A king is one day convinced that a young lady can spin hay into gold. He locks her in a room and tells her she will die in the morning if she doesn’t spin the hay for him. As she cries and believes it is her last day on earth, a little man comes out of the air to offer to help her. For a price of course. He wants her first-born child.
The young lady agrees and the man spins gold for her. Night after night he spins until the king is so rich, he doesn’t know what to do with himself. He offers his son in marriage to the young lady and they seem to live happily ever after.
That is, until she becomes pregnant and the little man reminds her that he will be there to have her child when they are born. The now princess begs for a way out and he says he will come to her every day until the child is born and she can try to guess his name. If she can guess it, she can keep the baby. It doesn’t look so good for the expecting mother as the due date draws closer and closer.
Finally, a servant overhears the little man saying his name as he dances around a fire one night. The servant returns to tell the princess the name. When he returned she yelled out confidently that his name was Rumpelstiltskin and got to keep her baby.
This story is a well-known story to many of us who had Grimm’s Brothers and Nursery Rhymes as bedtime stories. Most people know the name Rumpelstiltskin when it is mentioned. The Storyteller’s Daughter is a wonderful retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, a well-written twist on the story many of us grew up knowing.
Victoria McCombs, a stay-at-home mom to some wonderful boys, is a traditionally published author. She was contracted with Parliament House Press in 2018 for The Storyteller’s Daughter. Her journey is well documented on her Instagram account, @victoria_mccombs.
It is through her Instagram account that I found her by chance. Scrolling down I saw a post asking for Beta Readers. I signed up before I knew what the story was, only that it was a retelling of a fairy tale. Having read this story I would like to pass on this review to others so they can determine if they would like to read it as well. Below is the blurb from the back of the book:
His shadowed face lit by flames,
Rumpelstiltskin is my name…
For as long as anyone can remember, every child in Westfallen has been born with a Gift, and these Gifts defined them.
Then Cosette is born, Giftless.
An attempt to hide her misfortune brings her before the King, who entraps her to use her Gift as a pawn in his war.
Caught in a lie, Cosette desperately searches for a power strong enough to free her. Intrigued by whispers of an old king and a dark curse, she calls upon Rumpelstiltskin and finds him trapped in a magic deeper than she bargained for. Now, Cosette must fight to reclaim her freedom from the King and break Rumpel’s curse. When time runs out, she’ll lose more than her heart. She’ll lose her life.
The Book Cover:
A very important thing for me, as a reader, is the cover. I know one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I very much do. I didn’t see a cover when I was beta reading, for she didn’t have one just yet. But I’m happy to say the cover fits the story very well.
The black and gold swirls and center title reminds me of the finely crafted books of fairy tales from when I was a child. One doesn’t see all of its beauty on a screen, so I suggest picking up a copy at a bookseller’s to get the full effect. To have it in hand is very nice. It draws the eyes and makes me want to read the back of the book.
The blurb on the back is also surrounded by swirls of gold and written in a very sophisticated font. Several of the children I work with have picked up the book and started reading my copy based on the “cool cover”.
I will try not to give the story away, so there will be three stars (***) before and after any section that has spoilers.
As with most books, there is the overall threat to everyone and then the threat to the main characters. Victoria writes the same into her stories. It helps broaden the story and gives way to an amazing plot.
For our protagonist, Cosette, the overall threat in her world is the war with two other nations. It is mentioned several times by townspeople, soldiers, side characters, and main characters. This conflict helps to propel the protagonist into her situation where she must make a choice. None of the options given to the character are good. She must choose to make gold or die. The overall threat of war and death always looms over her, making her choices difficult throughout the story.
Cosette’s overall plot is one that revolves around her staying alive. Throughout the entire story, her greatest fear is dying. She is given three major choices throughout the story, but they each offer her the option of do this one thing or die. Her entire being is bent on protecting herself. This plot was a realistic approach that was welcomed. Victoria made her character stick to the overall survival feeling even as the subplots bloomed all around her.
Speaking of the subplots, there were several here.
Two major subplots that I could see are the love triangle and removing Rumpel’s curse. The love triangle is an interesting one. It starts with Aiden and Prince Conrad. While Aiden is the love interest from the start of the book, he doesn’t remain so.
He is removed as Cosette realizes that she is starting to have feelings for Rumpel. While the reader ships Rumpel, it isn’t until after Aiden is out of the picture that he falls neatly into the love triangle. Prince Conrad seems to be interested in Cosette, though she has no interest in him.
The triangle has this amazing tug of war on the reader as they look at a forced love choice and the star-crossed lovers. It keeps the reader rooting for one of the men and hating the other while feeling bad for him at the same time.
The second subplot is the removal of Rumpel’s curse. Once discovered, it takes Cosette’s mind off of her own threatened life for a time. She focuses on him and through her skills, she starts to learn and understand more about Rumpel. This also helps to build movement into the love subplot.
