It’s not often that you stumble upon a story that is refreshing and new. Most of the time, the stories I read are rehashings of clichéd plotlines, even if they are great stories and expertly written. It’s not the fault of the writers, however … there are only so many ways to tell a story, and there are millions writing their stories everyday.

With Joshua Grasso’s novel, The Astrologer’s Portrait, that is not the case. Grasso writes with such a fluidity, weaving a story of intrigue, humor, and even a dash of morality. But the most impressive ingredient in this literary goulash, is the originality of the story itself.

The Astrologer’s Portrait tells us the story of Prince Harold, a somewhat self centered royal, trapped in an endless battle with his mother, the Queen. We soon learn that the kingdom is in the throws of financial trouble, and the easiest solution for the Queen would be to marry her son off. For the prince, well-known as a gallivanting womanizer, this predicament doesn’t bode well at all.

Things begin to take an interesting turn when the prince happens to find a portrait of a woman so beautiful that he becomes obsessed with the subject. He begins to pine for her, feeling that he is actually in love with the girl in the painting, even though it’s hard to tell if she is still alive at all, or even beautiful to begin with(given the liberties artists tend to take). But, nonetheless, he must find the girl.

With the aid of his mysterious servant, Dimitri, and the powerful, albeit short, magician Turold, Prince Harold sets out on an adventure to find his true love. This is usually when a story begins to follow the same general path, which isn’t all that bad of a thing. But Joshua Grasso is a true master of storytelling, and he goes against the grain when it comes to a typical love story.

The Astrologer’s Portrait begins to turn in quick, wild circles like a whirling dervish, unraveling one of the most unique stories I’ve ever read. It goes from being a story about searching for true love, to one of magic, curses, revenge, and betrayal; all while creating a beautiful world, rich in history.

The way in which Grasso uses magic in this story is so fresh and natural. Reading as Turold casts spell after spell is enough to remind us of our childhoods; a time when magic and wonderment maintained a secure grasp on our imaginations. The Astrologer’s Portrait reminds me of when I would first read a book that I knew would change the way I see the world.

I highly suggest reading The Astrologer’s Portrait, but only if you seek a story that focuses on truth and flawed characters in a damaged, yet magical world. Read it if you want a story that uses humor as a tool, but not a crutch. But more importantly, read it if you want to believe in stories again.

You can find The Astrologer’s Portrait by Joshua Grasso, by clicking the link below!

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