Cover Image: Puppetmaster’s Apprentice, The

Puppetmaster’s Apprentice, The

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The Puppetmaster's Apprentice by Lisa DeSalm was a really interesting fantasy read. It features a sort of gender-bent take on Pinocchio, with a slightly darker backstory. Whereas Pinnochio was given life by the Blue Fairy, the main character here was given life with fact magic that is typically not allowed. The plot focuses on that brought-to-life character being asked to do the same for other marionettes. However, whereas she was given life to reduce an old man's loneliness, a current task may be more dangerous... I think readers will enjoy this book if they like fantasy, retellings, and strong women leads.
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Pirouette has a secret, she wasn’t always made from flesh and blood. She used to be a tree before she was brought to life by the most skilled puppet master in all of Tavia, Geppeto and the magic of the blue moon. The Margrave has been working Piro and Gep down to the bone with strange orders to make marionette soldiers. When Geppeto gets sick all the work falls on Pirouette’s shoulders. The Margrave has a new order for Piro but this time she is tasked to bring it to LIFE. This fun spin on Pinocchio was an exciting page-turner full of suspense, detail, drama, and adventure
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I want to thank NetGalley, the publisher and the author for giving me the opportunity to review this book.  I admit in my joy at joining NetGalley I may have been overzealous in my requesting numbers.  As this book has already been published, I am choosing to work on the current upcoming publish date books in my que.  As I complete those I will work on my backlogged request and will provide a review at that time.  I again send my sincere thanks and apologies.
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Interesting premise. Likable/hated characters. Cool plot. I would recommend this story to others. Some spots I found that didn't hold my attention, but overall, I still liked it.
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This YA fantasy Pinocchio retelling ended up being one of my surprise favorite reads of 2020! Clever story elements, questions of morality and responsibility for one's creations, a cute best-friends romance, a plucky guild of craftspeople, beautiful (but not overwrought) language....everything about this story was a delight.
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I didn’t know I needed a Pinocchio retelling in my life until I read this thing! It was fabulous! The writing’s gorgeous, and watching the little found family work together was brilliant! The main character’s arc is lovely, too. My biggest complaint was that the “twist” was so painfully obvious from the very start that it annoyed me no one in the book saw it coming or even suspected it.
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My favorite part of The Puppetmaster's Apprentice was the old tree woman/dryad. I really felt like anytime she appeared the story became really interesting and dripped with wisdom. 

Overall, this story was just "ok" for me. I actually put it down for a time because I lost interest. I had trouble connecting with the characters and felt like the story elements were patched together haphazardly.
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Okay, I did not expect to love this book so much! I was wholly immersed, and was extremely sad when I finished it. I definitely would have wanted to stay in this world longer!
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This was an engaging horror/fantasy, with moments that spooked me and kept me turning the pages throughout the night.
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I'm a huge fan of retellings. When I saw a female based Pinocchio retelling, I HAD to read it. This book was fabulous! A very creative and unique spin on a beloved tale. Loved it!

Thank you NetGalley and Page Street Publishing for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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This digital ARC was offered on NetGalley for an honest review.
Tavia is an area of a kingdom and is overseen (ruled) by the Margrave.  The Margrave is popular with the king but not his people.  The puppet master, Gephardt, is a member of the Maker's Guild, and has been tasked by the Margrave to create one hundred life-size soldiers.  His daughter, Pirouette (Piro), has been helping carve and paint the soldiers when she's not performing with their marionettes in the Marketplatz.  Piro is best friends with the dressmaker's son, Bran.  They share everything with each other.  Everything, that is, except where Piro came from.  She was actually carved by Gephardt and brought to life in the woods under the blue moon through a magic spell.  Magic has been outlawed for many years, so no one must know Piro's secret.  However, any time that Piro lies, a splinter appears somewhere in Piro's body.  When Gephardt does not complete the one hundred soldiers by a new deadline, he is arrested and thrown in the Keep.  Piro must complete the order and create a life-size saboteur for the Margrave to free him.  The members of the Maker's 
Guild come together to help Piro and Gephardt.  
DeSelm creates a world loosely based on the Pinocchio story that is creative and full of new adventures.
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I really loved this book and found it very hard to put down. It has forbidden magic, puppets that come to life, secret enchantments, assassins and tyrannical royals. 

