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Book review: 'The Storyspinner' breathes new life into classic themes

"THE STORYSPINNER: The Keeper's Chronicles," by Becky Wallace, Margaret K. McElderry Books, $17.99, 417 pages (f) (ages 14 and up)

A lost princess and a land in danger are not new literary themes, but Brigham Young University graduate Becky Wallace creates an original magical world with three-dimensional characters who are a pleasure to get to know in her new young adult novel, "The Storyspinner."

Johanna Von Arlo is a Performer. Her stories transport her audience to another world, and her songs bring them to tears. But when her father falls from the high wire, her future in the Performers' community dies with him. She wonders what would make her father, a highly skilled acrobat, fall during his act.

Lord Rafael DeSilva is only a few short days from succeeding his late father as the Duke of Santiago, a province of Santarem. This makes it all the more embarrassing when the boy he captures for poaching turns out to be Johanna hunting on public land. His debt of honor to Johanna can only be repaid by rendering her a service. With girls across the kingdom who match Johanna's physical description being murdered, she'll need his service to stay alive.

Jacare's first duty as a Keeper is to protect the land of Olinda and maintain the magical barrier at Donovan's Wall. But with the rightful heir to the throne, Princess Adriana, missing, the magic is weakening and Olinda is troubled. When the guardian of the heir dies without passing on the magical link between their countries, Jacare knows the princess is in danger.

The three distinct cultures in this story of magic, romance and adventure come alive through Wallace's careful details in this first book of the Keeper's Chronicles series. Although the point of view changes throughout the story, the individuality of each character prevents confusion.

The romance doesn't go beyond kissing and adds enjoyment to the story. The action is compelling without gratuitous violence, though a few characters' deaths might trouble younger readers.

If you go ...

What: Becky Wallace book signing

When: Saturday, March 14, 2 p.m.

Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City

Web: kingsenglish.com, beckywallacebooks.com

Note: Places in the signing line are reserved for those who purchase a copy of the featured book from The King's English.

Rachel Chipman graduated with a bachelor's degree in family life and human development. Her current goals are to read more, to write more and to learn to type while holding her infant daughter. Her email is racheldchipman@gmail.com.