Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Amulet Books (1 Jan 2012)
Anna and Abel couldn’t be more different. They are both seventeen and in their last year of school, but while Anna lives in a nice old town house and comes from a well-to-do family, Abel, the school drug dealer, lives in a big, prisonlike tower block at the edge of town. Anna is afraid of him until she realizes that he is caring for his six-year-old sister on his own. Fascinated, Anna follows the two and listens as Abel tells little Micha the story of a tiny queen assailed by dark forces. It’s a beautiful fairy tale that Anna comes to see has a basis in reality. Abel is in real danger of losing Micha to their abusive father and to his own inability to make ends meet. Anna gradually falls in love with Abel, but when his “enemies” begin to turn up dead, she fears she has fallen for a murderer. Has she?
Award-winning author Antonia Michaelis moves in a bold new direction with her latest novel: a dark, haunting, contemporary story that is part mystery, part romance, and part melodrama.
The prologue shows the reader a scene in the woods, which is very poignant.
We’re introduced to Anna’s world – naïve and still enjoying some childhood activities although best friend Gitta appears more worldly-wise than her. She is on the edge of changes, which are precipitated by the finding of a doll in the school’s common room. The doll belongs to Abel Tannatek’s 6 year old sister, Micha.
Anna begins to follow Tannatek – first to the elementary school where she sees him pick up Micha and then to the University restaurant where she eavesdrops on the fairytale he is creating.
Slowly, very slowly, Anna begins to erode the walls Tannatek has built up around himself and Micha. Going against everyone’s warnings, she wraps her own life around his. She is never sure of the part he plays in the darkness that surrounds them but despite that, her love grows for him. Their romance reminds me of the mythic journey of the Cups in the Tarot.
While Anna is moving closer to him, there is another peer at school who is in love with Anna and secretively follows her everywhere. When the tragedies happen, this made it difficult to predict whether I should side with Anna in her beliefs or lay the blame elsewhere.
There are plenty of ‘hooks’ in the story. For example on page 135:
“Later, she would think, what if she had called, if she had talked to him on that Sunday, if she had … but who cares about later? Later is always too late.”
Written mostly around the season of winter in Germany, the scenes/setting create just the right atmosphere for the darkness of the story.
The writing is really beautiful:
“The ice was smooth and wide, and it lay hidden under the snow like a secret thought.” (page 311)
This is such an unusual story, not only because it is part romance, part mystery and part melodrama but also because the fairytale that Tannatek creates is a reflection of his and Micha’s life. Rich in symbolism, it is enchanting while at the same time dark and compelling. It weaves its way through their everyday lives and I was engrossed trying to work out who represented who and the deeper meaning behind the words.
The Storyteller is a poignant story that steals into your heart and gives you hope but then shatters it into splinters, just when you think it will be whole.
Targetted towards the Young Adult audience, I would also suggest for adult readers (because of its literary content and also because of the myth/symbols).
The Storyteller is available to purchase from:
You can find out more about the author here.