Book Reviews

Fable by Adrienne Young | Book Review

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.


I did not know how much I would love this book. When I think back to the moment that I decided I would sit down and read it, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. I had heard about it only briefly, and just happened to get ahold of a copy from the library soon after the publishing date, almost unheard of. I thought to myself that with this book, I would finally know what everyone was referencing when they were all hyped up about a recent Adrienne Young release. How little I knew about how all of that would soon no longer matter.

I don’t know what makes this book different for me than any other YA fantasy novel I’ve read in the past few years. There isn’t a lot of magic, just cleverness, skills, and girls fighting for their rightful place. It’s about the seas and ships and knowing your value. There’s something about Fable herself that I admire greatly, how she is able to scrap her way into the room and not only finds herself a seat at the table, but demands command of it. She’s fiery and fierce and knows when she is being swindled, knows when to cross the line, and can curate any plan that while it may be risky, has the best and most profitable outcome. She knows exactly what she is capable of, and bargains her way through the world in a way that not only takes others by surprise, but proves to them that without her, they’d almost be nothing. I’ve not actually wanted to be a fictional character in a very long time, so when I say that I want to be Fable so damn badly, you understand the gravity of the statement.

The story itself is also just impossibly cool, and after reading it a second time, I began to pick up on why I think I fell in love with it so much. Fable is abandoned on an island after a life at sea, and told that if she can make her way back, she’ll get everything she deserves. She is left with nearly nothing, and spends four years building up resilience, skill, and her own smarts on how to prove to others that she’s to be taken seriously and that she herself will take no shit. She bargains her passage onto a ship, ready to prove what she’s capable of. She meets a ragtag crew of sailors – who you will fall in love with – and not only wins over their trust, but proves how desperately they need her and her skill set on board.

Perhaps the found family trope is too easily overdone, but I’ve so rarely come across a scraggly crew like the one on the Marigold. We don’t get to know much about them at first, as information is valued and someone knowing your business could cost you your life, but over the course of the book, details are revealed in such a subtle way that you don’t just feel like you are being told, but that you are revealing the mysteries yourself. I don’t know who could possibly be my favourite out of Willa, Paj, Auster, or Hamish – they are all sarcastic and funny and dangerous and so damn loyal that I wouldn’t want to be on anyone’s side but theirs. Even though they spend the first half of the book being skeptical of Fable, I still admired how much they all were valued and respected amongst one another for their unique skill sets and perspectives – no matter what their backgrounds are (and I want to know more about their backgrounds SO BADLY). Honestly, I would take a prequel book (or even just a prequel short story!) about each of them and read it so damn fast.

One thing I do know is how much I am head over heels for West, which made me realise a truth often denied – that there is a trope better than enemies-to-lovers, and that trope is man-doesn’t-want-to-admit-that-he-has-feelings-and-spends-the-whole-damn-book-trying-to-convince-you-that-he-doesn’t-care-about-you-but-in-reality-he’s-got-it-so-damn-bad-he-doesn’t-know-how-to-handle-those-feelings. Like, really. The best part about the relationship between Fable and West honestly is that it’s not even really a relationship, at least not until the very end. I mean hell, Fable spends half the book thinking that West and Willa are together. It’s not forced, it’s not unnatural, it’s certainly not instalove, and frankly if neither Fable nor West had acted on it, it wouldn’t even be a thing. But it’s subtly there, and it feels real because of that. No relationship should start in an instant. Maybe it’s just me, but a slow burn is so much more satisfying than instantaneous lust. I love how Adrienne Young has painted it as a human emotion that is so extraordinarily powerful it can consume a person, but that sometimes, there are other things just as valuable that need protecting. Some things that are worth even more, and both Fable and West know that sometimes, those things are more of a priority (but also, sometimes it’s nice to kiss for the first time after 300 pages in the hull of a ship after you just scavenged the biggest gem haul in the history of the sea).

The first book I ever read by Adrienne Young was Sky in the Deep, and I fell pretty quickly in love with her stories and the way she writes. After reading Fable, she has elevated her status to an auto-buy author for me. I will read literally anything she writes at this point. I have never once in my life thought that I would want to spend an extended amount of time on a ship, but damn if she didn’t make me want to immediately abandon everything I know and join a crew of…whatever modern-day ship-people do (…maybe I should just stay on land). The writing is so visceral that I truly felt like I had plunged myself into this world. Every detail about the ships, the ports, the dives, the trades, everything made me feel like if I just turned my head, I would actually be able to see Auster feeding his birds on the mast, or watch West man the helm, or observe Hamish pouring over the maps and ledgers. She wields you in without you knowing, and there’s a certain moment a few chapters in when I knew that this would become one of my favourite books of all time. That moment when Fable pulls back the rug and discovers the Marigold’s true legions – it gave me chills. I was a goner from that point in. And do not even get me started with that cliffhanger at the end. I have never been more upset that I had to wait for a sequel, and those months just crawled on by. It felt like we would never get there, I was so desperate for more. There are very few authors I can name that have made me feel that way, and Adrienne Young is one of them.

I first read this back in October, and just read it again when Namesake came in at the library. (Consider the restraint I am currently exhibiting in writing this review instead of diving (hehe) right into it). I can’t ever recall a time when I re-read a book so soon after reading it the first time. Twice in about six months time – I’ve never done it before. I know it’s real because not only did I want to re-read it sooner, but I already want to read it for a third time. I love it that much. I want to shove it in everyone’s faces and demand they read it too, but I also want to keep it for myself, and I’m afraid that no one will love it as much as I want them to. Torn between keeping it a secret, and throwing it out into the ether (I know the book world is on top of its brilliance, but I refer to the rest of the world and my immediate circle). I just love it SO MUCH, and I never expected it. I can remember those few moments before I cracked it open, my world unknowingly about to change for the better. I want to bottle up that moment and use it as a memory to cheer me up on miserable days. I want to press it like a flower into a book and save it for my future children. Because Fable is worth it, friends. Fable is worth it. The Marigold crew is worth it.

And I haven’t even cracked open Namesake yet.

P.S. Also have you seen those covers?! Are they not the most stunning covers you’ve seen in the history of bookmaking?? And How On Earth did I not notice the ship in her eye until just now?? (E-books, that’s how, but I digress.)

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