispers of a deadly secret that seems to revolve around Una herself...
Be prepared for a review where I squash any negativity regarding this book and sing its praises at the top of my metaphorical mountain!
Una is a child who doesn’t quite fit in. In fact, she feels as if she is an invisible being who even her teachers don’t see. That’s why she hides in the basement; she goes to her quiet corner and reads books that take her away from the drudgery of her daily life. That is, until the day that she finds a book entitled “The Tale of Una Fairchild,” which literally takes her away to the land of Story where she has been Written In to a young man’s final exam in which he must battle dragons and save the damsel..um.. damsels in distress. It is after talking to Peter that Una realizes that she has been Written In to the land of Story, something that has not happened in a very long time, and something that can certainly mean danger or even death for poor Una.
As the story progresses, Una learns a little more about the land of Story and the characters that dwell there. She learns that there are significant differences between those labeled as villains and those who are actually villainous. Most importantly, she learns that she is not invisible but a very important part of this world that she has inadvertently traveled to.
I first added this novel to my “to-read” list because I knew it was a good choice for my debut author challenge, though I have to say that it is no question I would have picked this book up otherwise. I am not a lover of MG novels, though I have fallen in love with one or two, but I was so impressed by this story and the way it crossed the lines that usually define a novel. I want to first touch upon some issues other readers have had with this book. I have read many reviews stating that the book was “too long” to be a middle grade novel, that the point of view changes were too confusing and that readers were disappointed that we didn’t meet fairy tale characters that we knew but were introduced to fairy tale characters in training. First, yes the book is 400 pages long, but it is not at all a “long” book. I did not once find the book dragging or wish for more action. People of all ages can read and love these books, like books that came before (Goblet of Fire, anyone?) this book is one that can bridge the ages and be enjoyed by many readers despite how “long” it is. Second, the point of view changes did not bother me, at all. The author did not start a new chapter with a name so that the reader knew before starting the first sentence who was speaking, but within the first sentence of the paragraph it was easy to see whose point of view it was. It’s called close reading, people! Finally, its no question that I LOVE LOVE LOVE retellings and the whole modern character in a fairy tale world (see: Once Upon a Time) but the blurb of this story specifically says that the children are learning how to be fairy tale characters, not one thing about how she is transported to the land of Story and meets Cinderella! Okay, rage over, let’s move on to the awesome parts…
First, the plot is brilliant. I love my fairy tale retellings as much as the next gal but it was so refreshing to read this story about students who are learning how to be characters in a story! I was laughing out loud with Una as she tried to perfect her villain laugh for her exam and desperately wishing I could have been part of this world. Honestly? Haven’t yearned this much since I didn’t get my Hogwarts letter all those years ago, might still be a little bitter about that one…but anyway, the plot twists and adventure were found on every page and really kept me wanting to know what happened next. The little plot twist at the end was really amazing and I actually didn’t see it coming which makes me so happy!
The characters are all so loveable (or easily hated, I guess) and the book only made me want more from each one. I loved how the villains in this story were written in a way that made me sympathize with their predicaments and how Snow was portrayed as this snotty “Lady” but really she was just a scorned and sad daughter who wanted someone to love her. Obviously I loved Sam because well, he was a cat..but also because he was snarky and portrayed all the best cat-like qualities. Una and Peter we both very sweet and in a word, good which made me really see the differences between Peter and Endeavor Truepenny, I seriously look forward to seeing more from this character in book two.
Though I don’t usually do this, there were many lines that stood out for me in this novel and I want to share them..
“It became Una’s habit, on days that she felt especially invisible, to retire to the basement of the school library. Most students stayed on the main floor, grouped together at sunny tables, giggling over their math problems and English homework. But Una preferred the lower level, where she could sit undisturbed except for the odd student scurrying down to get some reference book needed for a research paper. She would tuck into her favorite desk underneath one of the high basement windows – half daydreaming, half reading – while the minutes flew by and she wondered what it would be like to live a different life.” – Page 2 of Storybound, completely reminiscent of myself when I was a child.
“She turned to go, but Horace pushed in front of her. ‘Ladies last,’ he said.
She took the toe of her boot and knocked the outside of his left foot in toward the right. It was just enough to throw him off balance, and he stumbled to the side. ‘But then, I’m not much of a Lady,’ she said as she pushed ahead of him.” – Page 314 of Storybound, this part encompasses all that I love about Una as a character, it made me smile and high five the book.
From page two this story drew me in. Marissa Burt writes a fantastic and beautiful narrative. I highly recommend it to those who enjoyed Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, or those looking for a story that reminds them about all of the things that they love about fairy tales.