Review of The Last Stormlord – Book 1 of the Stormlord/Watergivers trilogy by Glenda Larke

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This book is set in a desert world where water conservation is crucial and there are large, segmented creatures called pedes which are used for transport – however don’t panic, this series isn’t a rip-off of Dune, despite the superficial similarities.

laststormlordShale is the lowest of the low – an outcast from a poor village in the heart of the desert. In the desert, water is life and currency and Shale has none. But he has a secret. It’s one thing that keeps him alive and may well save all the cities of the Quartern in the days to come. If it doesn’t get him killed first…

Terell is a slave fleeing a life as a courtesan. She finds shelter in the home of an elderly painter, but as she learns the strange and powerful secrets of his art, she fears that may have traded a life of servitude for something more perilous…

The Stormlord is dying in his tower and there is no one to take his place. He brings the rain from the distant seas to his people. Without a Stormlord, the cities of the Quartern will wither and die. Their civilisation is at the brink of disaster. If Shale and Terelle can find a way to save themselves, they may just save them all. Water is life and their wells are running dry…

And there it starts. If you’re looking for a stunningly original plotline, then you’ll be disappointed. Yes – this is the staple of classic Fantasy, two poor outcast children who have unique and disturbing talents that create difficulties for them and those around them. But Larke is a solidly good writer, who manages to weave a strong, interesting world with a host of enjoyable details that pulled me into her book and kept me turning the pages long after I should have turned out the light and gone to sleep. I love the ziggers; nasty little creatures who are used as a weapon as when starved, they head straight for the soft parts of a human face…

I also particularly enjoyed the language. There are a number of slang phrases used by the characters, such as sandcrazy, sun-dried fool and dryhead that I bonded me further with world. I feel that a lot of writers don’t consider how the environment impacts on our use of language and always groan when some science fiction/fantasy character living in a completely alien culture and society trots out a contemporary idiom or metaphor that wouldn’t sound out of place on the London tube.

The story drew me in and I enjoyed the plot twists, many of which I didn’t see coming. As with most classic Fantasy, there are some interesting moral dilemmas unfolding in this story. As water becomes ever shorter, which method is more humane in the longer term? Spreading the diminishing supplies thinly across the whole district – or choosing to exclude the poorest districts? There is also the Reduner society, a nomadic warrior race who used to roam throughout the Quartern before the rainlords and stormlords enabled city life to become a possibility, when they were driven to the margins of their original territory. They want the time of random rain to be restored, where they feel their closer bond to the unforgiving landscape will allow them to once more flourish. These issues are teased out through the two volumes I’ve read so far, and Larke does a solid job of covering both viewpoints effectively.

Any niggles? Well, I did feel that the book was a bit slow to get going – while there are some very strong, shocking scenes, Terelle’s story strand initially seemed at times a little repetitive and I found myself skimming her sections without losing the thread unduly, which tells me that a little more editorial pruning would have probably tightened up the pace and improved the narrative tension. However, the power struggle surrounding the dying Stormlord certainly gripped me and there were a couple of outstandingly enjoyable characters – Ryka, the short-sighted and grumpy rainlord was certainly my favourite – a preference underscored by her adventures in the second book, Stormlord Rising. I was also intrigued by Taquar and hope that we learn more about his motivations during the series.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and its sequel, Stormlord Rising, which if anything is even better and if classic Fantasy with a well depicted world and a cast of detailed characters is your cup of tea, I’d advise you to get hold of these two books – you’re in for a treat. As for me, I’m eagerly waiting for the publication of the last book in the trilogy next year.

8/10

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2 responses »

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