Millennium's Rule: Angel of Storms - Review

A powerful, worlds-walking sorcerer called the Raen, long thought dead, has returned. His sudden reappearance affects our two protagonists; Tyen Ironsmelter, a magic teacher at an academy on one world, and Rielle Lazuli, a weaver and latent magical prodigy on another. Tyen is forced to leave the academy when it shuts down, taking with him Vella, a woman for whom he is seeking a cure for her condition, on account of the fact that she's been turned into a book. Rielle, meanwhile, escapes a brush with death in order to file in with the Travellers, a group of nomads who are able to magically transport themselves between worlds. On separate trajectories, both characters will need to find ways to face both the Raen and their own changing natures.
That last bit may sound like a bit of a weak ending to the above paragraph, but part of the problem of reviewing Angel of Storms comes from its plot shifts. Note that I said 'shifts' rather than 'twists' (though there are still plenty of those), as it's less about exciting, humungous reveals and gasp-out-loud moments than it is about the markedly different, and almost wholly unexpected, directions the protagonists and the plot move. After reading the epilogue, looking back at the beginning chapters of both Rielle and Tyen's separate stories shows a vast gulf between where they started and where they ended. The literal, as well as figurative, journey is quite apparent.

So it makes it tough to talk about the book's finer points, especially since it's the second book in a trilogy, without treading into the no man's land of spoiler territory. I'll attempt to be as circumspect on spoilers as I can be, but a few of my issues with the book may suggest to people where the plot goes. If you want to tap out here, especially if you were a big fan of the first book Thief's Magic, I'll leave you by saying that it's a good book, with some solid settings, great protagonists who are at times a little irritating, and some supporting characters who could have done with some fleshing out. But overall, really good stuff.

For the rest of us, I'll reiterate the above, but include an addendum: the world(s)building is awesome.

Where Angel of Storms entirely wins me over is in the little traveling moments, where characters use magic to move between many different worlds. At times, the fantasy setting takes on an almost sci-fi quality when the protagonists arrive at worlds made entirely of light and fine dust, or worlds with beaches and gorgeous pink oceans, and which intensifies when the worlds with established cultures are introduced. There's one world that basically serves as a giant, fantasy equivalent of Paddy's Markets, and another that's basically Hoth, from the icy locale right down to being used for a base for rebels. The way Canavan deftly describes these worlds makes me want to see them visually, and having the setting changed periodically gives a very grand, operatic feel to the proceedings.

Our protagonists help carry that opera along. Without including the backstory history inherent to them from Thief's Magic, both Rielle and Tyen do, like I said before, end up in markedly different places from when they started. Whilst their stories are told in parallel, only intersecting very briefly, the connecting themes between them easily match up. In particular, both characters are faced with temptation; Rielle is first offered the chance to join an Angel, move to his realm and become the magic-wielder she was born to be, then is offered the chance to find safety and family alongside the Travellers. Tyen, similarly, is tempted by the Raen's offer of finding a way to restore Vella, resorting to infiltrating the rebels who oppose the Raen in exchange for his help. This does make both characters a little harder to sympathise with during the book's second act, when it feels like they're simultaneously working at cross purposes to the good guys and sinking further into the tempting darknesses that threaten to swallow them whole.

What also makes it a bit hard to stay invested in the book at times is the lack of comprehensive character fleshing out of the other players, particularly in terms of the Raen and some of the supporting characters. Despite being touted as the major threat to the worlds throughout the book, the Raen rarely appears as threatening or evil; that's probably the point, especially given some late-in-the-game reveals about his motivations, but it robs most of the scenes with the rebels of their emotional weight whenever they're making big speeches or preparing for the final battle against the Raen. Perhaps there's a kind of tragedy in that, knowing that the rebels maybe aren't really going after the worlds' equivalent of Sauron, but if there is it's hard to isolate from the lack of substantiality in the Raen's characterisation.

But then the ending happens, and a couple of important things are revealed, and we're left with a very tantalising sequel hook or two. Well-played, Canavan. I'm intrigued for what comes next.

The exposition can get overwhelming at times, especially in terms of dialogue; characters frequently speak in a circumlocutory fashion where only a sentence or two could've done. I get that there's a lot to cover given how many different worlds we visit over the course of the book, but characters sometimes over-explaining their motivations can get a little tedious. That's all made up for by Canavan's expert descriptions of settings, as well as the fairly thorough description of Traveller culture that was quite intriguing.

Overall, Angel of Storms is a great demonstration of Trudi Canavan's skills as a fantasy writer and worldbuilder. It's a series of journeys you might want to take.

- Chris



Angel of Storms is available in bookstores from November 13.

Review copy supplied to Geek of Oz by Hachette Australia.

1 comments :

I have to be honest, im about half way through the book at the moment (chapter 21 of book 2) and I'm finding it incredibly slow.

Trudi Canavan is one of my favorite authors and yet this series feels like an incredibly drawn out introduction, with poor characterisation and both mains verge on annoying.

Her female lead seems to be attracted to anyone who shows her the slightest whiff of interest, with virtually no ability to question her surroundings or situation, giving her virtually 0 agency; while her male lead has an incredibly dubious motivation thus far throughout book 2, of restoring Vella despite having neglected that totally for the 5 years in between book 1 and book 2, enough to get him into extremely morally dubious situations in books 2.

Additionally the Raen has not been fleshed out at all thus far and thus any fight against him feels nebulous and airy without having the true impact it should have.

Even the world building isnt great, their are too many worlds, all only briefly touched upon, with very little to discern between them all. All worlds are human based, around the same fantasy era and have similar concepts attributed to them.

I have to admit that thus far, unless things change drastically, this is turning out to be Trudi Canavan's least impressive work.

30 July 2016 at 01:02 comment-delete

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