Aug 1, 2008

Pay the Piper by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple

What do rock and roll music, rats, traditional Scottish tales, the Pied Piper of Hamelin and Halloween have to do with one another?

Fourteen-year-old Callie McCallan can’t believe her luck. Her favourite folk rock band, Brass Rat, is coming to town, and not only does she manage to get her family to take her to the concert, but she’ll be writing an article about it for the school newspaper. This means that she’ll get a press pass and the chance to enter backstage to interview the band. The fact that her little brother Nick is going with her is a small price to pay. The interview doesn’t quite go as expected, though, and after the show she overhears a very strange conversation between the band and the show’s promoter. Then the following evening – Halloween – something happens, something that gives the words Callie overheard a new and horrible kind of meaning…

Jane Yolen teamed up with her son, rock musician Adam Stemple, to write Pay the Piper: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Fairy Tale. In some ways this novel is a retelling of the Pied Piper of Hamelin fairy tale, but it’s also (naturally enough) about music and about faeries – the ancient, glamorous, reckless and dangerous kind.

Callie’s story is alternated with chapters about what happened to a Prince of Faerie over eight centuries ago. I love how Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple managed to tie up a contemporary story, a fairy tale, and a few mysterious historical disappearances. As they say in the introduction,
Because what if the events in Hamelin had been just a small piece if a very big pie? That was our starting point. The answer becomes then: Could we in our very modern clothes actually—someday—be forced to Pay the Piper?
Another thing I loved were all the nods to traditional faerie lore. Callie uses her knowledge of the stories her Scottish grandmother told her to guide her through the situation she finds herself in.

Pay the Piper is a fun and compelling story about debts, choices, regret, family and friendship. Judging by the preview at the end of this book, Troll Bridge, the second Rock ‘n’ Roll Fairy Tale, is another one I can’t miss.

Other Blog Reviews:
Biblio File
Rhinoa's Ramblings
Libri Touches

(If you've reviewed it as well, please let me know and I'll add your link to this list.)


  1. I've seen this book before and wandered if it might just be strange but your review really makes me want to read it. Actually I've been wanting to get more into Jane Yolen's work for a while now.

  2. Oh my gosh...this sounds incredibly fun!

  3. Ooh, this looks really interesting! Another one for the TBR!

  4. OK...anything called a Rock-n-Roll Fairy Tale is one that I must read!! Sounds awesome!

  5. Sounds like a lot of fun! I've been meaning to pick up something by Yolen--how would you compare this one to some of the others you've read? I have particularly been thinking of Briar Rose...

  6. Ooh...I'm not going to miss this one! I'll have to add it to my wishlist! Thanks for the review, Nymeth!

  7. Hey, rock fairy tale! Must read! :)

  8. Well that has gone straight on my list of books I want to read...

  9. Nicola: I hope you enjoy this one. So far I've yet to find a Jane Yolen book I didn't like.

    Debi: It is!

    Jeane, hope you enjoy it :)

    Stephanie: Those were my exact thoughts when I found out about this one :D

    Trish: I've only read about half a dozen of her books and she has literally hundreds, but so far I enjoyed them all. However, I think Briar Rose is on a whole other level compared to this one. This is a fun story, and it's not that it doesn't have any substance - one of the things I like about her is that she tells fun stories that do have substance - but Briar Rose is just something else. I can imagine readers finishing this one, going "that was a cool book" and then forgetting about it, while Briar Rose is not something you can easily forget.

    Melody, you're welcome :) I hope you enjoy this!

    Dark Orpheus: There's something irresistible about the combination of those two, isn't there:

    Rhinoa: I imagined it would :P

  10. I think I'll definitely start there then. Sounds like my type of book!

  11. Oh I like the sound of this! Totally something different from my normal reads too :)

    I've heard so many good things about Jane Yolen and must read one of her books.

  12. This looks and sounds really fun...almost like a rock and roll version of the celtci music/folk tale combinations of Charles de Lint. Jane Yolen is an author I have wanted to read for some time and this sounds like a really fun introduction.

  13. Iliana: Yes you must :P It's good to read something different every now and then, isn't it?

    Carl: Now that you mention it, it is a bit like that, yes! And Brass Rat, the band in this book, also play Celtic music. While this one wasn't quite as memorable as some of her other books, I think it'd be a fun introduction, yes.


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