Back cover copy: Selling stories is a deadly business.
Tanwen doesn’t just tell stories — she weaves them into crystallized sculptures that sell for more than a few bits. But the only way to escape the control of her cruel mentor and claw her way from poverty is to set her sights on something grander: becoming Royal Storyteller to the king.
During her final story peddling tour, a tale of treason spills from her hands, threatening the king himself. Tanwen goes from peddler to prey as the king’s guard hunts her down … and they’re not known for their mercy. As Tanwen flees for her life, she unearths long-buried secrets and discovers she’s not the only outlaw in the empire. There’s a rebel group of weavers … and they’re after her too.
My review: My favorite part of The Story Peddler was the magical “system”—colored ribbons literally flow from the hands of people who are gifted as storytellers as they share tales of the kingdom, crystallizing into objects that represent the story. How cool (and imaginative) is that? Tanwen is exceptionally good at storytelling, especially considering that she’s not old enough to be a registered storyteller yet.
Years ago, storytellers were appreciated and had a wide repertoire from which to entertain their audiences. But that changed when King Gareth gained the throne and outlawed any stories that didn’t show him in a favorable light (known as “crowned stories”). Tanwen knows this and follows the rules when she’s selling stories. But odd feelings begin to crop up while she tells stories—odd feelings that get harder to squish into submission and that begin to show themselves as rogue story strands that alarm Tanwen, her listeners—and the king himself.
As Tanwen runs from the king and his henchmen, she learns valuable lessons in trust and loyalty from a rogue group of weavers who take her under their protection. She also learns that there’s a lot more to family than the people from your bloodline and that making dreams come true often involves layers both good and bad that you never imagined.
The story didn’t have a definitive faith plot thread, but that’s not a deal breaker for me. There are references to the state-sanctioned religion based on goddesses (which is quite corrupt and often ignored )and mentions of a Creator, but nothing extensive. Values such as honesty always being best—even when it carries a cost—are a big part of the story and Princess Braith is one of the few people close to the king who routinely shows compassion, acceptance, and forgiveness. That’s a message in itself: setting an example and standing true to your convictions no matter what the people around you might think.
Who should read it: Tanwen’s story continues with The Story Raider and The Story Hunter. I’m not planning to read them right now because I have so many other books on my to-read pile, but might look at them someday. If they’re along the same lines as The Story Peddler, I would classify them as good material for middle school or early high school.