I was able to meet Becky Wallace at a book launch she held for The Storyspinner at the King's English in Salt Lake City. She was wonderful and gracious and I loved hearing about her book. Luckily, the book it self is equally charming.
This is the kind of YA fantasy I love: strong heroines, clever characters, a fun romance, and just the right amount of historical-esque details for a fantasy world.
Wallace uses six different POVs to tell the story of the Keepers who are charged with preserving a faltering magic that divides their kingdom from the southern dukedoms (and protects both sides, though the Southerners have come to believe that the Keepers are the stuff of legends). But when things start breaking through the barriers, a small group of keepers goes in search of a missing princess who can help heal the magic.
Meanwhile, Johanna is reeling from the death of her family and struggling to support her brothers while her grieving mother drinks away their livelihood. Her family were performers, respected tradesmen--but after her father's death they were sent away from their troop. When Johanna is invited to perform the storyspinning art her father taught her at a local duke's estate, she jumps at the chance--despite her mixed feelings about the duke's heir, Rafi. When dead girls start showing up all across the country, the same age and look as Johanna, it becomes clear that Johanna might be ensnared by a plot much bigger and much more dangerous than she could have imagined.
While some of the POV shifts were confusing at first (I didn't fully understand what the Keepers were doing), I quickly became attached to the characters, particularly Johanna, who is strong and spunky and smart. Wallace writes wonderful romantic scenes--full of sweetness and tension and that heart-pinging sense of longing.
And, this is probably just me and the coincidence of the heroine's name, but as I read I kept thinking of one of my favorite (and undoubtedly cheesy) childhood movies--Disney's Black Arrow (Lady Joanna! Beautiful Lady!).