Today I’m excited to be sharing my review for Fable by Adrienne Young. This is a YA fantasy story about a girl who joins a ship’s crew to try and find her father.
A big thank you to Titan for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. This does not influence my opinion of the book.
This book has content warnings for: death of a parent (not on-page), parental abandonment, scarring, burns, violence, murder, kidnapping, mentions of drowning.
For seventeen-year-old Fable, the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home she has ever known.
It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one, and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her.
The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father, and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.
But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him, and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.
Every now and then, a fantasy novel comes along that captivates me completely. The narrative, characters, and world-building all work together seamlessly to produce an exceptional story. Fable was that fantasy for me.
This is my first review of 2021 and I’m glad I get to start off with a book that I LOVED. I read Adrienne Young’s The Girl the Sea Gave Back a few years ago and enjoyed it, so I expected to enjoy this too. I didn’t expect to find a new favourite and end up desperate for the sequel.
The story begins with Fable working hard to survive on the island of Jeval after her father marooned her there four years previously. We learn that Fable is a dredger; someone who dives deep into the reef to scavenge for pyre and other gems.
She’s lived alone for four years and has become strong and resilient, but wary. There’s no safety on Jeval, as other islanders try to steal her loot or oust her from her makeshift home. After a particularly vicious fight with Koy, a fellow islander, Fable flees to the one ally she has. West.
West is captain of the Marigold and a trader who has been coming to buy Fable’s pyre for a few years. When he sees that she has enough coin to buy a passage to the Narrows (to try and find her father) he reluctantly agrees to take her on board the ship.
West is a very private, impassive character, to the point of being stoic. We rarely get glimpses of how he’s feeling but when we do see his emotions, it makes those scenes all the more special because he’s usually so stolid. He’s basically a fondant; firm on the outside, soft on the inside.
Fable soon realises that she knows very little about him, but the more time she spends on the ship, the more she begins to see past his cold exterior and the two begin to grow closer.
I loved Fable and West’s dynamic because they’re a variation of the grumpy/sunshine trope. He’s stern and serious and she’s determined and passionate. And the only time we see West truly break his controlled exterior is when he’s worried about Fable.
There’s a particular scene when doesn’t know if she’s OK and he YELLS her name and I melted into goo.
Although I liked West and Fable, my favourite character was undoubtedly Willa. She’s tough and intelligent but compassionate too.
I adored the way her able Fable’s relationship progressed from Willa actively distrusting Fable, to them being almost sister-like in their companionship.
The other members of the crew, Paj, Auster, and Hamish, bring the ship to life, creating one big found family.
I really enjoyed the witty, humorous dialogue between the crew and this has got to be one of my new favourite YA squads. (Yes, friends, it’s a squad. I said it.) There’s also a gay romance which gives us some really sweet scenes that I loved.
One of the best aspects of the book is how well the action scenes are spaced out. There’s some form of action, drama, or romantic tension (!) in every chapter, which kept things exciting and meant the pacing was SPOT ON.
The plot itself is enticing, heart-stopping, and gives us every aspect of ‘high seas adventure’ that we expect from the synopsis.
Some of the twists and big reveals in this book had me staring open-mouthed at the screen of my phone, willing myself not to yeet it straight out the window. They were that tense and that shocking. The cliff-hanger ending especially absolutely wrecked me. (Titan, if you’re reading this, PLEASE approve me for the sequel on Netgalley. I’m not above begging.)
If you enjoy squad goals, high seas action, a slow-building romance, underwater kissing, and hints of magic and mystery, I’d highly recommend picking up Fable. It’s fun, fast-paced, and riveting from start to finish.
Fable is out now in the UK.
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