Review: The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis

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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? 

Award-winning author Antonia Michaelis moves in a bold new direction with her latest novel: a dark, haunting, contemporary story that is part mystery, part romance, and part melodrama

Like with foreign language films that get dubbed or remade into English I’m a bit hesitant when it comes to novels that have been translated from their original language.  You can never be sure if what you’re reading is anything close to the original tone of the book or if things really do get lost in translation.  Something that seems unusual to my eyes may be a very normal turn of phrase in another culture or language.  One thing that does translate is romance.  Love crosses all boarders and barriers even language.  It’s a cliche but it doesn’t make it any less true.  These are the two things I kept in mind when starting The Storyteller; an epic love story that was originally written in German and has now been translated into English.  

If i’m being flat out honest even though I’m going to go on soon and gush about this book it wasn’t easy to get into at first.  I felt like I was reading against the tide a bit and wondered if it was me or just how it had been translated.  I was even reading some pages aloud so see if it made it any easier.  Most people will read that and think ‘why bother reading the rest?’.  I had to finish it because of Anna, Abel and Micha.  These three characters that are so wonderfully created and their stories told with such brutal honesty that you can’t leave them behind.  There’s also the story within the story that  keeps you guessing too.  As big brother Abel weaves the fairytale of the cliff princess with a diamond heart and her merry band of travellers we peak into the world of Abel and Micha and how Anna see’s their lives through world Abel creates for his little sister.  

The Storyteller is an epic romance meets Greek tragedy set in German and it completely stole my heart.  I was in fits of utter joy and despair of their relationship and the thriller mystery type sub plot going on too.  It is not a story for the faint of heart; you have a lot of dark subjects covered and in very real terms.  From drugs, violence, politics and sex, Antonia doesn’t pretend that there is darkness in this story and it hits you within the first few pages when you get thrown in at the deep end with a dead body and blood everywhere.

Even with the imperfections I found like issues with it being translated and wondering how true to the original text it was and some character that bugged me it was still an excellent book.  Aside from the main 3 characters I did like the others like Gitta, Anna’s parents and so on but sometimes you wondered if they were just there a bit.  Really the story is all about the main three but I was left wondering and asking a lot of questions about how relaxed and almost odd Anna’s parents were for instance.  Perhaps it’s cultural differences but it didn’t hinder the main story so I got over it.

Probably the most unconventional love story I’ve read in quite some time because the good guys are bad and the bad guys have just reasonings for what they do but it’s the grey in-between the black and white of Anna and Abel’s lives that holds the beauty.  It’s up there with Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly and You Against Me by Jenny Downham as bold storytelling and heart breaking romances that I’ll be harping on about to anyone that will listen.  Hell, even if they don’t listen I’ll still go on and on about how much I loved it.

Rating: 9/10

Published by Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams is available here and all book shops now

3 Comments

  1. Reply to 'blackstar'. If you'd like to discuss the book more you can email me directly: email addy is in the contact tab at top but I'm deleting your comment because of spoilers. Sorry

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