Described as Pinocchio meets Frankenstein. This dark fairy tale retelling is about a young girl commissioned to build an assassin for a dark-hearted tyrant.
This story follows Pirouette, a girl that was once a tree. Her father created her as one of his marionettes and brought her to life under a rare blue moon. Now it is her turn to save her father.

I love this new take on an old fairytale. Pirouette is a wonderful main character. She is complex, well rounded and highly motivated. I loved the small details that set about reminding you that this was really her second life. Her first life was as a tree in a forest and I love that she hasn’t completely forgotten that. 

The relationships in this book are really sweet. Especially between Piro and her father. I loved how caring her whole village was and how they struck by each other, even through extremely tough and crazy times. 

It is very whimsical like a classic fairytale, but also has a captivating darkness underlying. I highly recommend reading this one!
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“A puppet’s pull goes far beyond its strings.”

The Puppetmaster’s Apprentice follows Pirouette, a Pinocchio figure whose puppetmaster father brought her to life by the magic of the blue moon. They are ordered by the Margrave of Tavia, the town where they live, to build life-like wooden soldiers for his son, the Duke. The old puppetmaster Gep’s health is failing, but the Margrave’s orders won’t stop coming.

Apart from her father, Pirouette has a tight-knit group of craftsmen, various makers of Tavia, glassblowers, clockmakers, blacksmiths and potters who are also burdened by the Margrave to create weapons and clothes for the wooden soldiers Piro and her father are building. I loved the found family aspect of the Maker’s Guild, and I don’t know why, but whenever puppets or theater troops or something akin to this are a part of a fantasy plot, it hooks me in right away. This was no different. I just find it adds so much to the atmosphere.

Piro wants only to finish the Margrave’s orders in time and continue living a quiet life with her father. But Piro has a secret – no one can know the magical origins of her birth, not even Bran, the tailor’s son who she is increasingly drawn to. Keeping this secret is made harder by the fact that a violent and painful splinter protrudes from her body for each lie she tells.

I was intrigued when I saw this book being pitched as Pinocchio meets Frankenstein. Pinocchio is arguably less utilized when it comes to retellings and DeSelm shows us why this is a shame. She incorporates elements from Pinocchio and Frankenstein while still crafting a story of her own. By highlighting the dark elements of both stories (seriously, I want to see this author tackle a full-on horror novel someday!) and melting them in a pot of old fairy tales and ancient magic, The Puppetmaster’s Apprentice have become something unique. The plot isn’t twisty, so it’s not a dense read. But it is definitely more character-driven, which is a plus!

I’ve enjoyed the elements of puppetry and craftsmanship in the story, and there was something magical about the writing, something fairytale-like, that didn’t give up the threads of the plot that were sort of glossed over as I was reading it. It was only after I finished The Puppetmaster’s Apprentice that I really thought about how Piro forgave Bran so quickly for betraying his father, and how the village folk, who are supposed to shun Piro and treat her with caution after the Margrave’s proclamation, seemed not to mind her after the events of the book’s ending. These kinds of conflicts stopped being conflicts when they were explained away with one or two sentences, or with Bran lashing out at Piro and defending himself by saying he did it to protect her somehow.

