This review is going to be something of a challenge, mostly because this is the fifth of a series I haven’t read. Having seen the books around, I was curious, however, and thought it would offer an opportunity to decide whether I wanted to devote the time to reading the rest of them. Since I’m not an insider, I can recommend going to look at the reviews of those who are, because they’re better able to discuss who is shipping who and how they feel things have progressed since day one.
What might be of more interest to general readers is whether this is a series worth starting in the first place. It is definitely the kind of series that has to be started from the beginning. Empire of Storms is fascinating, in that what is going on is very interesting, even for readers older than the Young Adult bracket it’s aimed at. It convinced me that I wanted to go back and start from the beginning, so I had a clear idea of who everybody was, what they were doing and why their names occasionally changed.
It is read-on-the-beach fantasy, filled with all those delightful things like shapeshifters and explanation-free magic set in a clearly feudal world reminiscent of Tolkien, Eddings and the like. This is the kind of thing for young girls who have needed fantasy series with actual women in them. And for everyone who has a young girl still in them who would like something escapist and engaging. It’s fun, although if you start here, there are a confusing number of characters, and the series protagonist takes something of a back seat.
It’s not without its flaws, however. I did pick up the first book, which was eager, its writing tighter and cleaner. Empire of Storms is nearly seven hundred pages which could probably have been reduced to about four hundred if all the references to pine-green eyes and strong arms had been removed. Whole chapters could have been extracted, since they added nothing to the plot besides moving people through a stretch of landscape. The effect of the unnecessary description drained scenes of any drama, and nobody seemed to be able to do or think anything without a couple of adjectives, often meaning the same thing.
This was the core problem: I really wanted to like this book. The characters were interesting, and I could get past some of the bulk, but as action unfolded, my patience for the over-description ran out. However, I do recommend that if you want a fun fantasy read, go back to the first book and enjoy it. This might well make the issues with this latest instalment more bearable, and the rest of the story more engaging.