A few days ago, I interview Cheryl Mahoney about her second book, The Storyteller and Her Sisters. You can read the interview here. Today, I’m reviewing the book itself. I got the pleasure and honour of betareading it before it was released and I’ve been sitting on this book for so, so long. Now I can finally talk about it and squee at you all about how much I’ve enjoyed it.
The Storyteller and Her Sisters is a companion novel to Cheryl’s The Wanderers released last year. It’s great fun and highly recommend if you like authors playing with fairytale and narrative tropes. The Storyteller and Her Sisters is no exception, although, unlike The Wanderers, it focuses on a single fairytale: The Twelve Dancing Princess or The Shoes That Were Danced To Pieces.
Maybe you’ve heard a tale about twelve princesses who danced their shoes to pieces. That was only part of our story.
Talya would tell you how dark and frightening the cursed forest and enchanted lake were. Vira would be too busy looking after us all to tell you many details, while Mina would try to give you every fact and figure (even though magic is rarely so logical). Each of my sisters would tell the story differently.
And Dastan—he’d write a ballad. Or maybe a love song.
As for me, I’m the storyteller, so I’m giving you my version. It’s about my sisters and me, our father, twelve princes and a cursed country—about a series of misguided champions, one even more misguided Fairy Godmother, and a great deal of dancing. It’s about twelve trapped princesses who decided to take control of the story.
I’m Lyra, the ninth princess, and this is how I tell the tale.
Below the cut lie the usual spoilerific comments, especially for The Wanderers, and also disclaimer that I know the author.
So without further ado, I should tell you that, though this is one of my favourite fairytales, it isn’t one I’ve read a lot of retellings of. The only one I can recall reading off the top of my head is Juliet Marillier’s Wildwood Dancing. This is nothing like WD, but it does, if memory serve, have some similarities. Which is good and awesome because I really like the set-up that Cheryl has with the cursed princes and the princesses.
The Storyteller and Her Sisters features twelve sisters and manages to give you twelve girls with fairly similar sounding names most of whom are secondary characters that are instantly recognisable and incredibly easy to tell apart. Twelve girls! And then Cheryl pulls off the same thing with the twelve princes!
Which is actually one of things I liked most about the story since we only gradually learn to tell them apart (and perhaps not quite as well as we learn to tell the sisters apart). The Storyteller and Her Sisters is a story about love, bravery, greed, friendship and self-discovery. All of the girls get a chance to shine, even if it may take a while to realise what their strengths are. And the romance isn’t instant either. It takes time for the two pairs of siblings to meet up. I loved the little touch of how long it took.
For those of you looking for the continued adventures of Jasper, Julie and Tom you’ll be disappointed. You’ve read part of their story from their perspective before. This is the whole story of the time when they met the twelve princesses, from the princess’ perspective. (Well, Lyra’s perspective.) You will get to see them again and you’ll see them in an entirely different light, but you will know some of what happens already. Cheryl did a great job at keeping the scenes the same just seen from a different perspective.
As you may guess, I really enjoyed the story. I loved watching Lyra and Dastan’s relationship unfold and seeing how all the other princesses and their princes all acted differently from one another. I loved the way Cheryl wove in the curse and the girls’ own choices. I also loved how they still needed to learn so much about themselves and what they wanted. <3
If there’s a flaw in this book, I’d say is that it doesn’t have enough talking cats. But then I’m an unashamed member of Team Tom, so I would say that. ^_~
I started off saying that I hadn’t read many retellings for this particular fairytale. But I have read a lot of retellings. The Storyteller and Her Sisters is by far one of the most enjoyable of those I’ve read. It’s got a good balance between dark and light, some strong and incredibly likable protagonists (and a massive cast list that Cheryl pulls off really well), and… It’s just a lot of fun. I’d happily and highly recommend it if you like fairytale retellings and especially if you like ones that’ll cheer you up on a bad day.
It’s not entirely a feel-good fluffy book. It has a lot of darker elements and some of them are quite visible. But it also… just made me feel good and happier when I was reading it. Lyra and her sisters have an incredible amount of optimism and a lot of the book is just plain fun.