As I said, the fairy tale quality of the writing helped to gloss over parts of the story and made for an enjoyable reading experience despite them.
Also, how cool and telling it is that we had a blue moon right when I was still reading this book? I don’t know, but it sure looks like a sign to me. Maybe I should have gotten my marionette ready 😉
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I was immediately excited once I heard the premise behind this book. Someone having to create a puppet to be an assassin? SIGN ME UP! This was a quick, enjoyable read for me. It was balanced between the darker aspects but I was never overwhelmed. I liked our characters a lot and I really enjoyed reading about Pirouette's journey.
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I LOVED this book! The story was so immersive and I enjoyed the gender swap retelling of Pinocchio. 

Set in an old world German-style town, I felt like I could walk right in and become part of this town. The town, the shops, the maker’s, even the local pub felt so real. 

And the makers - I loved them all, especially Nan who felt like the big sister to everyone. Taking care of them all, but also a little sassy.

As Pirouette works for the Margrave and she enlists the help of the makers, I fell in love with each of them all over again. Their friendships are so beautiful and honest and the way the come to each other’s aid is heartwarming.

The use of forbidden magic in the town was used well. The tension between Pirouette’s existence and what brought her to life was palpable. And use of magic and its consequences throughout the book helped to thread the tension throughout the story.

I found myself reading through this story quickly; Lisa DeSelm’s writing is 	engaging and easy to read. I loved that the elements of the Pinoccio story came through, but DeSelm made the story her own.
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I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley from the publisher as part of a promotional tour.

What I liked about the book:
> Spooky setting
>Vivid and dark descriptions. Definitely felt straight out of a horror movie at times.
>A Pinocchio retelling I never knew I needed but once I read it, I knew this was a fantastic idea and the spin on Pinocchio's curse was excellent.
>The Frankenstein elements
>The relationship between the father and the daughter
>The MC's connection to marionettes and trees
>The MC's characterization and wits. She was a sneaky little thing and I loved it.
>The MC's relationship with the rest of the cast

What I did not like:
> Lots of telling vs. showing. This was a short book and it tried to cram a lot in the page count. iw ish it had been a little longer because the writing capacity of making some moments shine was definitely there.
>Characters were... not very smart? Like it was obvious what the villain was trying to do, but none of the characters guessed it despite having all the information they needed to figure it out, or even suspect it.
>Unecessary romance that added nothing to the plot, and the love interest was... not very smart either. Neither was he that well fleshed out. In fact, while the character dynamics were heartwarming, none of the characters had much depth to them, at least not as much as I would have liked to see.
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I absolutely loved this book! When I heard it was a gender-bent retelling of Pinnochio with a bit of Frankenstein mixed in, I was immediately intrigued and this book did not disappoint! I immediately took a liking to Piro and her father, as well as her found family of fellow makers! I found the world-building so immersive and the magic of the blue moon was so trilling! I couldn't turn the pages fast enough with this one and I absolutely adored every bit of it! A truly magnificent debut! I look forward to what the author puts out next!
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Pinocchio was one of the first Disney films that I saw as a child and I loved it, so I was delighted to see this gender-bent retelling. I love Pirouette, she is just so courageous, and kind. The story was a delightful wild ride that included many ups and downs. I like that it didn't quite follow the Pinocchio story, but did have some of the famous elements such as Piro being unable to lie. The book just felt so fresh and new, and a bit darker than I thought it was going to be, almost like a Grimms' fairy tale (but not that dark).  

There were some moments in which things felt slow but it did pick up the pace after a while, especially at the end. The romance was nice and did not overwhelm or take away from the plot of the story which it can sometimes do in other books. I wish there was a longer epilogue at the end so I could know what happens after everything goes down or maybe this could turn into a series, which would be very interesting and follow different fairy tale characters. I really enjoyed DeSelm's writing, so much so that I read this in one sitting, she definitely has some Disney magic in her finger tips. 

Overall, if your a fan of fairy tales and retellings, pick this up. 

*Will be posted on the blog today, and my Instagram on Sunday 10/18
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The Puppetmaster's Apprentice is a gender-flipped YA retelling of Pinocchio and Frankenstein which follows the main character Pirouette, who was made alive by her father on a day of the blue moon using forbidden magic. She trains well as his apprentice to become a skilled craftswoman herself and has a special connection to wood, being made of it herself.

