I massively regret having not read anything by Adrienne Young now that I have had the immense pleasure of reading her newest novel, Fable. Where prior, my knowledge of Adrienne Young came primarily from the fact that an ARC of her second novel was extremely sought after sometime last year, I am now desperately eager to read more of her work. I’m only sorry that it took me so long to pick up one of her novels. Though, I am glad that the first of her books that I ever read was this one
Fable is the story of a young girl, daughter of a man who amounts to what is basically a crime boss trader of the seas, who is left alone on an island to fend for herself by her father the day her mother dies from a shipwreck caused by a storm. He tells her she is too good for his world, tells her if she can get herself off the island, he will give her what she deserves, and leaves her to struggle to survive among a dangerous set of men who are also struggling to survive.
With her skills as a dredger–someone who scours the ocean reefs for precious gems and metals–Fable spends four years fighting desperately to stay safe and eventually barter for passage so she can one day join her father.
Fable is slow-burn in every way:
I did a lot of screaming when I finished this book. For one that I initially thought started off somewhat slow, Fable very cleverly wove its way into my heart. The slow-burn of the story that I began thinking would make it difficult to get into instead gave it the ability to make me fall in love with it without even realizing.
All the plots and relationships have that same slow-burn feeling to them. Whether it is the relationship Fable has with her father or the friendships she builds along her journey, you regularly see a delicate care taken with how it all grows and develops along the way. The way this story, and each of the subsequent supporting plots, are weaved together is some of the most exquisite storytelling I’ve had the pleasure of reading in my entire life.
Young also has this utterly fantastic way of having all the twists exist just out of the reader’s reach. I’m pretty exceptional at picking out plot points and predicting what will happen within a story, so the fact that I was only able to do so with this book right before the twist was revealed left me immensely impressed.
There are subtleties of the writing that pull you in, like an unsuspecting tide. And once you’re caught there’s no dragging yourself back–and why would you even want to?
At its core, Fable is a story about the conflicts that power and money create in a world. It’s a story about friendship and found families. In many ways, Fable has an interesting way of mirroring life. As someone who is not often a fan of novels like that, I found myself loving the way that it was portrayed in this one.
There is an intricate conflict between those with power and money and those without. And there is an impact to gaining that power, a price, of sorts, to pay.
The relationships are at the forefront of the novel, each impacting the central conflict in multiple small, but impact-filled ways. Conflict comes within the scope of human development, the hardships one must face to survive, and the ways in which those hardships are both dealt with and managed both with and without outside support. A deeper conflict, it seems, is also being held for book two.
Are amazing. I can’t think of a single character I didn’t love for one reason or another. Even characters like Fable’s mother, dead for years now, were immensely impactful to the novel. I adored them all. Secretive West, hardened Willa, ruthless yet soft Saint, despicable Zola, mysterious Isolde, whimsical Paj, loving Auster, and clever Hamish all slowly found a place in my heart. Best of all, any minor character who we only got to see for a short period of time genuinely felt like a real person rather than a prop.
Where Fable falls short:
It is unfortunate that I feel this commentary is necessary despite how much I loved this book, but the truth is that there are a couple of things that could have been done better. The first is Saint and his abandonment of his daughter. I think I spent the better part of this novel sort of expecting that the motivations that led Saint to leave his only daughter on an island filled with dangerous men had a little more backing to them. But, as far as book one is concerned, the death of her mother via drowning in a storm turned out to be just that–death by drowning in a storm.
There wasn’t some overarching plot behind her death that really solidified Saint’s take on leaving behind those he cared about in order to cement his position and prevent anyone from using his love against him. He’s not protecting her from a threat that has been made by denouncing her. He just decides that one loss–though at the hands of a storm–is enough and therefore nips it in the bud.
I dunno, I just feel as though his denouncement of Fable would have had much more of an impact had it all been because there was a genuine threat. It would have worked incredibly well had Saint truly needed to distance himself from her in order to prevent someone from using her against him. But there was no genuine moment in which this would have been realized for him. Her mother wasn’t murdered, she died in a storm.
So, unless Saint murdered her mother so he could get rid of them both and cut ties with the only potential weaknesses he had–which I very much doubt–this just fell really flat for me.
Granted, maybe book two will clear this up?
Honestly, I don’t have many problems with Fable as a character. What did throw me for a loop, though, was that I never truly felt as though I had a genuine sense of her age. Supposedly, she is 18 and was abandoned on the island by her father when she was 14. That said, at times she comes across as much younger than that. It almost feels as though she was abandoned at the age of 11 or 12 and is now 15 or 16.
It’s not a major issue, but it did derail me several times while reading since I could never determine what really matched.
We did not get enough time with West. I never truly felt that I got to know him or understand a lot of his motivations. He’s so shrouded in mystery, largely because he keeps so many secrets, that I can’t help feeling a massive disconnect. We get little snippets throughout the book and only the ones that Fable, herself, becomes privy to. It wasn’t enough. And this is horribly depressing because I loved West.
West’s love of Fable also feels deeply underdeveloped. I can’t really figure out when he fell in love with her or why. It’s not that I don’t see her as someone he should or could care about, but rather that Young never really spent any time building up the fact that he did, in fact, love her. Instead, we get some sort of cop-out answer that puts all of his moments of falling in love in a portion of the story that we, as readers, never got to see.
And the story hurts for this.
I’m not saying that the romance has to be at the forefront of the story. But there should be a little something more than a brief comment to events that occurred before the story even began. While this can sometimes work, in this instance it feels like lazy writing. It feels like Young either didn’t know how to show him fall in love with her or didn’t want to put in the effort.
Fable is my favorite book from 2020.
Despite these pieces, though, I do genuinely consider this to be an exceptional novel. Young has an exceptional ability to pull readers into her story, to build connections between us and the characters she’s created. By all accounts, it seems somewhat surprising to me that I feel as I do about all of them.
And yet, somehow, it’s not surprising at all.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.