The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis, published by Amulet Books on 1st January 2012
Anna and Abel couldn’t be more different. They are both seventeen and in their last year of school, but while Anna lives in a nice old town house and comes from a well-to-do family, Abel, the school drug dealer, lives in a big, prisonlike tower block at the edge of town. Anna is afraid of him until she realizes that he is caring for his six-year-old sister on his own. Fascinated, Anna follows the two and listens as Abel tells little Micha the story of a tiny queen assailed by dark forces. It’s a beautiful fairy tale that Anna comes to see has a basis in reality. Abel is in real danger of losing Micha to their abusive father and to his own inability to make ends meet. Anna gradually falls in love with Abel, but when his “enemies” begin to turn up dead, she fears she has fallen for a murderer. Has she?
I thought I was going to love this book. The synopsis sounded entrancing and the cover is beautiful and eye catching. I also nearly always adore books which combine elements of fairytales so this one sounded like the perfect read. Sadly, even taking all that into consideration, this book didn't compel me as I imagined it would and I had problems with the subject matter and some of the topics which the author touched upon in the story. This is a very heavy read and for this reason I would probably only recommend it to the slightly older teen age bracket. It's not your typical romantic fare and is much darker than I was anticipating at the start.
The main character Anna falls in love with Abel who looks after his younger sister Micha and who has a bad reputation at their school. Irresistibly drawn to him, Anna believes that Abel is a puzzle she can solve and finds herself quickly falling under his spell. Abel is a storyteller (hence the title) and begins to weave a magical tale for his sister and Anna about an orphan queen with a diamond heart. As Abel's story progresses and bad things start to happen, Anna begins to see similarities between his story and real life people and events. Now in theory this sounds quite good but on paper it just didn't work for me. It was more like a teaspoon of romance and a then a bucket full of violence, abuse drug taking and murder - themes which didn't appeal to me at all.
I didn't click with Anna and Abel as characters either and I didn't like the violent nature of their relationship. Without giving anything away, there's a major scene between them in the book which had me stop reading and put this book down. I very nearly didn't pick it up again. I found their romance hard to believe in and for me, Abel was too dark and secretive which instead of leaving me feeling intrigued, left me mistrusting him and being wary of him and his true intentions towards Anna.
The one bit of the book that I did enjoy was the fairytale of the orphan queen, the lighthouse keeper, the rose girl and the sea lion which did have a magical quality about it and I actually found it more interesting than the main storyline which wasn't a good sign.
Part thriller and part love story, the tone of 'The Storyteller' was quite dark and sinister. Much of the book was shocking and violent which I didn't like and actually left me feeling very unsettled. I think the author has been brave in confronting some extremely sensitive and hard hitting subjects but unfortunately it just wasn't for me.