I used to be a voracious reader – not an uncommon trait for many writers. What has slowed me down reading-wise the last few years in NOT simply that I’m busy writing. Rather it has been because I spent any reading time on books picked up as review swaps or favors. It has been a long while since I read a book I stumbled across and really wanted to read. I thought I’d work on that this year.
I’ve been making book selections based not-so-much on cover art, but a little bit on the description (has to catch my interest enough to want to look at the first page), a lot on the genre, and I’m making purchases based on reading a sample. Sometimes I know I want to read a book within the first few paragraphs. Others have taken a couple of pages.
What I’ve found difficult is to separate being a writer, and what I might have done differently if this were my book and my characters, and my experience as a reader. But just like I need to edit my writing as if it belongs to someone else, I’m learning to read as if the story wasn’t mine. These reviews are my experience and enjoyment (hopefully!) as a reader and only a reader.
So up first, the first book I picked up, is the Storm’s Own Son: Book 1 of the Storm and Fire series written by Anthony Gillis. The book description really caught my interest. The main character, Talaos sounded completely untraditional and more than a little wicked and free. To show you why, here it is:
- “Heir to mighty gifts of power. Chosen by no fate. Guided by no one. Bound by no destiny. As the world will soon learn.
- Talaos is a tough young man in a vast, ages-old city. Orphaned in the teeth of a storm at sea, his origins lie in lands far to the north. A rising gangster on the rough streets he calls home, he lives by his blades. A trail of blood and broken hearts lies behind him and an unknown future ahead. Wondering what more life might have to offer, he feels the call of change.
- When an immortal sorcerer sends acolytes to kill him, he discovers his true nature.
- His roots are far older and deeper than he ever imagined. His choices will lead farther than he ever thought possible.”
And I can say the story as it unfolds does not disappoint! I decided to ‘buy’ (okay it’s free BUT I don’t think I even noticed that until I went to buy it) Storm’s Own Son by the end of page one. Though to be fair, I knew the first bit was a pre-chapter, so I jumped ahead to the first chapter with Talaos. By the bottom of THAT first page, I bought the book.
Talaos as a main character is very unlike any I’ve encountered before. A man with questionable values and great skill with both swords and women, he isn’t a knight in shining armor. And the men and women he calls friends are a dark lot as well. But he does care and love, making his character relatable and engaging. He also has amazing abilities that he is only beginning to learn about. I always worry about a character discovering hidden power that seems unstoppable. But in this story what develops into potentially boundless power is saved from cliche by a character that is just discovering and accepting his hidden potential. And I certainly don’t know enough by the end of book 1 to know what Talaos’ power truly consists of either, though there are hints it has limits.
Other things I loved about the story include descriptions you can chew on they are so concisely concrete. They come out in sketches of buildings, clothing styles, all the way down to fighting techniques. The cultures of the world are also varied and well drawn. The history of the lands are emphasized from the beginning, making the world feel that much more real. I was also struck by the variety of weapons and skills of the wielders, adding personality to the characters while giving further depth to the story. There are some good fight scenes, great love scenes, and overall the book is a very enjoyable read.
With all that, I have very few complaints. I would love to know more of Talaos thoughts and reactions (deeper POV). He is such an interesting character that I want to be in his head more. He accepts his budding power easily, but hints of deep thoughts, an instinct to follow change, and decisions to risk his life are part of the story. I think dropping into his thoughts a bit more would really enhance my connection to him, even if it is just to know his enjoyment or worries at times!
I also thought there was too much description during fight scenes when the occurring action would never allow such observations. The same level of description that made the world solid in less hectic moments intrudes too much in a rapid swordfight. That didn’t work for me and skewed the pacing.
And my last complaint is purely personal: there are only 13 chapters of standard length, which to me doesn’t make this a novel. This is more of a novella.
The story is engaging and well written. I really like the characters and how much they evolve (in those thirteen chapters!). A lot happens in a short amount of time and all of it flows naturally with the plot and story. Kudos to Anthony Gillis for that. I would say the story line covers a novel’s worth of events in a short novella. A few additional chapters of summarized days or adding inner thoughts from Talaos would easily make this a full length novel.
Not that it isn’t very good as it is! A few days after finishing the novel, I found myself thinking about the characters, wondering what happens next, realizing how much I enjoyed the story, and then buying the next book.
My rating 4.5 stars out of 5, rounded up to 5!