A Keeper’s Tale: SPFBO Semi-Finalist

Title: A Keeper’s Tale: The Story of Tomkin and the Dragon
Author: J.A. Andrews
Publisher: January 2017
Rating: 4 out of 5
Blurb: Tomkin Thornhewn, youngest son of the Duke of Marshwell, has a problem: he’s not heroic.
Regardless of his aspirations, the bookish, untrained young man is better suited to recording the deeds of heroes than being one himself.
Which becomes an obvious problem when he finds himself clinging to a ledge above a sleeping dragon. And instead of wielding his family’s great sword with valor and skill, he drops it—onto the dragon. The problem grows immeasurably worse when Tomkin himself falls off the ledge—also onto the dragon. And his problem reaches its peak when Tomkin, after being captured, discovers a maiden locked in a tower. But this is no sweet damsel. Not only does she refuse to be rescued, she refuses to even admit she’s in distress.
It’s too bad for the people of Marshwell that Tomkin is the only thing standing – or falling – in the dragon’s way.

So you know how yesterday, I talked about how I’m a sucker for chosen one stories in my review?

Well, guess what else I’m definitely a sucker for?

Motha-fucking DRAGONS.

Seriously, if there is a dragon in the book, I want to read it. I don’t honestly understand how there aren’t more dragons written in fantasy books and how they don’t completely dominate the genre (also, anyone who says dragons are overdone…no, just, just no.)

So when I was reading through the synopsis of this book as I prepped for my batch of December SPFBO books, I was immediately excited. Not only because it has dragons (YES) but also because it does another thing that I usually love: subverting and twisting classic fairytale tropes to tell it’s own version of the story.

Damn if Andrews didn’t nail this one.

The story was just so much fun. The tone perfectly matched that. It was so lighthearted and almost whimsical. I loved the way how Tomkin (heck, even his name fit perfectly into the feel of this book) wasn’t self-aware, per say, that he was a character in a book. But he was definitely aware of the traditional tropes of a fairytale and he loved to call attention to them (which I’m personally a huge fan of, even if it was a tad bit heavy handed in this, especially towards the beginning). I also really enjoyed Mags as a character and loved to watch both her and Tomkin grow. That was something I necessarily didn’t see a lot in my contest entries, so that was refreshing. Plus, giving the dragon a backstory (but can’t say more, because, you know, spoilers) was also really fun and made him a little closer to three dimensional that the typical dragon you read about in fairytales.

Also, there were just some killer one liners, especially if you read them in context. I even remembered to write down one that was my favorite.

But if there were only a handful of choices left in his story, Tomkin was going to make them count.


But this is the hardest part. Narrowing it down between my last two semi-finalists was really tough, because I could honestly see either of these going to become a finalist (or, at least, still having that chance, as I still need to read the top semi-finalist from The Alliterates’ batch). But, of course, there are can only be one, and unfortunately, with this review, A Keeper’s Tale by J.A. Andrews is my last semi-finalists to get cut.

Honestly, the issues I had with this book were pretty minor. First (though I didn’t really count this in my decision to cut this book) was that it was so short. Of course I wanted to read more about Tomkin, Mags and their adventures. But I also think it could have been fleshed out just a tiny bit more, so we could understand Tomkin and Mags more, plus get a little more worldbuilding in there. I also thought the pacing could be improved just a smidgen, some of the narrative was a bit repetitive at times in what it portrayed, some of their actions were a little questionable.

Also, I really didn’t like Tomkin for like half the book, finding him to just be plain annoying.

But honestly, I didn’t really notice most of that as I read. I had to really think, especially after I got down to my final two, about what criticisms I had about the book and though there were a few, I honestly thought this was just a really fun read and it was a book perfectly tailored to everything I love in a classic fairytale, with all the twists and subverted tropes a girl could hope for.

And according to Goodreads, this author has more books out!?!

I am here for this.

I truly do hate cutting this book from the contest, as I obviously enjoyed the hell out of it. But, there can only be one and my last semi-finalist still standing, I couldn’t get out of my head. Come back and check out that review tomorrow! But first, please do check out Andrews and her work. If her stories are all as enjoyable as this one was, I definitely feel like the winner (and my bank account a little less so).

Read on!

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