Fable Duology Review
Ahoy, mateys! I'm back with another adventure-themed review on a duology with pirate vibes!
This duology has been reviewed repeatedly, and if you're ever on bookstagram or booktok, you've probably seen Fable and Namesake by Adrienne Young a time or five. I was intrigued by how often I saw it praised and by a few videos I've seen talking about its tropes and showing off its aesthetic, so naturally I had to read it.
NOTE: I've kept this one pretty spoiler-free, so ye can tread without caution.
Genre: YA Fantasy
Category: Cozy Read
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RATING: 3/5 Stars
Plot: 3/5 stars
Characters: 3/5 stars
World: 4/5 stars
Fable spent the first thirteen years of her life on her father's trading ship, until a deadly storm claims her mother's life, and her father abandons her on Jeval, an island of thieves. Using the unique gifts passed down from her mother, and keeping her father's life rules in mind, Fable learns how to get by, and convinces a young trader named West to take her across the Narrows to confront her father and demand a place on his crew.
But the trading business is more dangerous than she remembers. Her father's enterprise––and list of enemies––has grown, and she learns that West is more than he seems. Now Fable has to survive more than island-dwelling thieves.
The premise sounds exciting, and after all the hype, I went into this story expecting to have my socks knocked off. However, they remained firmly in place.
I saw another reviewer say, “That cover made me go all WOAH, but what’s inside is a small OH," and sadly, I must agree. The covers are gorgeous, but the content felt lacking. It wasn't a bad read, just not one of my favorites.
Fable is not a fun, fast-paced, plot-driven novel. This duology is slow, dark, and driven by characters and their schemes.
While the story is about Fable trying to make it back to her father and start a new chapter in life, it’s also about a few “strays”––West and his crew–– trying to make it as a small trading enterprise. There are no royals, palaces, armies, or wars. Just rivalries and politics between traders and guilds.
But it's really a story of survival; the things people are willing to do to keep their weaknesses secret and live to see another day. It’s about poverty and privilege. It’s about revenge. It’s about abandonment and found family.
“Like a weary bird flying out over the most desolate sea, I finally had a place to land.”
The story starts off slow, but it grew on me as I progressed; especially since the chapters are relatively short, which kept the story from dragging too much. Fable left off with a cliffhanger (ending when it started getting good, in my opinion), and I was glad to have access to book two immediately. Namesake was more enjoyable, and I read it much faster. There's more intrigue, more world-building, and lots of revelations.
I didn’t feel especially invested in any of the characters or the main romance. The characters felt flat, and the romance seemed to come out of nowhere and lack development. And I hated how Fable and West kept going behind each other’s backs to help one another, landing themselves in deeper shit. I enjoyed the romance between two of the gay sailors more, though they didn't get as much screen time.
Fable has a sad backstory and is undoubtedly tough as nails after living the last four years of her life looking out for herself and adhering to her father's five rules:
Keep your knife where you can reach it
Never, ever owe anyone anything
Nothing is free
Always construct a lie from a truth
Never, under any circumstances, reveal who or what matters to you
You can tell by Fable's actions and personality that Saint’s rules have been ingrained into her mind. She's self-sufficient, suspicious, and always on guard. And despite all the pain Saint has caused her, she never stops trying to make her way to back to him. All that said, I still never connected with her deeply.
The same goes for West and the rest of the Marigold's crew. West has a bit of a savior complex. He can't help taking people under his wing, and you can tell he cares no matter how much he tries to pretend otherwise. But that's about it. The rest of the crew aren't as fleshed out, though we do get some backstory on three out of four. You don't get much more besides the fact that two of the sailors are together and one of them loves birds; another member never wanted to live a life on the sea; and the fifth is . . . well, the book-keeper.
I took more interest in Fable's parents—Saint, the legendary merchant, and Isolde, a sea-lover with a mysterious background who seemed beloved by all.
“Isolde was the wind and sea and sky of Saint's world. She was the pattern of stars that he navigated by, the sum of all directions on his compass. And he was lost without her. [...] She was the sun and the sea and the moon in one. She was the north star that pulled us to the shore.”
For me, much of the story's weight was pulled by the stunning visuals—each port city had its own personality; you could see the difference between the slums and wealthier areas, and the underwater descriptions were awesome. Fable spends much of her time diving, and Young's descriptions of the beaches, reefs, and Fable's connection to the sea are beautiful. I also appreciated her use of metaphor.
The Narrows was the edge of a blade. You couldn't live here and not get cut.
Especially if you have something of value that others can use. As foreshadowed, Fable has a unique skillset that helps her make a living, lends a slight fantasy aspect to the story, and ups the steaks—anyone with knowledge of her gift could pose a threat. I was intrigued by her power; it felt unique beautiful. But I also found myself, on more than one occasion, thinking there was no way the divers were STILL underwater without needing to come up for air.
Because of all the hype behind these books, I anticipated falling in love with the story and characters, but ended up feeling let down. I didn’t find myself itching to get back to it once I put it down (especially with book one), and at times I was flat-out bored. Book two did pick up some of the slack, but in my opinion this duology failed to live up to the hype. I kept waiting expectantly for a wow factor that never came.
There are aspects reminiscent to the Daughter of the Pirate King (you can read my review here). I enjoyed the plot and characters of the latter more, while Fable had less of a pirate vibe and a slight edge in the world-building department.
That said, I’ll read the upcoming prequel, because Saint was one of the more mysterious characters, and I'm hoping to see baby Fable and her mother––whom everyone seemed to love––but I’m not dying for it to be released.