The Last Stormlord is the first book in the Stormlord trilogy, also known as the Watergivers trilogy, by Glenda Larke. The second book, Stormlord Rising, recently came out in the US. It was already available in Australia, and it will be released in the UK in November. Stormlord’s Exile, the third book, is supposed to be released sometime next year although there is not yet a publication date.
For as long as anyone can remember, the Quartern has depended on the stormlords for their survival. The stormlords collect water from the sea and move the water to the tunnels so each person has the amount of water necessary for life. However, even though there are several rainlords with varying degrees of power to manipulate water, there is only one stormlord left – and he is ill and becoming weaker with the effort providing water to the four quarters without any aid. As the water levels remain low and the situation becomes more dire, some believe it is time to stop supplying water to the other quarters since it’s better to save themselves than to have everyone die from dehydration. While the stormlord is prepared to do so, he is only willing to as a last resort and first he sends some rainlords to one of the quarters to search for water sensitives with the potential to take his place.
The Last Stormlord took a long time to become interesting and still never became as engaging as I would have liked. The beginning was very rough with a video game tutorial feel to it. It started out with Terelle, a young girl whose father sold her and her sister into lives as courtesans. Although Terelle does seem to finally be developing more of a purpose by the end of the book, at first her point of view felt like a way of using an inexperienced character to inform readers of the way the world worked. The conversations with her sister in the first chapter are clumsy as they argue about how Terelle does not want to be a whore once she is old enough, and her sister goes into great detail about why they are different from common prostitutes on the street corners. A few pages later Terelle asks her sister about her mother, and her sister replies that she’s already told her everything she knows – but instead of leaving it at that she tells her once again everything she knows, including the woman’s name. Soon after that, the man who usually handles water payments asks Terelle to take his place for the first time, leading to lots of questions on supplying water to the Quartern.
Once the other characters were introduced and Terelle was not the sole protagonist, it did get better, although the world building and magic system were easily the main strength of the novel. Larke has created a fascinating society of desert people whose lives revolve around water, and a few of these people can even sense or manipulate it. A person’s wealth is measured by if they receive an allotment of water with the very poorest people fending for themselves on the lowest level. The situation of the decline of the stormlords who supply the four sections created a lot of tension, as people disagreed about how to handle this dilemma and best conserve water. Should water be withheld from two quarters to save the other two since everyone will die without water anyway? When is the right time to exercise this? Should people be punished for having children when there is already not enough water to go around?
While the world and the societies were well-developed, the characters were not for the most part. Terelle’s story was drawn out and pointless until close to the conclusion. She will most likely be an important character in the next couple of books, but her perspective could have been much shorter in this book. Her plight of escaping life as a courtesan just was not all that compelling. Even though she should have been easy to empathize with due to her desire to have free will and escape this life she does not want, her single-minded focus on leaving made her seem whiny, especially when so many other people were far worse off than she was. At least Terelle was alive and well with shelter, water and food.
In addition to Terelle, there was a young water sensitive named Shale, whose story also began slowly but at least made him seem like someone who would play a prominent role in the future due to the strength of his power. The non-teen protagonists were more engaging, although I was becoming fond of Shale by the end. My favorite was the scholarly Ryka Feldspar, who had little talent with water and was pushed toward marrying Kaneth due to the fact that they might have children with some water sensitivity. Nealrith, the son of the stormlord who sadly fell short of his power, struggled with feeling like he should be able to take some of the strain off his father. Although we never really see his perspective, Taquar is the most intriguing – he’s somewhat mysterious since his motives are murky and he is near the strength of a stormlord himself. In spite of liking some of the other characters, they didn’t seem to get as much time in the story as Terelle and Shale and they also never really came alive with lots of complexity and human emotion.
The names were rather distracting and overdone such as Beryll and Ryka Feldspar, Kaneth Carnelian, Shale and Mica Flint, Nealrith Almandine, Taquar Sardonyx, Amethyst and Opal. Many of the expressions used were also excessive, such as “sandcrazy, ” “a dry end,” and “sun-dried fool.” It seemed to go overboard in driving home the point that these are desert people.
By the time it concluded, The Last Stormlord was beginning to go somehwere, but it took too long to get there considering it was about 700 pages long. Even though there are two more books coming, a book with that many pages should do more than set up the world and the rest of the series, even if it just makes one care about the different characters and what happens to them. It was mildly entertaining at times with a strong setting, but it was not particularly absorbing.
My Rating: 5.5/10
Where I got my reading copy: It was a review copy sent by the publisher.