Tag Archives: Weather warden series

Talking About the Weather…

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I tend to do it a lot on Twitter. During the last few years I’ve whimpered – online and at home – about the long, miserably gloomy winters we’ve endured and whined about the disappointing dank summers. I was always aware the weather affected my mood – but didn’t really realise just how much until this heatwave started.

summer photoI wake up with the sunshine blazing through the curtains and a grin crawling across my face before I’m properly awake. Things that would normally have me cursing under my breath and bad temperedly slamming kitchen cupboards now get a mere shrug in response. I’m ridiculously happy. Yes, it’s hot. Yes, I’m sweaty. But the light levels flooding the house and the luxury of having the back door open ALL DAY is just marvellous. I skip around the kitchen singing…

So when I read books where the weather hardly gets a mention, I’m aware there is a thinness in the scene setting – even if I don’t immediately realise why. And when books do a particularly good job of weaving the weather into the plot, it just feels… right.

In science fiction and fantasy there are a number of stories that hinge around major weather events, so they become the engine of the plot. Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden series, where Joanne Baldwin is part of an elite secret force fighting to save millions from catastrophic meteorological events, is a classic example. Caine’s entertaining, snappy writing and high octane action makes this an enjoyable read, although like many long-running series, it does get steadily darker as it progresses.

Tim Lebbon’s The Island is an interesting offering – the cataclysmic storm that creates havoc brings another threat theislandalong in its wake and only one person in the devastated fishing community is aware of just how dangerous the newcomers may be. The storm is an agent of change and misery – and makes the community a whole lot more vulnerable to any kind of danger. Lebbon fully exploits that sense of nationshock and chaos – and rising sense of wrongness. Terry Pratchett’s Nation takes a similar event – a devastating tsunami – to reshape the lives of two young people who are literally flung together in a survival situation. It is supposedly a YA novel – though I think it should be required reading for every politician on the planet, but the vivid description of the killing wave was heart-wrenching and immediately ensured that readers felt sympathetic and protective of both young protagonists.

James Lovegrove’s Age of Aztec uses the stifling humid conditions to emphasise his unusual setting of a jungle-strewn London, dotted with ziggurats, and to also enhance the sense of pervading wrongness and menaceageofaztec. Britain, the last bastion of freedom against the Aztec Empire, has at last been conquered. The weather doesn’t present the kind of drama the other books I’ve mentioned have offered – but the oppressive heat effectively mirrors doomsdaythe subjugation of the population. And Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book gives the same energy to the action, by providing a strong feeling of rising tension in the bad weather that accompanies Kilvrin, a young Oxford-based historian who in 2054 travels back in time to explore medieval life. However, due to a number of factors, she ends up in the wrong time and place, entirely at the mercy of a tiny community in deep mid-Winter, who are suddenly afflicted by a terrible illness. Without any modern comforts, the bitter weather becomes a constant challenge.

What all these books have in common, is that they provide us with readable, convincing settings – including the weather. And if I ever need a reminder as to just how vital that ingredient is, I’ll just recall my sunny response to this year’s heatwave.

Review of Ill Wind – Book 1 of the Weather Warden series by Rachel Caine

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Enjoy non-stop, action-packed fantasy, complete with the mandatory misunderstood but gutsy heroine? Have to say – I love it. I’m a complete sucker for the better written series – and here’s a real treat. Caine has given us a world where naturally occurring phenomena such as weather, earthquakes and volcanoes are sentient – and strongly hostile to human existence. Enter the Wardens illwindwho possess the power to control these disasters and mitigate their effects, keeping humankind a lot safer than they would otherwise be. Her protagonist, Joanne Baldwin, is a Weather Warden.

The Wardens Association has been around pretty much for ever. Some Wardens control fire, others control earth, water or wind – and the most powerful can control more than one element. Without Wardens, Mother Nature would wipe humanity off the face of the earth…

Joanne Baldwin – fashion addict and professional, if unwilling hero – is a Weather Warden. Usually, all it takes is a wave of her hand to tame the most violent weather. But now Joanne is trying to outrun another kind of storm: accusations of corruption and murder. So she’s resorting to the very human tactic of running for her life.

Her only hope is Lewis, the most powerful Warden. Unfortunately, he’s also on the run from the World Council. It seems he’s stolen not one but three bottles of Djinn – making him the most powerful man on earth. And without Lewis, Joanne’s chances of surviving are as good as a snowball in – well, a place she may be headed. So she and her classic Mustang are racing hard to find him because there’s some bad weather closing in fast…

And that’s where this breathlessly paced story starts. Joanne, desperate and on the run. As she blasts her car at highly illegal speeds along American roads, we learn just why she’s running and what happened. It is a ripping good yarn, told with poise and ability. Caine manages to handle a lot of action in a small timescale without dropping any of the narrative tension; losing character focus; or giving us anything other than a cinematically sharp account of exactly what is happening at all times. It takes a lot of skill to write that clearly.

An aspect of these books (yes, there’s a series – eight so far. I’ve read three to date and they go on giving the goods…) that I’m really enjoying is the role of Djinn. These supernatural creatures sound quite familiar – although they have great natural powers they can be enslaved to human will and stored in a bottle. Wardens use them as tools to amplify their own abilities to battle some of the increasingly violent storms afflicting the planet and regard them as a tool. However, Joanne becomes romantically entangled with one – David. Which gives her a completely different and opposing view to the prevailing one that Djinns are merely hostile entities to be overcome and used as necessary. This ongoing story arc throughout the first three books has given me the impetus to get hold of the next book in series – as with all the most successful urban fantasy series, like Butcher’s Harry Dresden, and Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse, the characters surrounding the protagonist also matter – developing and changing alongside our heroine.

All in all, a really enjoyable romp – with the bonus of lots of weather details for those of us who find the subject fascinating. I’m now looking to get hold of the next five books…
8/10