Of the two main characters, Shale Flint, son of an outcast family scraping a bare living, is a water sensitive with strong but limited ability who finds himself caught up at the centre of political intrigue. He's not the only one who wants to escape his situation. In a city snuggery, Terelle Grey, a young girl indentured to the brothel owner, is nearing the age when her education is over and she will have to start work to pay off her water debt. Terelle has no desire to follow her sister into the brothel and when the opportunity comes to escape she seizes it. But nothing is simple in the cities of the Quartern and life for both Shale and Terelle is about to change in unexpected ways. By the end of the book, these young, idealistic protagonists have been forced by to mature by harsh experience.
The author gives us a richly imagined world, carrying the reader into a desert where you can almost taste the dryness and the dust. While I loved the pedes - giant, intelligent millipedes trained as pack and riding animals - for the delightfully exotic touch they bring, like everything else in this novel, they are so well written they are entirely believable.
It's not all setting though. This is a wide-reaching story, multi-layered with complex politics ranging from self interest to selfless service and with a whole raft of other major characters, all drawn with the same attention to detail. No-one is stereotypically good or bad here. They are all rounded and believable - even if you might want to shake some sense into one in particular at some points.
I loved this book. At 600 plus pages it's not a short read but it gripped me so much that I read it in less than a day. My family can attest to the fact that I was carrying it around and reading even as I prepared dinner. The only problem I had with it was having to wait for the next book in the trilogy, given it ends with such a cliff hanger.
In my opinion this trilogy is Glenda Larke's finest work to date. I highly recommend it. I'll put up reviews of the other two books later.
The Last Stormlord is available from Amazon.com as a paperback and e-book.
Glenda Larke blogs at Tropic Temper and her website is here