Janny Wurts – Stormwarden

It is always a bit of an adventure to read earlier works of an author of which you have read several books. This is because you have no idea if the quality will just be as good as many authors develop their skills over time. Some do wait long enough until they get the first right. In the case of Janny Wurts I was not sure. I have read her still ongoing The Wars Of Light And Shadow series and before that the Empire Trilogy which she co-wrote with Raymond E. Feist. The Empire Trilogy’s style is far more Feist than Wurts, although the plotting and characterization are more up her alley. The even older series that I’ve picked up is The Cycle Of Fire of which Stormwarden (1984) is the first novel. So where does it stand between those two series?

I will start with the good stuff. Stormwarden contains many elements of The Wars Of Light And Shadow. Not to be negative, it is a simpler version, with familiar and clear world-building and a much more limited cast of characters and scope. Wurts works hard at the characterization of her three main characters while the others remain a bit more commonplace and shallow. One interesting character does not get sufficient attention although her behavior is explained at a later stage. Her plot holds up to a good pace although Wurts moves things on a bit too quickly. I will get back on that later. Her prose is on a similar level as her later work, engaging without much fanfare and easy to read.

Unfortunately there are quite some shortcomings. As with The Wars Of Light Of Shadow the good characters with great power have the annoying habit to prefer the moral path instead of the right path, despite the more devastating consequences of these choices.  Of course taking such a path at certain times is good, but when it happens at a stage when the better choice is rather clear then it becomes a flaw. Similarly the bad characters are a bit too evil. There is little gray and much black and white and Wurts drives her characters to even greater extremes.

The most serious shortcoming is the large number of flaws in the story and the serious plotholes. This is so serious because the story is quite plot driven. The characters have little say in what happens to them so they are unable to repair the plot by their actions. Certain things remain unexplained and some key elements simply don’t make sense. The how to the starting premise of the story is not explained and the acts that set the stage for the main story don’t seem to be required at all. The main goal of the bad guys is to obtain something one of the other bad guy has. How and why did that bad guy obtain it? And these are just a few of them. Next to this she places certain convenient developments to take her story to where she wants it. I didn’t get why she did not just start off at a more logical point then to force a quick and unlogical change in her main characters as they lose their old selves with a couple of pages and within a short time. All this may seem to lead to a full story with a ending and openings for the sequel, but Wurts loses time and pages in the later stage which she could have shortened in the early stage for the sake of character development.

So my final opinion is that the shortcomings are greater than the positive elements. Although it is well written and engaging with the fine characterization we are used to in her later, the plot and the story development contain too many flaws and holes to lead to a satisfactory read. Wurts does put in plenty of struggles and dangers which is still a reason why I want to continue reading. I just hope the plot will recover from the shaky startup in the next novel of the series.

 

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