<i>"I am Pirouette, a girl whose heart is made of stronger stuff than flesh and blood."</i>

After her father is captured by Tavia's ruler, The Margrave, she is forced to use her skills for the ruler's ill intentions, she is forced to make a deadly assassin and bring it to life.

This book also takes a spot in my top 10 reads of this year. It was beautiful and everything I wanted. I mean, have you seen a YA retelling of Pinocchio? The quotes and the author's writing are some of the best I have seen in a while.

<i>"But it always seems happiness only ever hovers near, a wisp of flame ready to vanish with my next breath.</i>

I would totally recommend you read this book, maybe this month for some spooky Halloween reads🎃

Trigger Warnings: Death, Assassination
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The Puppetmaster's Apprentice: Pinocchio but Darker

Haunting, dark and a little sinister, The Puppetmaster's Apprentice is a genderbent Pinocchio, minus all the Disney trappings and finishings, and woven with an original twist on the fairytale involving a blue moon. Despite how captivating of a read it was, one element truly frustrated me: the unnecessary and unrealistic romance.

Having previously read a couple of Page Street Publishing's books and being severely underwhelmed with their offerings, I was not confident going into this one. And, truth be told, almost pulled out of the book tour because I did not want to rate another book lower than three stars. Again! But, The Puppetmaster's Apprentice truly surprised me with how good it was. In the most clichéd of descriptions, I could not put it down!

Plot: Filled with Mystery, Dark Magic and Friendship

Like all fairytales, The Puppetmaster's Apprentice opens in a "once upon a time" style with Gephardt, our protagonist's father, meeting an old woman who bestows him with a piece of blue moon magic after he shows her some kindness. From that magic, Gephardt turns a wooden puppet into a living girl named, Pirouette. And so, our story takes off.

We are quickly introduced to Pirouette, the cast of characters and the main conflict of the story. Pirouette and her father are makers of Tavia; craftsmen, in other words, and so are the rest of her friends. The town ruler, the Margrave, has made a ridiculous demand from Piro and Gep for his ailing son.  He has a non-stop order for life-sized wooden toy soldiers to be completed in an obscenely short amount of time. But when Gep is imprisoned for failing to meet an order, Piro is forced to take his place and complete the order to free her father.

However, the more orders she takes on for the Margrave, the more sinister and unreasonable the requests become. All the while, tensions are mounting between Tavia and their neighbours. Soon, Piro finds that there is more to the Margrave's requests than meets the eye as he reveals that he knows Piro's secret all along. And, he wants her to make him a wooden bride and bring her to life.

The Puppetmaster's Apprentice is a completely new and rather exciting take on the Pinocchio fairytale filled with mystery, dark magic and friendship. Although, instead of her nose growing long, Piro has a rather cruel and wicked punishment: large and painful splinters emerge from her skin every time she tells a lie. However, as exciting as this new take on the plot was, it was severely weighed down by the romance plot which lent nothing of value to the story (see WRITING section for more!). In fact, I deliberately left out any mentions of romance in the summary above and the story still felt whole.

Characters: Fun Motley Crew of Personalities

And that's because The Puppetmaster's Apprentice has a beautiful cast of fascinating and colourful characters. Piro didn't need a love interest because she has so many friends willing to lend a hand. I am surprised by how much I actually loved each and everyone of them, except for the Margrave and his ridiculous demands, of course.

There was a lot about Piro that I could resonate with, from her love and devotion to her father as well as her skills with crafting wooden puppets. Despite being born from a puppet, Piro is surprisingly well-versed about the well which speaks volumes about how Gep raised her and adds depth to her characterisation. While she can be unnecessarily dramatic at times, Piro is resourceful, kind, caring and warm-hearted. She's the best kind of main character; she is almost too perfect but in a good kind of way.

