Side characters can be heroes too in this charming and fast-paced adventure that is The Land of Stories meets The Phantom Tollbooth!
Indira has been a character-in-waiting her entire life. So she can't believe her luck when she's finally chosen to travel to Fable and study at the renowned Protagonist Preparatory, a school known for producing the best heroes.
But Indira's dreams of achieving hero status don't exactly go as planned. A failed audition lands her in the school's side-character track, and her best efforts to prove advisorsfamous characters like Alice from Wonderland and Professor Darcywrong are constantly sabotaged. Indira is starting to feel like an evil antagonist might be to blame.
As the danger spreads, Indira discovers all of Fable is under siege. With her friends Maxi and Phoenix by her side, she pieces together clues that will reveal who is behind the dark magic threatening them all. But the more Indira uncovers, the more doubt she feels about her place in this world of stories. After all, can a side character really save the day?
About the Author
Scott Reintgen is a former public school teacher and still spends summers teaching middle schoolers dark fiction and fantasy at Duke Young Writers' Camp. The birth of his son has convinced him that magic is actually real. He lives in North Carolina, surviving mostly on cookie dough and the love of his wife, Katie. Scott is the author of the Nyxia Triad, and Saving Fable is his middle-grade debut. You can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @Scott_Thought.
Read an Excerpt
Once a week, Indira Story woke up early.
Like before-the-sunrise early. Stars-still-in-the-sky early. I’m sure you know the feeling, my dear reader. The bed is warm. The floor is cold. Even the moon watches you, one eyebrow raised, a little unsure why anyone would get up at that hour. If you know the feeling, then you know exactly how Indira felt as she got ready that morning.
She lit a single candle in the corner of her shack and started getting dressed. It was one of the few times that having just one outfit to her name came in handy. Even in the semidark, she never ended up putting on mismatched clothes, because these were her only clothes. She slid instinctually into a pink homespun shirt. The tunic was cinched at the waist by a well-worn leather belt, from which a silver hammer hung.
She packed her bag with the two biscuits she’d saved from the day before. Her stomach growled a little because of the skipped meal, but she knew from experience that it was worth it. All packed up, she snuffed her candle and slipped quietly outside. The stars twinkled overhead.
Indira walked beneath their gentle glow, moving past a row of identical shacks. All the other characters-in-waiting were asleep at this hour. She might catch an early riser or two practicing monologues, but most of them were dreaming of other worlds.
She made her way down to the village proper. There were always a few people huddled by the docks. At this point, the morning crew recognized her. She received a few tired hat tips or mumbled greetings as a boat drifted toward them. Indira nodded in return before waiting her turn to climb aboard.
It was a short trip. The boat ferried travelers from Originher hometownto the neighboring town of Quiver. If you were out at sea, looking at the two towns side by side, it would be hard to tell which was which. Both cities had hunched buildings, their roofs decorated with green stones that looked almost like fish scales. Even the docks looked identical.
But Indira had learned to recognize the differences. Origin was a hopeful place. It was full of characters who could still be chosen, who were still waiting to be invited to Fable to be trained at Protagonist Preparatory. Quiver, on the other hand, was populated by characters who hadn’t been chosen. Characters like her brother.
Indira disembarked with the other travelers. Quiver’s streets felt particularly abandoned and sad this morning. Indira always shivered a little as she navigated through the alleys, following the familiar turns to reach her brother’s apartment. The door looked more like the entrance to a cupboard than an apartment, but Indira kept that thought to herself.
She knocked twice. “Pizza delivery service!”
Inside, there was rustling. It took another second of fiddling for her brother to work the stubborn lock open. The door gave a ghostly groan. David looked out at her sleepily. The two of them were clearly related. Both boasted the same amber-brown skin, dark hair that never behaved, and wide cheeks thatunfortunatelyold ladies always wanted to pinch.
“Pizza?” David asked skeptically. “You don’t really have pizza, do you?”
Indira grinned before sliding past him and into the cramped apartment.
“We can pretend it’s pizza,” Indira said. “Just like we can pretend your door isn’t haunted by a ghost that was obviously murdered here and now seeks vengeance.”
David closed the door, and it offered another ghoulish groan.
“I thought we agreed the ghost was cursed by a witch,” he said.
Indira removed the biscuits she’d saved from the day before and set them on the table. A quick glance showed that David had not taken her advice from their last visit. The whole place was a mess. She gestured for him to take a seat. “Eat up before the ghost takes your biscuit.”
As he took a seat, she set to work on the apartment. She picked up clothes that looked relatively clean and folded them in a stack in one corner. She ushered stray wrappers into an overflowing trash can. She even found an abandoned plate wedged under the mattress. Behind her, David let out a satisfied noise as he took his first bite of the delivered biscuit.
“I miss the food over there,” he said with a full mouth.
She finished tidying up and took the seat across from him. His eyes closed as he took a second bite. She noticed the way his shoulders hunched. He also had a few bruises running down one arm. David was only a few years older than her, but he looked so very tired.
“How’s everything going, D?”
He finished chewing. “Long hours, but it’s fine. I got promoted this week.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Promoted? That’s great.”
He nodded. “Going deeper into the mine now. I have my own team and everything. We get assigned to some of the trickier story nuggets buried in there. You know the routine. We excavate the nugget. Another team refines the story idea. And then it’s straight to the Authors!” He smiled a little. “Without us, there’d barely be any stories at all!”
Indira nodded along. She had heard David talk about all of this before. It was a good thing, she realized, that he had such a positive attitude. David liked to think of their world as one big system. Indira knew that his bosses preached about it all the time. Stories were a team effort. Everyone had an important part to play in creating them. But she also remembered how badly David had wanted to be an actual character in a story. Her brother was living proof that not everyone was chosen.