The Stormcaller review

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Stormcaller (2006) is the first novel of the Twilight Reign series, a five book series. The second (The Twilight Herald, 2007) and third book (The Grave Thief, 2008) are already released and the fourth book, The Ragged Man should be out this year. The starting novel is the first book by the author and since I enjoyed myself with this read, I'm pretty sure to pick up the rest of the series.

The white-eyes. As it's said in the blurb: "[...] born bigger, more charismatic and more powerful than normal men... but with that power comes an unpredictable temper and an inner rage." Isak is a young white-eye chosen by the god of the Farlan to become Krann, the successor to Lord Bahl, the current lord of the children of Nartis. He will be given godly gifts and mentored to become the leader of his people. In war and diplomatic missions he will develop his abilities and make friends to help him in his new role. He will need them as he becomes the target of every force in the world.

The narrative for The Stormcaller is set with a multiple third-person perspective. The way the author chose to do it can feel awkward. Every now and then, after a dialog, the PoV will switch making it slightly difficult to know whom we are following. However, on the plus side, it's usually the best choice of PoV and since we spend a lot of time in the head of the various protagonists, this didn't feel like a problem for me in the end.

The subject matter of this tale is the choices one has to make when he knows that the world is depending on him. With prophecies guiding everyone around him, the struggle with those choices creates a difficult burden. Isak is interesting to follow in this mostly because of his white-eye temper. It creates a memorable character striving for leadership and trying hard to be a better man. I grew fond of him even though he's not the easy guy to like.

Many secondary characters are added to the cast throughout the book. For most of them, their past remains mysterious and their motivation nebulous. Taking this into account, Stormcaller really feels like the start of a large scale series. I read a few times on the web some comparison with Steven Erikson.... I'm not really sure why. The scope is not the same (neither is the world especially the mythology), the writing very different and the cast in centralized almost exclusively around Isak...

The world building is deftly implemented. A true cohesion is created between the various aspects included in this universe, thus making sure that the setting stays credible. Religion and the history of this world explain very well the origins of the empires and the relations between the races and factions. The only negative point that I noticed is the propensity of Lloyd to want to insert the most fantastic elements as possible in the world. Centaurs, elves, dragons, prophets, mythical magic swords, elementals, spirits, wyverns, you name it.

On the other hand magic is not as skilfully used. The magic system is directly connected to the gods, just like the powers or rather skills and physical capacities of the white-eyes. Isak does not really control his powers and the explanations or lessons conferred to him by the most potent users of magic are not evolved and not required by the hero. Consequently, when the magic of Isak becomes necessary, he quite simply makes use of it to get out of a difficult situation. Disappointing.

I think that if you want a good well-written epic fantasy title with great world-building centered on the most important individual in the world, this is a nice choice. Isak has a great future ahead of him if he continues to evolve as he did in this first instance.

Technically, I think the Gollancz cover by Larry Rostant looks more polished but the Pyr cover by Todd Lockwood is still nice and more representative. The paperback edition of the novel is 485 pages and there's a simple but still welcomed map included, as well as a cast list.

The Stormcaller review score :

Characterization............. 8 /10
World building............... 8.5 / 10
Magic system................. 6 / 10
Story.............................. 7 / 10
Writing........................... 7.5 / 10

Overall (not an average) 7.5 / 10


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