Review: Storybound by Marissa Burt


July 13, 2012 by Heidi

book cover of Storybound by Marissa BurtTitle: Storybound [Amazon|GoodReads]
Author: Marissa Burt [Website|Twitter]
Standing: First in a series.
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Published: April 3rd, 2012 by Harper Collins Children
Format: Hardcover; 406 pages.
Source: Borrowed from my local library.
Challenge: YA/MG Fantasy Challenge

A sparkle caught her eye, and she slid some of the heavier volumes aside.  There, as if it had fallen behind the front row of books, a scarlet volume lay hidden, its cover interworked with shimmers of silver.  Una brushed off the thin layer of dust that muted the striking color and traced the leafy pattern.  She followed the brightness of the silver over to the spine.  There was no title, no numbers to mark the book’s place in the ordered library catalog.

“Curious,” Una murmured.  She flipped the book every which way but found no inscription.  It sat fat and heavy in her hand, and she paused for a moment before opening the beautiful filigreed cover.  All the pages had the same pretty silver lining, and Una turned them with reverent fingers.  Then she stopped.  She stared hard at the first page.  “The Tale of Una Fairchild,” it said in a sharp black script.  She read the line again, wondering if she was imagining things.  She was Una Fairchild.

Imagine you’re an actor on a long standing television series.  Life is good, you have steady work, a steady paycheck, and you’ve gotten to know your character pretty well.  And then one day, reading your script for the next episode, you realize something horrible.  You’re being written out.  Written out!  You’re done.  How much does that feeling suck?

Now, imagine that you’re a book lover going about your everyday business.  One day, while reading, you find yourself suddenly displaced and surrounded by…well…the story.  You’ve been written in.  Written in!  Is that feeling not as elating as the feeling of being written out was crappy?  Welcome to the joy of Marissa Burt’s Storybound.

Storybound is one of those incredibly aptly named books that works on many levels, the most literal being that Una is bound for Story, the land where characters are trained for parts, and live out the stories we read.  The young (people and talking animals, and I’d assume other creatures as well) go to school to train to become a part.  They take classes as heroes, villains, ladies, and more.  There appear to be many different areas of Story, but Storybound is concerned with the fantasy realm, wherein those stories we know as fairy tales are enacted.  Honestly, even having read it, I’m not 100% clear on how it all works, but here’s the best explanation that I found:

Peter shook his head. “It’s not like that. We don’t read the stories. Oh, we know about the famous characters and all,” he said, and pointed to Lenora, “But it’s people out there, in the land of the Readers who read our Tales.”

Una looked at the pixie’s smiling face. The land of the Readers. Like the one where Una had come from. Like home. “So when someone reads ‘Lenora in Neverland,’ Lenora is acting it out here?”

Peter was staring back at the kitchens. “Right. Although it’s not acting so much as living out a Tale.”

When Una finds herself written in (WI) to Story, it becomes clear to her and her new friend Peter that there is a serious plot afoot.  They’re just not sure quite what.  There haven’t been any WIs since they were all killed when the Muses broke their oaths and the Tale Keepers took control.  Some believe that the Muses are still out there, and that a King will someday return to rule Story, while others jostle for power over the people.  Una needs to find out why she’s in Story, and what exactly has happened in the past to bring the land to where it is today.

There were many good aspects of Storybound.  It took a whopping six pages to really get into the action, and it didn’t really let up for the duration.  Marissa Burt cleverly took elements of two trends that are currently very popular—fairy tale retellings and dystopias—and utilized them in a unique way.  The political situation in Story is very like that we see in a dystopian novel.  Knowledge is being kept from the masses as a form of control, an inevitable underground rebellion is forming, you know the drill.  Match that with the twist of a world where people are raised to perform as the fairy tale characters we all know and love, and you have some fantastic story elements.

Unfortunately, for me, Storybound didn’t really pan out.  The plot seemed convoluted, and I can’t quite put my finger on why.  I’m not sure if there were too many characters with not enough development, lack of strong enough world building, too complicated of a back-story…I honestly can’t say.  It just didn’t really click for me, but I do feel that each of those things played a role.  Storybound was a book that didn’t show you the story, it told you the story.  I didn’t feel anything because as a reader I wasn’t connected to the characters or their adventures.

