Book Review: Storyteller (Quelmirian Duology, #2) by Savanna Roberts

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Title: Storyteller (Quelmirian Duology, #2)

Author: Savanna Roberts

Genre(s): fiction, YA, fantasy

Length: 310 pages

Published: October 10th, 2019

Rating: ★★★

 

Overview:

Earlier this year, I participated in Savanna’s blog tour for Villager (the first book in her Quelmirian Duology), so it was only natural that I finish out the duology with another book review for Book Two, Storyteller. With a cliffhanger like the one at the end of Villager, I needed to see what happened to all the character, you know?

Storyteller picks up right on the heels of Villager as Vivianna, Nex, Fiatina, Tyde, and Reeve travel to the forbidden Baylan Isles to escape Kallimene’s wrath. The group settles with Tyde’s family and slowly begins to face their personal hurts, fears, and prejudices while also enjoying the beauty and culture of the Isles. But, their newfound camaraderie and peace is short-lived: they must regroup and make plans to return to Quelmir and depose Kallimene—a plan that is complex, uncertain, and potentially deadly, no matter how they spin it.

 

Style/Voice:

The style of Storyteller is, for the most part, the same as the style of Villager: multiple first-person POVs and a clear, confident, conversational tone that makes the characters and quick-paced plot easy to delve into as a reader (though, at times, that strength left me wanting for more vivid descriptions or elaboration). Here’s an example of Robert’s prose style from page 47:

“The four Baylan islands spread out before me, bright and vibrant, and as full of life as they were on the day I left. The sands of the beaches are white, the palm trees and dense jungles throughout the islands a loud green. As we get closer, I can make out the sturdy wooden bridges that connect the four islands together. I can make out the reds, pinks, yellows, and oranges of the flowers that bloom wherever they want. I can see smoke from cook fires, the ripe clusters of coconuts on the coconut trees, little bobbing figures just down below, going about their day as usual.
Reeve steers us over the first island, nearly skimming the tops of a few palm trees, and starts lowering the ship down toward the dock of the second island. The bobbing figures begin to take more shape. There are fishermen with nets in the shallows of the sea. Their wives cut the heads and skins off the fish, sitting on crates on the dock. There are children playing on the beach, throwing and kicking sand at one another. And there is someone standing on the very edge of the dock, waiting for Reeve’s ship to land.”

What’s new about Storyteller is that there are third-person Quelmirian tales (which read like mythological tales) included throughout the novel, in addition to a few third-person accounts of side-character’s backstories. While I didn’t find these sections awkward or jolting, I did wish that there was more connectivity in their inclusion, like when Vivianna recounts one of the Quelmirian tales to the rest of the group. Overall, however, those sections provided a closer look into the story world and characters and added to the story.

 

Characters:

Just like in Villager, Vivianna and Nex are the main characters of Storyteller, with chapters from the POVs of characters like Tyde and Kallimene interspersed. However, this time around we also get to read chapters from the POVs of Fiatina, Nex’s older sister, and Reeve, the group’s pirate ally, in addition to the occasional POV of Caela, a former servant at the palace, and third-person narrations. Roberts handled all the POVs skillfully, especially considering the difficulty that comes with swapping perspectives when writing in first-person. I never felt as if a POV was more boring than the others, and each POV switch moved the story forward.

In addition to the increase of POVs, the majority of the characters also experienced substantial character arcs: Vivianna struggles to reconcile the prejudices she was taught on Quelmir with the beauty and hospitality of the Baylan Isles while also overcoming guilt and shame over her part in the loss of the Quelmirian throne; Nex, at last, is able to cast off the weight of royal expectations and the anxiety that came with it, and matures emotionally as he discovers his true nature and strength; Tyde must face the family he left behind and learn how to be honest and open with them; Fiatina (who quickly became a favorite) is finally able to exercise her leadership abilities and finds love, friendship, and courage as she does; Reeve, whether he’s apt to admit it or not, discovers genuine companionship and a greater purpose with his newfound friends; Kallimene shows his true colors, which eventually leads to his demise; and Caela slowly but surely convinces herself that lies are truth, to where she is unwilling to let them go even when her future depends upon it.