Here is a brief but non-exhaustive list of my favourite characters you will meet in The Puppetmaster's Apprentice. I guarantee, you will fall in love with them as well:

Bran: Piro's love interest and the dressmaker's son. Bran is both insanely kind and selfless, almost self-sacrificial in his love for Piro. Which made him quite irritating if it weren't for the fact that the book gave him a rather solid personality
Emmitt: Illegitimate son of the Margrave and resident clockmaker of Tavia; warm, funny and wants nothing to do with his heritage
Nanette: Resident ceramic artist, implied to be an Asian woman. She is strong-willed and brave; she also has something for Fonso but is constantly annoyed by him
Fonso: Resident glass smith, huge flirt and absolutely in love with Nan. He has a huge heart.
Tiffin: Not the most ingenious name for a metal smith. He is the silent yet strong type, able to work with the most delicate of crafts.

With such a motley crew of characters, it is a little disappointing that we didn't get to see more of them. I was hoping to see more of them working together as a team but, my hopes were dashed. Mostly because The Puppetmaster's Apprentice was told from a first person point of view.

And perhaps, it is this point of view that affected the worldbuilding.

Worldbuilding: A Beautiful World that Lacks Details

While we are sufficiently introduced to the world of Pirouette and Tavia, a lot of it lacks details that while not inherently important to the worldbuilding, would make for a more complete and satisfying read. For example, we are introduced to the concept of the makers, who are essentially all the craftsmen in Tavia. It is implied that makers are held to a different standard in society, almost revered. But, we don't really learn what makes them so important and why they hold a unique position in society.

Furthermore, part of The Puppetmaster's Apprentice relies on there being political tension between Tavia and its neighbouring countries involving the Margrave's siblings and their constituents. However, not much is explained and explored about this, leaving the political plotline a little hollow and meaningless despite it's implied importance to the Margrave's actions.

In fact, the entire story in focused in Tavia and the woods surrounding it where Piro and Gep collect their puppet-making wood from. And where Gep meets the old woman.

It does make me wonder if the entire romance plot line had been removed, if it would make way for more solid worldbuilding.

Writing & Storytelling: Frustrating Romance, Stellar Retelling

Bran and Piro's relationship lent nothing of value to the storytelling. Take it out of the equation and the story would still flow and perhaps, be even better as it relies on the friendships and trust that she has built with the townsfolk despite her origins. It would have been a stronger emotional bond that would lend more weight to all the characters' personalities. This almost feels like The Puppetmaster's Apprentice was written with all friendships and the powers that be felt that a romance would have sold better.

Bran's presence in Piro's life is neither threatened nor harmed nor endangered throughout the plot; Piro is not even driven by her love for him in her actions: only for her father. And, there is absolutely no tension between them. Bran and Piro's relationship status also seems to cycle between dating and boyfriend-girlfriend. I cannot really pinpoint where they are in the relationship which made their romance feel hollow. I would have rather that they remain as best friends (which they are!) or more tension to be written in.

But, that said, as a retelling, The Puppetmaster's Apprentice really wowed me with how they took Pinocchio which was already dark in its own right and made it darker. There are implications of mental illness here and that might be a trigger warning for some, even though it is not outright mentioned. I love how the blue fairy was written as the blue moon and that Pirouette could speak to the trees. I also liked how Pinocchio turning into a real boy was written here. In fact, when I first started reading the book, I wasn't aware it was a Pinocchio retelling but I identified so many elements of Pinocchio that were original yet paid homage to the source material.

In conclusion, The Puppetmaster's Apprentice was worth every minute of my time and caught my attention from the first page. Not many books can do that these days! With a selfless main character, a colourful bunch of supporting characters, an original plot, excellent retelling elements and one frustrating romance, The Puppetmaster's Apprentice was one of the best books I have read in a really long time.
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