Her determination to help while her own life was at risk is admirable. As the reader, it is believable that someone with a good heart would want to help others even when they are threatened. It also helps to bring out her character traits, making her more relatable to the reader.
End of Spoilers ***
The Main Characters:
The five major characteristics I would relate to Cosette are these:
What I like the most about Cosette is her femininity. Today’s books usually show strong capable women. While there is nothing wrong with this and it is a welcome change from the damsel in distress many of us grew up with, I feel at times we have gone too far the other way. Cosette is a refreshing balance.
She is not physically strong, nor is she emotional the strongest. Her mental strength is one characteristic I wish to have. She relies on the male leads, while still projecting her worth and contribution to the situations. She is described as a pretty girl, but not the most beautiful, making her relatable to many young girls who read this book.
The more determined Cosette becomes, the feistier she acts. Her freedom and support from the male characters help to shed light on the fire that had never had a chance to burn before. Her kind-hearted attitude towards most of the people in the story helps smooth out her feistiness to a well-rounded balance.
It is refreshing to see that she isn’t willing to welcome everyone into her heart like in fairytales, but is willing to be civil to those she doesn’t like. This heart of hers leads others to underestimate her intelligence. While she can not write, she can read. This is a valuable tool that she uses throughout the plot and subplot. Cosette is underestimated by many because of her inability to use magic. Victoria uses this other way of thinking to bring a character to life that readers will root for, cry over, and love to the very end of the book.
Rumpelstiltskin AKA. Rumpel, Male Sidekick
The five major characteristics I would relate to Rumpel are these:
Rumpel makes for a great supportive male lead role. When you first meet him, it is through the eyes of Cosette who is nervous of him. It makes us feel the same way.
The flaws Victoria writes would normally seem like bad traits. When he is paired with Cosette, those flaws that peak through his happy mask balance his charismatic style. It gives depth to the character without the reader truly understanding the reason they feel so attached. His secretive side makes the reader question him even as they fall in love with his character.
Being realistic is at times a shield for his predicament. Rumpel can’t afford to get his hopes up with rumors or thoughts of what-ifs. He is stuck and has come to terms with it. He is supportive where Cosette needs someone and stubborn when she is being too forward.
All in all, it is good to see a supportive male character who doesn’t need to be either weak and stupid or strong-minded and stunningly handsome. He fills the gaps she has like a real relationship between any people should do. When they clash, it is beautiful, and when they work together the crowds cheer.
Prince Conrad, The Love Triangle and Sort of Antagonist
If I was to list his characteristics they would be:
Prince Conrad is a hard one to place. He falls into a few spots in the story but he is a very important character. He’s major for the plot and the subplot as both the love interest and at times the antagonist’s pawn. He’s described as good looking and the way he acts shows he is used to the attention and the awe of a well-dressed, clean man of the middle ages. To most of the country, he is seen as a charming person with an easy smile.
While Cosette sees this side many times in the book, our first meeting of Conrad shows a cold and calculating person. He has his interests in mind and they are under the surface of his smile the rest of the book. The Prince is shown through Rumpel and Cosette to be ready to throw a person under the bus to get what he wants.
His ignorance of Cosette’s feelings bothers me, but makes for a good in-depth character. He remains hopeful that she will marry him and seems to be pushing for her even though she refuses him several times. He falls neatly into the almost-antagonist-but-not-quite category where you don’t like him, but do root for his failure as you read.
End of Spoilers***
The King, Antagonist
He’s the embodiment of the power-hungry, greedy, uncaring king of fairytales. He is a character that makes your lip curl and your heart bleed for Cosette as he puts her through one predicament after another. The king is not the most powerful character in the world, but Cosette gives him power by believing he has the right over her. Even during the times she stands up to him, her fear of him calling her bluff is hanging over her head.
The Antagonist is very good at moving the plot forward. There are times where the subplots start taking up a large portion of the story, and the king is suddenly there to put the main plot upright and center for the reader. While he is not a character seen very often in the story, he holds great importance for all the characters in this world.
While in English class, I hated having to tell people what the theme of a story was. Sometimes I believe the theme of the story is something completely different to the author than the readers. With that said, I do understand that many people want to know the theme of the book they are reading. I will do my best to present all the themes that I see. These are my opinions and reflect not on the author of this story.
The major ones I believe the book portrays are:
- Survival of self above all else.
- Love always prevails.
- Stay true to yourself.
- Your strength and power come from within.
- You don’t need magic to be special.
As I said, these are the main themes I can see in this story. Each one, I believe, resonates with Cosette throughout the story.
The Storyteller’s Daughter was an amazing read. When I read it as a beta, I was allowed to see different beginnings. Seeing the book finally finished is a gift, too. I can see where Victoria changed something and where she kept it the same. A wonderful experience to go with an amazing story. I would recommend this book for anyone looking for a book with twists, love triangles, and a plain old good retelling of the fairytale of Rumpelstiltskin.
You can find Victoria McCombs and The Storyteller’s Daughter online here:
And don’t forget to pick up a copy at your local bookstore!