I originally reviewed Stormlord Rising for the now defunct e-zine, The Specusphere. This is an edited version of that review.
In Stormlord Rising, Book Two of her Watergivers trilogy, Glenda Larke again takes us into dry lands of the Quartern where water is scarce and the populace has relied on the skills of the water sensitive to bring a fair distribution of rain to all. Now everything has changed.
This sequel to the The Last Stormlord does not disappoint. The richly imagined landscape carries us into a desert land where water need governs every aspect of life from politics to religion. The economy itself runs on water tokens and to be waterless – to have no regular allocation of water - means a hand to mouth existence of exploitation in the worst jobs just to survive. There are resonances with the drying climate in many parts of the world and Larke raises issues relevant to many societies such as how do we ensure a fair supply of water to everyone and what sort of decisions should be made to ensure that this happens.
But this book is about more than setting, impressive though that is. The characters drive the story. Jasper and Terelle are young, learning and changing as they mature. They both come from where life is hard and not much more than bare survival but they refuse to settle for that - or any of the paths others set out for them. With a sense of duty and honour that comes from within - and often conflicts with the pressures put on them - they face hard decisions and sometimes make mistakes but this is what makes them real. Well developed, and with both strengths and weaknesses, they continue to grow.
Although Jasper and Terelle are major characters there are others and much of this book is Ryka’s story. While Ryka’s devotion to her husband and child leads her to accept what would otherwise be intolerable, she never loses her spirit. Intelligent, brave and capable, she manages to manipulate her situation and she too grows in stature and humanity. In fact I found her more likable as she works at survival because at the same time she acquires a degree of empathy for some unlikely others.
Larke does not make the mistake of giving us one dimensional villains either. They may be brutal, selfish or self serving but they always have more to them than that. We may not like them, even in one case be utterly repelled by them, but we can see what drives them and that they, like the SS guards who went home from the camps to be loving family men, have some human qualities.
The other characters too are well developed. Whatever their motivation – hero, villain or just living life as best they can - they all have human qualities that make them rounded and believable.
With a complex plot and some intriguing twists that augur well for the next book, Stormlord Rising will appeal to anyone who enjoys a well written fantasy. There are very few books that I find literally impossible to put down but like its predecessor, The Last Stormlord, Stormlord Rising was one. I read each in single marathon sessions and I was not surprised when it was shortlisted in the 2010 Aurealis Awards.
Stormlord Rising is available from Amazon.com as a paperback and as an e-book.
Glenda Larke blogs at Tropic Temper and you can find out more about her and her work at http://glendalarke.com