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Friday, September 4, 2009

Book Review: The Last Stormlord

Title: The Last Stormlord
Series: Watergivers Book 1
Author(s): Glenda Larke
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher/Year: (aus) Harper Voyager/2009, (us/uk) Orbit Books/2010
-Webpage: Glenda Larke
-Blog: Tropic Temper


Synopsis:
The Cloudmaster and his stormlords command wealth and power. But can they save themselves from a rogue rainlord?

Terelle is on the run when an old man with the ability to paint pictures on water employs her as his apprentice -- and paints her portrait. She thinks she is safe, until she discovers his floating artworks can fix an immutable future for those portrayed in them. She has become a prisoner of her own painted future.

The Cloudmaster and his stormlords keep the land alive with their power over water and rain. However, the current Cloudmaster is dying and has no stormlord heir because all the promising young men and women have died in troubling circumstances.

An expedition mounted to scour the countryside for a potential stormlord locates a young village lad called Shale. Kidnapped and imprisoned, Shale finds himself a tool in a struggle between the warring factions of the land -- because whoever commands a stormlord, commands the water of a nation ...

Review: Okay to clear up the top portion--the title is linked to the US pre-order from amazon, and I have the 'browse the book' widget from Harper Australia up top so that you can go and find it if you are as impatient as I am to have it on an Aussie site. I don't really want to wait until March 2010 to have the book, so thankfully Voyager had it online for me to read over the weekend in the odd moments I had to myself.

Its been so long since I've read a straight fantasy that I've almost forgotten what its like. Don't get me wrong I love my urban fantasies, my romance fantasies...but I miss my straight ones. Glenda Larke is a favorite of mine from her 'Isles of Glory' books (of which I still haven't read book 3...), I'd even put her on par with my enjoyment of the Mistborn books or Tredana books honestly.

Stormlord starts out rather bleakly. Terelle has a dark future ahead of her as a handmaiden in Madame Opal's snuggery. As a handmaiden she's basically little better then a Geisha--she is company for men, sings, dances, plays musical instruments--but with the added duty of being a pleasing companion in bed as well. Mind you she's only 12 years old, her father sold her into this life and her older half-sister Vivie keeps telling her to suck it up and go with the flow.

From there we head to where Nealrith, son of Granlon (a cloudmaster, ie: very important guy), is visiting the water cisterns with Kaneth, his friend. Things are bad, the water levels being no where near where they should be. The solutions presented by Kaneth are both impossible and morally black, but the options are few. Is it better to be rid of a great many to save a few or should they all perish the same, slow, death?

There is a number of different intrigues going on--politically, personally and wide spread. Its not just that the water shortage problem is just now occurring, the problem is that its happening when there hasn't been enough Stormlords. In the last decades only a handful or so of potentials have been born and through disease, death and inability none of them are suitable for the position.

As one should expect from Larke's writing the narrative is lush with details. The layers of society are pretty simple to understand, but the world itself is more complex. From the religion (there is the Sunlord and the Raingiver--both practical given the world and concerns) to the social hierarchy (the more water sensitive you are, the better off you will be) Larke weaves an intricate net of survival.

I found myself liking Kaneth and Ryka despite some of my earlier misgivings. Kaneth is something of a playboy, until recently not prone to overthinking matters or worrying over the future. Current situations being what they are he's beginning to take a more active stance. Is it too late however? Ryka is a bookish woman with a slightly bitter attitude towards men (and Kaneth in general) and marriage. She is however someone you want beside you, she is intelligent, quick-witted and thinks on her feet. She's fiery as well, but that can sometimes be to her detriment.

I am, of course, impatient to read the next volume. With the North American release not until March 2010 (cry with me) and the subsequent volumes not being released until March and September 2010 in Australia, it feels like a loooong wait.

I will say this, I like the Australian cover much more then the US one. I think it fits better. The US/Orbit cover looks kind of like Gail Z. Martin's Necromancer cover and I don't think green is the best color to have.