WEAVE THE LIGHTNING by Corry L. Lee.
REBCA. p/b. £8.99.
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.
Celka Prochazka is storm-blessed and desperate to use her abilities to help the resistance. Her family live together and work together, tightrope artists in a traveling circus, but tonight they will be joined by two resistance fighters who will conceal themselves in her family’s sleeper car. It is madness to smuggle resistance fighters, yet risks must be taken. The Tayemstvoy have already taken Celka’s father. She prays to the Storm Gods that the rezistyents will stay hidden and her family safe.
Sousednia cues can be read to establish the truth of someone’s situation or to detect their lies. This will prove of great help to Celka as she readies for life in the resistance and is forced to seek allies beyond her circus family. Time is short, the storms are coming, and Celka can only hope she has been prepared enough for her trials.
Gerrit Kladivo is also storm-blessed though his situation is very different to Celka’s. A Storm Guard cadet with huge expectations resting on his shoulders, Gerrit is about to see his first bozhskyeh storm. Son of the Stormhawk, Gerrit is desperate to prove himself but the storms are 50 years earlier than expected and the cadets new to imbuing and its dangers. To make matters worse, Colonel Tesarik, feared overseer of the Storm Guard Academy, has arrived to witness Gerrit’s first attempt.
Weave the Lightning is – presumably – the first volume in what will be a series following Celka’s shift from circus performer to resistance fighter and Gerrit’s journey to realise his talents and uncover the truth about his father and the Tayemstvoy. Both characters share the point of view narrative, their stories intertwining cleverly as the storms and the threat they bring draw closer.
Lee offers up wonderful worldbuilding, evocative of Nazi terror, against a Russian backdrop that cleverly instills an atmosphere and underlying threat that helps to carry the tension of our protagonists’ precarious situations. We have an elemental magic system, heavily linked to lightning storms, but for this reader the Sousednia state so predominant in the story was not described explicitly enough to allow for the magical visualisation that one suspects it calls for.
Set aside the not-quite-tangible-enough magic system; however, and you have a compelling narrative with a strongly crafted antagonistic pursuer, anti-fascist propaganda, three plucky young heroes, a love triangle, a circus, a few deceptions, an underground printing press of sorts and the equivalent of an invisibility cloak helping the narrative along.