Title: Saving Fable
Author: Scott Reintgen
Genre: Middle Grade/Fantasy
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 384
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Notable Notables: POC characters
Recommended Readers: Anyone searching for a wholesome fantasy and a tribute to stories
Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher, for offering this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I don’t read Middle Grade books much anymore, but when a publicist from Random House Children’s Books reached out about an ARC, I couldn’t pass it up for the same reason they offered: I became an instant fan and reviewer of Scott Reintgen with his Nyxia Triad, and I couldn’t wait to see what else he produced. In this case, it’s Saving Fable, the charming first book of a Middle Grade fantasy series that’s also a tribute to literature and storytelling.
We first meet Indira Story, an earnest, hammer-wielding girl in a pink tunic who longs to become a character-in-training. Her brother David was never chosen, and she hopes she can one day have an Author choose her so she and her brother can find a place in the hearts and minds of Readers. When she’s finally chosen to attend Protagonist Preparatory in Fable, she can hardly believe it. It seems she’s on the fast track to being a hero after all.
However, everything goes wrong once Indira fails her audition and is regulated to being a side character instead. Even her attempts to impress her teachers—the romantic Professor Darcy, the tragic Romeo Montague, and the unpredictable Alice from Wonderland—seem to do nothing but backfire on her. With her friends Maxi and Phoenix, Indira sets out to uncover a sinister plot, one that not only endangers her but also all of Fable. But can a side character without a place in the story really be enough to save the day?
Saving Fable is such a cute book. As I read, I could feel my 11-year-old self waking up and remembering why she first fell in love with reading and fantasy in the first place. I adore this idea of characters all being real, waiting out there for an Author to take notice of them and put them inside stories. While they wait, characters are also undergoing various training, so they can become more well-rounded and appealing to Authors. The town of Fable and Protagonist Preparatory itself instantly gripped my attention. Maybe it’s the Harry Potter fan in me, but I still love these magic school setups. (Plus, it was awesome to see Harry himself and other noteworthy characters and stories referenced throughout, as if the world of Imaginary really is waiting there, just beyond our Real World.)
Indira is such an interesting character to follow because even while she has clear talent and drive, nothing is easy for her. Nothing goes her way. I also love that Deus ex Machina was assigned as her mentor for reasons I can’t quite articulate. There’s just something about it that’s so fitting.
However, I’m deeply surprised that her rivalry with Peeve Meadows never resurfaced after the beginning of the book. I realize that Peeve was assigned to the Antagonist school instead, but I was deeply intrigued about seeing more come out of their confrontation, and I still am. I actually really want to see what goes on for the antagonists in comparison because I am nothing if not a villain fan.
Regardless, I got a kick out of the classes Indira had to attend, especially Professor Darcy’s Falling in Love by Page 12. I laughed aloud at him showing his students how to look longingly off into the distance in the pouring down rain. One of the reasons this book didn’t get a full five stars from me is because I wanted to see a lot more of these classes and Indira’s dynamics with her teachers and classmates than I actually got. They interested me more than the mystery that occurs in the later half of the book.
However, I realize this is an introductory children’s book, so I can only reason that readers may learn more about Fable in later books. I’m not sure if we’ll still be following Indira or choosing another character to learn more about—and there are plenty to choose from. Reintgen introduces many characters in Saving Fable, but it’s Indira and her adopted family, the Penningtons, who get the most development by far. I definitely want to learn a lot more about Phoenix, Maxi, Peeve, Grant, and Margaret since I only got surface-level stuff with them. However, I’m confident that Reintgen will deliver on that.
Unlike many of the books I grew up reading, however, Saving Fable has something special that they do not: effortless racial diversity of its characters. I rarely found children’s books with POC main characters back then, and when I did, they were almost always written by POC authors. I’d like to think that Saving Fable is a step in the right direction, not just for children’s works but for stories in general, where more and more people can see themselves in the Indiras and Maxis of the story. They can see themselves as the heroes, with different goals, personalities, and methods about how to get there.
I’m looking forward to seeing what else becomes of Fable and these cute magic kids. Thanks again for the adventure, Scott!