"Keep your knife where you can reach it. Never, ever owe anyone anything. Nothing is free. Always construct a lie from a truth. Never, under any circumstances, reveal what or who matters to you."
Though I know Adrienne Young already had some big titles to her name such as 'The Girl the Sea Gave Back' and 'Sky in the Deep,' I hadn't actually read any of her work. I'd been intrigued by both of those releases and simply not had the time to explore them, but when 'Fable' started showing up everywhere, I was determined not to let another one pass me by.
Admittedly, I was afraid as much as people were hyping the novel, that it wouldn't live up to the praise. But I needn't have worried.
Fable, our main character, is the daughter of the most powerful trader in a dangerous place called the Narrows. At seventeen, she's already lost her mother to the sea and the storms.. and been left on a cutthroat island of thieves with one goal. To survive. With nothing to hold onto other than the swift abandonment of her father after her mother's drowning and his promise to give her what is hers if she can live and find her way home on her own, she has spent four years barely getting by.
"Miles away, where the moonlight touched the black seam of the horizon, the Lark lay beneath the waters of Tempest Snare. And no matter where I went, I'd never get home. Because home was a ship that was at the bottom of the sea, where my mother's bones lay sleeping in the deep."
An incredibly likeable character, Fable is a fighter. She fights for everything. She fights to eat, she fights to live, she fights to succeed in reuniting with her father. She fights for those who show her kindness. She's not afraid to take risks in order to achieve her goals, but she's not completely stupid either. For the most part, those risks are calculated.
In a moment when it seems she has no other option, she barters her way onto a ship called The Marigold that's helmed by a handsome, mysterious man named West and even his decision to sell her passage is met with resistence. Along the way, not only does she discover her father's rivalries have multiplied exponentially.. she also discover's West's trading vessel isn't as uncomplicated as it seems. She keeps her secrets close to her, but she's not the only one hiding things. It seems everyone has something they're holding back.. and West most of all.
The setting is beautiful. I loved losing myself to their adventure across the sea.. to their emotional journeys.. though they weren't as robust as I would have liked them to be. I loved the slow reveal of the inner-West and the desperate dash for Ceros. There are some truly harrowing moments as they try to push through their trip hastily.
"I didn't like how calm it looked, the way the surface gleamed like newly fired glass. It was unnerving to see the sea asleep when I'd seen how bloodthirsty she could be."
Here's what I think could have been even better. Though the writing is touted as lyrical and it IS lovely, for me it's just shy of that description. Yes, the author has moments that fit the bill, but largely the prose is just slightly prettier than average. It feels like it could hold more depth.. of thought and emotion.. more resonance. I do see potential for her to continue to grow and evolve as an author and that thought excites me.. considering how good she already is, but she's a great storyteller and the scenes are very visual, even if they still have room to expand.
I did feel that the trust and relationships that build between the characters in this story.. at the point where we join them.. simply comes a little too easily. As jaded as they all are.. as dark as some of their backstories are, I find it difficult to believe they'd accept so quickly in most cases, despite the lengths Fable might go to in order to win that trust. But.. that's where suspension of disbelief comes in and ultimately it didn't matter to me because I was already invested in the outcome.
I do adore West and Auster.. Paj and Willa are lovely too.. even Hamish. I don't want to tell you too much about my reasons, as I don't want to ruin the discovery for you. But I will say it's a solid group of supporting characters, each with their own stories and traumas.. their own worries to bear. I enjoyed the inner conflict in West.. and he is rife with it. If ever there was a character more prone to doing what he knew he shouldn't because it might help someone else, I am unable to think of them at the moment.
Theirs is absolutely an underdog story.. and I am lost when you give me someone to root for..
I can't wait for 'Namesake,' book two in the series.. and not simply because of the mild cliffhanger at the end of this one. Though I must applaud Young for placing it so well, not in the midst of action.. but rather in a moment that made sense and didn't infuriate me.. while still leaving me eager to see what would happen.