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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Clever, cute and full of fanciful reading for younger readers! Scott Reintgen’s SAVING FABLE proves to one developing storybook character that one doesn’t need to be the heroine to do great things! Indira has spent her life waiting to be chosen to be a hero in a story her entire life. If she fails in her audition, she could be doomed to be a supporting character. When danger lurks nearby, can she convince her instructors that all of Fable is under siege? Can she be the heroine to save the day? Will it change her status in an author’s story? A delightful tale for younger readers that holds hidden messages as one character comes of age and learns just how important everyone can be. I don’t often, or until now, have never compared books or authors, but I have to say, this tale reminds me strongly of the talent of Indie author Brian Clopper and his IRVING WISHBUTTON series, (which I absolutely loved) as storybook characters grow, develop and change just like real children. I received a complimentary ARC edition from Crown Books for Young Readers ! This is my honest and voluntary review.
Saving Fable has everything you could ask for in a Kids fantasy: a unique, magical city and school; diverse, likable characters; an original - to me - and intriguing concept; and an interesting plot that builds into something frightening. It's also fun! We take classes from famous fictional characters, now professors - Alice, Odysseus, Mr. Darcy, and others - watch the Grammar Police* in action, chase dog-ears, and meet the friendly Marks - walking, talking bookmarks. Protagonist Prep's student advisers are Brainstorms, and Indira Story, our budding heroine, is mentored by none other than Deus Ex Machina himself. And then there's the bumbling, often hilarious, Detective Malaprop, a worthy, and no doubt direct, descendant of Sheridan's entertaining character. Residents of the city of Fable are training to be protagonists or side characters in books or stories in the real world. Indira desperately wants to change her destiny and become a hero in a novel, thereby saving her brother, who, not being worthy of a story of his own, is trapped in a life of drudgery. But some things are not what they seem in Fable, and Indira, armed like Thor with a magical hammer, must use her wits, strength, and friends to uncover and battle the evil that threatens to destroy the city. This is a can't-put-down read that gradually moves you from the rear to the edge of your seat. Happily, there is plenty of room for a sequel; for starters, we never visited the city of Fester, where antagonists train. Much is left to explore in this imaginative world, and it will be a joy to revisit the characters and follow their stories. * 'Imbalance' and 'imbalanced' (OED: "a lack of proper proportion") are used when 'unbalance' and 'unbalanced' ("to throw off balance") should be. It's especially grating to see 'imbalance' function as a verb ("How am I supposed to imbalance that?" "Try to imbalance the creature..."). As Fable's Grammar Police would point out, 'imbalance' is a noun. (Note: I read an ARC, so these errors may have been corrected.) * Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Netgalley and Crown Books for Young Readers for providing me with a protected MOBI copy of Saving Fable in exchange for an honest review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Saving Fables is the first in a new series about characters that get chosen to be a part of a book. I thought that this was very creative and have only read one other book that was somewhat similar but was based around plays instead. This book really makes the characters come to life and even mentions other characters that have been enjoyed for years: Harry Potter, Dracula, Darcy, and Alice. It is full of great characters and a plot that is both fun and intriguing! I wasn't sure how this book would turn out but I liked how the ending brought everything together. It is definitely a good read and perfect for kids who love to read and want a different take on how books are made. eARC provided by publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
What a great story! This was so much fun to read--I loved the whole premise, with Indira and other characters hoping to be written into a story in the Real World. It was really fun to see the different areas of Imagination, like Fable and Origin. I also loved Protagonist Prepatory and the different classes the Indira attended. It was just a really clever world and I really enjoyed venturing into it with Indira. Indira was a great character--I loved her heart and her pluck and her determination and seeing her struggle to believe in herself. The plot was also really interesting, with twists and surprises to keep it moving along quickly. I will definitely be reading the rest of the series! 4.5. stars. I read an ARC provided by the publisher via #NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
Ahoy! I was offered an eArc of this book from NetGalley and jumped at the chance. The story centers around Indira Story who has been a character-in-waiting who yearns to be a protagonist in an author's book one day. But to do so, she has to be selected to go to Fable to attend the Protagonist Preparatory. Indira is excited to get her chance but be upset to discover herself in the side-character tract. Indira is determined to earn protagonist status. But everything seems to be going wrong. On the novel's Goodreads page the author says, "This book is a love letter to the world of literature. I wrapped up everything we love about books and shoved it all inside a breathless adventure story about a girl trying to figure out what it means to be a hero." This love of literature can certainly be seen in the lovely world-building. I really did like the idea of a school where characters train to be more rounded, to develop interests and quirks, and to broaden their horizons in order to catch the eye of a potential author. I loved that famous characters from other stories are teachers. Particular favourites include Alice, Mr. Darcy, and Romeo Montague. I loved the set-up for the book with its different towns and jobs for the characters. I also think that Indira Story was a fantastic character. I was rooting for her the entire time. I absolutely adored her host family and thought many of their scenes were some of the strongest of the book. Her other character friends were fun but I do wish they had a more page time and were fleshed out further. I especially would have liked Peeve to not have disappeared for the entire second-half of the story. But this being a first book of the series, maybe those characters will make bigger appearances in later books. I did think the first half of the plot was much stronger than the second. Once Indira got to the school and had her first day of classes, the story did get a bit muddled. Also the world-building suffered after this point too. There was never really enough description of the town of Fable or the inside of the school itself. The classes themselves weren't discussed in much detail either. The evil character in this book did have a believable backstory which I enjoyed. I just think that the mystery plot elements and resolutions weren't particularly strong. Also the comparison of this to the Phantom Tollbooth is over-reaching. While the concepts are fun, the story is not overly clever and certainly doesn't have the magnitude of the magic of language like that classic. It lead me to having high expectations that weren't fulfulled. That said, I do think this be a story that kids should love. This adult did like it and would read the next installment of the series. As the author says: "As you enter a world where everything about books has literally come to life, I'd encourage you to keep a few things in mind:: 1. Bookmarks are bad at giving advice, because they miss entire chapters in the story. 2. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. 3. Mr. Darcy's class, Love by Page 12, always takes place in the Rainy Courtyard. 4. Down in the Sepulcher, one can find every Unfinished story that's ever been written. 5. Every story YOU write creates new jobs for these characters. It'd be a shame for you to leave them unemployed. So go ahead and write the story that only you could write. These characters are training hard in school to make sure they're ready for the day you do." Arrrrr!!!
What a WONDERFUL, FUN book this one is!! I sucked it down so fast!! The story of Indira Story and her chance to be a character in Fable is absolutely delightful!! Written for young readers, it has a Harry Potter vibe to it. Except what was freakin ingenious was that it is about books being written, characters being chosen to be in them, and it’s a school where the characters study and hope to be chosen by an Author. The world building is so incredible and entertaining! There are bookmarks who are tall, thin, odd characters who walk around talking about the book they’re reading. Then there are DOGears, who run around causing mischief. I mean who wants their book dog eared?!! There is one world, then you look up and there’s another above it!! There are dragon eye transporters to take you up to the other world. Plus the world’s themes keep changing. There’s so much more in this world, it is filled with interesting things!! The characters are so well written, and the plot is adventurous, suspenseful and an exciting ride!! I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book to anyone, old and young!! In fact I ordered a hardback copy for a friend’s daughter and i think she’ll love it!!!!