Storm

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels by clicking the links below:

Sea | Sky

Storm was written by Sarah Driver and first published in 2018. It forms the final part of The Huntress Trilogy and is preceded by Sea (2017) and Sky (2017). The story follows Mouse on her continuing quest to find the legendary Storm-Opals and save her homeland from an eternal winter. As this is part of trilogy, I would certainly recommend reading the novels in sequence if you want to have any idea of what is going on.

Mouse managed to rescue her father and protect the Hackles but the battle against Stag is far from over. Clouds have filled the skies, cutting off the light from the moon and causing the seas to freeze over. She knows that the only way to stop this is to find the Land-Opal and place it and its sisters in the crown. The only trouble is that she is still no closer to finding out where the crown is.

Worse still, Stag has put out a bounty for any one with Beast-Chatter. Now Leopard and her father are too scared to allow her to leave the mountain for fear that she is captured. For Mouse, this is the worst punishment. She can’t sit idle when her quest is far from complete. She knows that it’s her destiny to find the Opals and she can’t complete this while she’s locked away.

When Leopard disappears on a mission to the Frozen Wastes, Mouse knows that she can wait no longer. Taking the captured Fangtooth, Axe-Thrower, with her as a guide, she heads off to rescue her. However, the world has changed a lot while Mouse has been in the mountain and is now more dangerous than she could imagine. Stag is no longer the biggest threat to her safety. Others now seek the Storm-Opals, and if they get hold of them it will mean the end of everything…

As with the previous instalments of this series, I should probably begin my review with a word of warning. For a middle grade novel, Storm is pretty dark and contains moments that some readers may find distressing. Throughout the story, there are scenes of violence, death and animal abuse. While nothing is quite as shocking as Sea’s whale massacre, I would still recommend that you give this novel a read through yourself before purchasing it for a younger reader. You have been warned.

This final instalment of The Huntress Trilogy brings the series to its dramatic conclusion – a frantic search for the final Opal across a world on the brink of war. While the series has always had a dramatic scope, this time it just feels vast. Mouse visits many different settlements and befriends the people who live there, in doing so learning about the differences in their cultures. From a hollow mountain stronghold, to the shamanistic tribes of the Moonlands, to a spider-infested city of scholars, Storm presents a breath-taking world that is as varied as it is creative. Added to this is the wonderful way that magic infuses every part of the story, ever present but never explained. It’s certainly as beautiful and unforgettable as ever.

Yet, while the world-building is fabulous, the story has a lot of problems with its pacing. At four hundred pages in length, Storm is incredibly long for a middle grade novel and does not use this page count well. There are long stretches of the story where little happens, particularly towards the start of the tale. Early plot threads, such as Mouse building a crew, are forgotten as the story picks up and Mouse begins to flit from place to place.

This in turn brings more problems. There is a distinct lack of focus in the second half of the story, with frequent action sequences seeming to end before they truly feel as though the have begun. In one chapter, Mouse is captured by a slaver. This seems to be a huge hurdle, yet she is freed less than a chapter later and just continues on her way. Similarly, her first encounter with a new major villain ends abruptly as he just randomly allows her to walk free. No battle, no daring escape. He just lets her go. I have no idea why.

On the subject of this new villain, I personally felt that it was a bit late in the game to add this kind of twist. While it has been hinted that the Opals can be used as a force for evil since the first book, the story waits until the last 150 pages of Storm to introduce a brand-new villain and an ancient evil race who have been barely mentioned before this point. The just felt a bit weak. Since Sea, the only true foe has been Stag and his greed, crushing the old ways of life and destroying all that he touches. If a greater power had been behind him, it really should have been hinted much earlier than this.

Because of this sudden game-changer, the final battle of the novel just felt rushed. A lot of it either occurs off-page or is lost in crowded combat scenes in which the named cast are often hard to pick out amongst the cannon-fodder. Even when characters are killed during the battle, it lacks any emotional impact. The pace of the novel by this point is so frenetic that no time is set aside to allow grieving.

Apologies, but I feel the need to illustrate this point with an important spoiler. You see, in the heat of the final battle, Driver felt the need to kill off one of the story’s lesbian characters. This got my back up for many reasons. Firstly, murdering LGBT characters for no reason is more than just a cliché these days. It’s a real problem in fiction that lesbian characters often aren’t given happy endings. Worse still is that this is a kick in the representational teeth. So many straight characters survive, yet only one gay character makes it to the finish line? Yeah, that kind of thing gets on my nerves.

Yet, the biggest issue with this is that the survivor is denied their sorrow. We see them distraught in the minutes after the death, yet the story then powers on and leaves this moment behind. And it’s never returned to. Ultimately, the death is purely used for shock value and we never get to see how it affects her surviving partner. Even in the epilogue, which details the futures of most of the core cast, we don’t find out what ultimately became of her.

Okay. Rant over. For all my complaints, the story did at least end well. Following the climax, it takes the time to show the aftermath of the battle. It follows many of the protagonists into their new lives and hints at what the future holds for them. It also allowed Mouse the chance to say good-bye to some of the most important people in her life. It’s here where the story does pack an emotional punch. Mouse does lose people in this story and learns that, even though good-byes are hard, you do move on after them. While this is more than a little sad, it does mean that the story ends on a very final note that nicely wraps up the trilogy.

In terms of character, Storm is still a bit of a mixed bag. Mouse is an incredibly strong protagonist but does make her share of silly mistakes in this book. While this can be excused to a degree as she is only thirteen, I still don’t understand how she can meet a person once and decide by looking at him that he’s trustworthy. After all that she’s learned about appearances being deceiving, you would think that she would have realised that it can work both ways. Yet she is still outgoing, brave and full of personality, making it very easy to root for her.

However, the rest of the cast aren’t really given much time to shine. The only one that really gets any development in this book is Axe-Thrower, who has a great redemptive arc. Storm is really Mouse’s show and therefore old crew members just get fleeting cameos. The worst of these by far is Stag, who barely appears until the end of this novel. While Storm tries to make us feel sorry for him, it was too little, too late. I still haven’t forgotten the horror of churn red, and it’s hard to redeem a character who mindlessly slaughtered both whales and merfolk in the previous instalments.

That’s about all I have to say. Unfortunately, I felt that Storm was the weakest instalment of this series. While it did have some nice moments and great world-building, it suffered from poor pacing and weak characterisation. It also needlessly killed off one of its LGBT characters, which caused it to play into a rather frustrating trope. While The Huntress Trilogy is very creative, it’s unfortunately not been the best middle grade series that I’ve reviewed on this blog.

Storm can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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