The characters to me weren’t logical, their actions and personalities seemed inconsistent to me.  For example, Snow seemed like a classic shallow mean girl, but when her ‘depth’ was shown, her mean girl actions made less sense to me.  She supposedly genuinely likes Peter, and yet in their school practical she’s snippy, mean, and sits around filing her nails.  I understand the concept of putting up a mean front as a shield, but not in this way when alone with someone you both genuinely like and need to succeed for a passing grade to achieve your goals.  Then, for a logic example, there is a point during another observed exam, where Una is careful of what she says, knowing it will be recorded, but not careful about what she does.  Are actions not recorded as well?  Also, when Una is first written in to Story, she is wearing a cape and wielding a knife, and never really seems to bat an eye about this.  Where do these objects come from?  I get that she’s not a chicken, but she’s cool with knife wielding out of nowhere?  I just don’t see it.

Too much about Storybound was inconsistent, or unexplained for me.  I think the difference between an okay story and a great story is the ability to evoke emotion in readers, and immerse them in a way that makes them feel part of the story.  Ironically, I did not feel like I was in any way written in to Storybound.

Likelihood that I’ll be back for more:  Sadly, I didn’t really click with Storybound, and do not think that I will be back to see how the story ends.  I was particularly annoyed that this book holds a massive cliffhanger (I am a cliffhanger hater), so beware if you feel the same.

Recommended for: Fans of fairy tales, The Neverending Story, and Inkspell.  As per usual, I have included some much more positive reviews from reviewers I trust so that you can have a fair and balanced view of Storybound.

Get a second opinion:
Books Take You Places (by Tara)
Bibliographic Monologues 


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  1. VeganYANerds says:

    The cover for this is so pretty! Shame about there being a few too many characters and some unexplained issues, that would bring a book down in my eyes, too – lovely review!

  2. I had a very similar reaction to Storybound when I read it as well. I LOVED the clever premise, characters Written In and Out, and an alternate world where the people of a story are actually living it as we read, but I just didn’t connect with many of the characters either. I read & reviewed an ARC, so this may have changed in the finished copy, but I was VERY confused throughout much of the book as to who was narrating. There were, what, 3 or 4 different narrators total, and many times the narration seemed to jump from one to another, often mid chapter and without denotation. Then I would have to go back and re-read to figure it all out. It made what was already a pretty long book (especially for MG) that much longer.

    Will I read the sequel? Maybe. Darn it if that cliffhanger ending doesn’t make me curious to find out what happens in the end. Maybe the inconsistencies from Book 1 will be corrected in the next one.

    • Heidi says:

      I’m interested to see if you do read the second one, Heather. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who had difficulties with this one. The finished copy honestly read like an ARC. It just didn’t seem…finished. There was so much cleaning up that needed to be done, it seemed obvious that this was a debut piece, but then I think of all of the amazing debuts I’ve read this year and think that’s really no excuse.

  3. Brandy says:

    I returned this to the library unread because I couldn’t work up the enthusiasm for it. I loved the premise but something I couldn’t put my finger on was off-putting. I probably won’t be changing my mind.

    • Heidi says:

      Yeah, I almost quit reading it several times, but I’d started it on a train ride where it was my only reading option, and it was half finished by the time I got home, so I went ahead and read through. If it doesn’t click for you, it just doesn’t.

  4. Alyssa says:

    I am sorry that you didn’t like this one! Do you ever feel like you react differently to a book if you’re reading it at a certain time? I read your review and actually understand and agree with everything you said but as I read this book it made me feel elated and just warm inside! I think it’s really interesting to read different people’s reactions to something that I felt so strongly about. This was a great review, my friend, and thanks for the linkage!

    • Heidi says:

      Thanks, Alyssa! And I DO think that certain books just WORK for you at certain times. I mean, the book I’d probably list as my all time favorite isn’t the best book in the world or one I would recommend to everyone, but because it found me at the exact right time I’m going to love it forever. I know exactly what you mean!

  5. […] Audio: The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson Storybound by Marissa Burt […]

  6. Jasmine Rose says:

    Aww, I’m sad it didn’t work out for you. I think I’ll still be trying it, and hoping for a better outcome, though :]

  7. April Books & Wine says:

    Worldbuilding and logic are super important to me in the stories I read, so I am not sure I would love this. Plus telling and not showing is a big huge turn off for me. Sigh. Sorry it wasn’t one that evoked a great emotional reaction!

    • Heidi says:

      Yeah, really just didn’t the mark for me. I know some people who have loved this one, but honestly if I hadn’t been stuck on the train to/from the city with this as my only reading option, I probably would have put it down pretty early.

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While the source for each book I review is posted within its review, please assume unless otherwise stated that books reviewed on Bunbury in the Stacks were received free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.