I enjoyed a lot about the new character developments in Storyteller. In particular, I was happy to see how Nex grew and matured past the temperamental and often emotionally immature young man he was in Villager and into someone who was confident, considerate of others, and protective and brave in a healthy way. I also liked that Fiatina had a bolder presence in the story; her strength of character, willingness to risk her life for the sake of the greater good, and ability to be diplomatic and firm without having to prove herself, was a great addition to the temperaments of the rest of the main cast. There were also some wonderful family dynamics with the introduction of Tyde’s grandmother, sister, and brother-in-law, and the eventual inclusion of Vivianna’s family (which provided good drama and tension). The only character I wish had a stronger arc was Kallimene—after all his cunning and scheming in the first book, I would have liked to see him pose a bigger threat in this one, especially once the action in Quelmir picked up again. I also would have liked to see more of Vivianna’s build-up to being a storyteller, perhaps in the form of describing more of the importance of storytellers in Quelmirian society or lore, or with having more of her storytelling abilities hinted at in the first book. Her characterization and arc ended up feeling a bit overshadowed by the other characters as a result; otherwise, the overall quality of the characterization was good and fulfilling.

 

Plot:

Storyteller is divided into six sections: The Isles, Worthy, The Plan, The Amaril Festival, The Pirate, and Something More (the Epilogue). Just like before, the plotting was fast-paced, and full of twists and building tension. This is one of Robert’s strengths, I think—as I read, there was a sense that every section or chapter contributing to the forward motion of the story, and, particularly toward the end, I had to keep reading faster and faster as the danger intensified and the stakes rose. Additionally, all of the decisions that drove the story made sense and were driven by the characters’ desires, needs, and beliefs, which made for a well-structured and fulfilling plot. The only real complaint I have regarding plot is that Kallimene, the antagonist, was not as active of a threat as he could have been for much of the story; if he had been more active against the rest of the characters, it would have only strengthened an already tight plot.

 

Setting:

In my review of Villager, I said that I hoped to have even more worldbuilding showcased in the second part of the duology, and I certainly got what I’d hoped. The first part of Storyteller takes place on the Baylan Isles—a place Quelmirians only heard rumors about, and a place where the Baylan people, who had been cast out of Quelmir unfairly, were said to reside and plan to return to take over Quelmir. The reality of the Isles is quite different, however, and the characters get to take in the new food, geography, religion, culture, history, and festivities of the Isles as they recuperate and plan. The history and politics between Quelmir and the Isles plays an important part in the story, which I enjoyed. They also learn more about the forbidden Baylan magic and I found that aspect both interesting and tastefully done; the magic felt as if it was a natural, and thus understated, part of the Isles, and there was enough explanation to establish what could and could not be done without drawing too much attention away from the rest of the story. In addition to Baylan culture, characters observe and participate in more Quelmirian festivities (most notably the Amaril Festival, after which a part of the novel is named), and readers get to see important cultural aspects like weddings, funerals, criminal trials, and religious stories throughout the course of the novel. As always, I would have liked more details—but that’s simply because I love worldbuilding, not because the book did not contain enough in an objective sense.

 

Objectionable Content:

Objectionable content is overall low, although I noticed more of it in Storyteller than I did in Villager. Characters swear, but not excessively. Two characters, whose relationship had been established in the first book, continue their relationship and their sexual innuendos/physical affection; other couples flirt, sometimes a lot, but those relationships never progress past that point on-page. One character is interrogated, beaten, and killed, but otherwise, the level of violence is rather low, and never distasteful or overly gruesome.

 

Conclusion:

Writing a sequel or second book of any kind is difficult—how do you carry over the parts of the first book that worked well, while continuing character arcs and plot in a compelling way? Too often writers don’t have a strong enough story to make into more than one book and it shows. However, Storyteller is not part of that group. First, although YA and fantasy still aren’t my genres, I was pulled into the story and wanted to keep reading Storyteller just as I had wanted to keep reading Villager. Second, while I would have liked to have seen a more formidable antagonist and had more of a build up to Vivianna’s arc, I was left with a sense of satisfaction once I finished Storyteller—the plot and character arcs ended in a way that felt correct for all that had happened in the story, and the happiness at the end felt deserved and natural. I still think I like Villager just a teeny bit more—I tend to enjoy the beginnings of stories best, regardless of the story quality—but Storyteller is a strong conclusion to the duology and one that I think readers will enjoy (I know I did). Thus, I give Storyteller 3/5 stars.

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