Glenda Larke – Stormlord Rising

Starting in the second book of a trilogy is not always the wisest thing to do as they often suffer from the middle book syndrome: the beginning is less developed and continuing on from previous events while there is no ending as it has too many open storylines which are only completed in the last volume. On the other side I do like not having a beginning in which all the characters are introduced (really in that sense) before anything interesting happens. It means I have to read with greater attention to understand the situation.

It has been a while since I started in a later book than the first in a series. Stormlord Rising (2009) is the second book of the Watergivers Trilogy by Glenda Larke. It is a non-mainstream fantasy series, which is already a good thing as I don’t like mainstream because, as the name implies, it’s all too similar. Just finding a series that does not contain any tropes makes me happy. The next question that arises is if, even when it avoids the tropes, manages to create something new that is worth reading.

This is not an epic fantasy which means the scope of the setting and the story is limited. The limited setting means that Larke does not have to spend too much time on world-building or traveling as it is all within hand-reach and related to each other. It is also a more simple world as the environment is harsh. This means Larke does not require to create much complexity or pretend otherwise. There are some weaknesses. During the reading I did not really notice them. It was when I wasn’t reading and had some time to think that I had some questions. In that sense it is well done. If it bothers during the reading it will dampen the reading pleasure. At least it does so for me.

What can I write about the plot, development and characterization? What struck me was that it was all so solid. Not exceptional, exciting or powerful. Not long-winded, dull or poor. I could find no real weakness and no things that stood out. The last author I had this feeling with was Daniel Abraham. There is sufficient attention to the development of the different characters. The plot development keeps a steady pace and does not drag down or rush too much. It is all well balanced. I coined it ‘writing by the book’ as if they are following the rules. Now that I think of it, Abraham also only had weaknesses in his world-building, which is the part for which there are no rules as they are defined by your story. When writing something non-mainstream without known elements you cannot determine what is required or should be avoided. Either way, solid writing is no bad thing. It provides an enjoyable read, especially as there is little to get annoyed about.

If there is a downside to solid writing is that the characters are also balanced out. Now that I am comparing Larke and Abraham it is striking that they both use characters either with strong morals or with flawed morals. I say flawed, because they are not weak, just imperfect. There intentions are understandable and not really bad. You just know it will not lead to the right results. On the other side the good characters are certainly not perfect either. This is of course normal. The thing is the presentation by the author. I simply don’t really like the main good characters. I don’t care much about them. There is a lack of connection. The main good characters are too similar in setup. They seem too formulaic. They may be build with different stones and material, but their structure is much the same.

Before I started writing this review I didn’t think I could find weaknesses for this book. It is one of my best talents as it is easier for me to find what is wrong and explain why then spend a lot of time on praising what is good. I have to say first that I do recommend this novel. It is a fairly refreshing non-mainstream fantasy novel. It is an enjoyable read without weak parts and always entertaining. There is magic, but it is limited and while not described in detail this is not required. Magic does not always require an explanation or system as it is also something that cannot be easily explained and a mysterious ability.

Another good thing about this second book is that it pretty much avoids the middle book syndrome. One does fall into the story from the start. Larke does provide sufficient references to earlier events so the reader is up to date. The downside is that she does it a bit too much. I got a pretty good image of the events and plot of the first book. Well, these things happen, so I will just have to wait a longer time before reading the first book so I will have forgotten most of it.

The plot of Stormlord Rising is also not just a sequence of events that have no beginning or end. Most of the main characters get a new storyline (withing the main plot) that also ends at the end of the book. The second book could easily have been the end of the trilogy. Nevertheless there are still a number of open strands that have to be resolved, which will no doubt happen in the third book.

So my ultimate conclusion is that I want to read more books by Glenda Larke. Certainly the third book and I will also look out for her earlier works.

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