Review: The Last Stormlord
Call me spoiled if you want. After the likes of epic fantasy writers Erikson, Sanderson, and Butcher (and others), I’ve gotten used to the current trend of jumping right into the middle of the story. You could say I’m a girl who likes her some action. Ahem.
Alas, not all epic fantasy writers have gotten the hint. THE LAST STORMLORD, by Glenda Larke, reminds me of the epic fantasies of 20-odd years ago because the pacing is similar in its devotion to world-building without a visible purpose. There’s the standard young boy being trained whose abilities will change the world. A girl on the verge of womanhood, trapped in a life not of her choosing. I probably wouldn’t have minded STORMLORD if I haven’t already read it, like, one thousand times before in its various incarnations.
The Quartern is a land where water is life. Inhabited by four different cultures, they rely on stormlords–men and women who can manipulate water–to bring the needed water to the cisterns they use for drinking, bathing, and irrigation. Only instead of the usual dozen stormlords to bring water, there’s one, and he’s dying.
Terelle is a young girl, sold into slavery in a brothel, and when she’s old enough she’ll begin earning her water tokens like the other girls. But she doesn’t want that life, and makes plans to escape. Shale is a water sensitive in the middle of the desert, where magic is considered dangerous, and does his best just to survive. The rainlords of the main cities of the Quatern have spent years trying to find more water sensitives among the populace, but none of them are strong enough to be stormlords. Time is running out, for when the last stormlord dies, there be will be a return to the time of random rain and millions will die as a result.
There’s enough action that STORMLORD shouldn’t have been boring, but the pacing, flow, and expositional dialogue negates the spurts of excitement–the 670 pages could have been pared down by another 100 to make the novel a smoother read. But despite this wordiness, periods of time are glossed over during the six years the book covers as Slate and Terelle grow up. Larke also glosses over important interactions between our characters, and lacks realistic insight when describing her characters and their interactions. For example, when Slate and Terelle finally cross paths three-quarters into the novel, they develop a relationship, but we never actually see this happen, we just have to take the narrator’s word for it. And when the PoV characters do think about their relationship with the other, it’s cheesy, which makes me sad because I’m a girl who likes some mushy romance, but this was just lame.
The most fascinating character is Highlord Taquar, one of the city rainlords, whose motivations are twisted and yet just. You aren’t really sure if he’s doing what he must for power, or a real desire to save the people of the Quatern from a horrible fate. Too bad the protagonists aren’t as interesting, and instead the other rainlords are cliche in their dialogue, actions, and personality.
Larke tries so very hard to create a gritty and dark setting, but her writing lacks the subtly necessary to pull it off without sounding corny. In the last hundred pages we’re treated with revelations using melodramatic dialogue so cliche I laughed out loud.
STORMLORD has a clever setting and a culture that revolves around a lack of water: it affects what is planted, how people live, what kind of animals exist among them. The magic is a large part of the culture, affecting who rules the Quatern, which could be anyone as long as their water sensitivity is strong enough. There’s a lot of potential for the magic with the way it’s set up, and I sincerely hope there are big plans for future installments. Unfortunately, spending an entire book devoted to world-building is boring, and could have been better executed.
World-building is important, but so is plot–and it’s even better when story and setting intertwine to enrich each other. Unfortunately Larke doesn’t really have a story to tell here…not one with an end, anyway. Nothing resolves, and instead we’re left with cliffhangers and are forced to continue the next book, STORMLORD RISING, if we want to see any satisfaction. It remains to be seen whether an entire book dedicated to world building and plot set-up is worth the time it has taken to read it.
Recommended Age: 14+
Violence: Yes, when there is some action it can be bloody, but there aren’t many violent events.
Sex: Implied and some innuendo.
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