Stormlord's Exile was originally reviewed by me for the now defunct e-zine The Specusphere. This is an edited version of that review.
In Glenda Larke's Stormlord's Exile, the conclusion to her latest trilogy (released as Watergivers in Australia and Stormlord elsewhere) much has changed in the world of the Quartern but not the essentials of life. Without a Cloudmaster to capture clouds and bring rain no-one will survive and the aftermath of the Reduners' destruction has made life even harder.
Jasper and Terelle are all that can keep the Quartern alive and they have other problems to deal with, both personal and political. With all sides pulling at them and making contradictory demands they are being forced into choices they don't want to make. At the same time, Ryka and Kaneth now lead the rebellion against the Reduners and their new leader, Jasper's brother.
Larke again takes us out of the parched lands of the Scarpen and the Red Quarter, still at war with each other and with some deeply personal enmities at work internally, into the White Quarter, home of the Alabasters. Here water is just as scarce and the inhabitants make their living – and their homes - from of the salt they mine or by crossing the salty border marshes to work in Khromatis. This mysterious land is fabled as a place where water is everywhere and repels all visitors except the Alabasters but, to save her life, Terelle must go there.
In Stormlord's Exile Larke goes beyond exploring the politics of water. She raises questions of personal choice and how, while we are in part the product of what happens to us, we also have to take responsibility for our actions. She also looks at issues of exploitation and privilege as the various groups with different beliefs struggle to co-exist, often clashing because each believes it is right and its beliefs must be enforced.
Thought provoking as this is, there is no preaching and none of it detracts from a gripping story told by a master story teller. Her characters are human, sometimes making mistakes and poor choices and having to live with the consequences. Whether they are heroes or villains - or something in between, they are wholly believable.
With its complex, unpredictable plot, engaging protagonists and rich world building this is a satisfying climax to the trilogy. Those who loved the previous two books will, I'm sure, find this one just as appealing but anyone who enjoys a well written fantasy should find it a satisfying read.
One of the outstanding Australian fantasy writers currently in print, Glenda Larke has been shortlisted in the Aurealis Awards on numerous occasions, most recently for Stormlord's Exile.
Glenda Larke blogs at http://www.glendalarke.blogspot.com and you can find out more about her and her work at http://glendalarke.com.