Author: Michelle Dutton (Michelle Knowlden)
Genre: Sweet Romance, Paranormal Romance
In the small town of Ravenscar, men and women turn into birds, and storytellers keep their people’s secret history alive. Miri was born to be a storyteller, but she abandoned the role and left Ravenscar after her sister’s betrayal and a painful break-up with her boyfriend, Trey. Fourteen years later, Miri returns to Ravenscar for her sister’s funeral. Trey is waiting. As Miri confronts the truth of the past, she struggles to understand who she is and what her future holds.
There is a very dreamy, almost poetic quality to “The Last Story-Teller.” The town of Ravenscar seems like a place forgotten to the world: a little sad, a little run down, but full of its own charm, with characters you can root for. I liked Miri and I found I could relate to her journey. Coming home with a new perspective allows her to understand her past better; at the same time, being home reaffirms who she is. I could also relate to Miri as a storyteller and her struggles as an artist:
“In carefully collecting every word, I lost the sense of weaving only certain threads and in sharing the right story. In collecting every emotion, I lost the skill of only keeping the feelings needed for my listeners. In being so analytical about every detail, I lost the reason and art of telling.”
But the problem I had was that the story felt too contracted, too rushed. I had to re-read the opening chapter a couple times, because I felt like I was missing key information, such as whether shapeshifting was genetic and which bloodlines could shift into which birds and what the key characteristics of each family was. (This plays an important part in the plot.) Different conflicts were teased, but they were never really developed.
For example, Miri and Trey’s relationship. The two still clearly have feelings for each other, but something happened in the past that tore them apart. I wanted to see the drama of this play out, with Miri slowly uncovering the truth, with both Miri and Trey facing their hurt feelings, with both weighing the risk of heartbreak over the potential for true love. But there’s no time for that. They talk about their break-up early on, and the story moves on to the next problem. One problem is solved, then another, then another, until everyone is happy again.
Ultimately, this story isn’t really about Miri and Trey re-kindling their lost love, or about the mysterious death of Miri’s sister, or about the struggles of family, or about small town life, or even about what it’s like to turn into a bird. It’s about Miri and who she is as a storyteller. On that level, it works. But there were so many other themes that could have been explored, that could have made “The Last Storyteller” a fuller, richer, and more satisfying story. It had the potential to be a wonderful novel, but it gets hampered by its short story size.