Fantasy / Young Adult
“I raise my chin as the buyers stare. Yes. Look. You don’t want me. Because, eventually, accidentally, I will destroy you.”
In a world at war, a slave girl’s lethal curse could become one kingdom’s weapon of salvation. If the curse – and the girl – can be controlled.
As a slave in the war-weary kingdom of Faelen, seventeen-year-old Nym isn’t merely devoid of rights, her Elemental kind are only born male and always killed at birth – meaning, she shouldn’t even exist.
Standing on the auction block beneath smoke-drenched mountains, Nym faces her fifteenth sell. But when her hood is removed and her storm-summoning killing curse revealed, Nym is snatched up by a court advisor and given a choice: be trained as the weapon Faelen needs to win the war, or be killed.
Choosing the former, Nym is unleashed into a world of politics, bizarre parties, and rumors of an evil more sinister than she’s being prepared to fight… not to mention the handsome trainer whose dark secrets lie behind a mysterious ability to calm every lightning strike she summons.
But what if she doesn’t want to be the weapon they’ve all been waiting for?
Set in a beautifully eclectic world of suspicion, super abilities, and monsters, Storm Siren is a story of power. And whoever controls that power will win.
Rating: 3.5 / 5
Wow. It’s hard to know where to begin this review of Storm Siren, because there’s so much to say. I discovered this debut novel by Mary Weber through Writer’s Digest and was convinced to check it out after seeing all the enthusiastic Twitter buzz on it. Being a fantasy writer myself, I want to absorb as much of the genre as possible. Plus, I hadn’t read any stories on elemental magic (storms, earth, water, etc.) before, so Storm Siren offered a new fantasy experience for me. And I’ll be honest: I didn’t love Storm Siren as much as other reviewers did, but I certainly enjoyed it.
Storm Siren starts off with a bang as Weber introduces us to Nym, an orphan slave girl and an Elemental with the ability to create destructive storms. When Nym’s rage-induced powers manifest during a slave auction, the court advisor Adora scoops up Nym and offers her a choice: learn to use her storm-wielding magic to save her country, or face the same fate as other Elementals – execution. Nym agrees to the training and is quickly caught up in a whirlwind of high society and political intrigue. She also finds allies in fellow Elemental trainee Colin (an earth-manipulator of sorts), Adora’s blind maid Breck, and her enigmatic instructor Eogan. As the stakes mount and war creeps closer, Nym struggles more with insecurity than with her innate magic. Can she learn to value herself by seeing the good in her powers before it’s too late?
Normally with positive reviews, I share what I liked first before the criticisms. With Storm Siren, I’ll do the opposite – because I had a hard time getting into the story. For the first third, Nym was surrounded by characters who either irritated me in some way or were difficult to like at all. It even took time for Nym to grow on me because of her constant angst and sharp attitude. Also, while I didn’t mind with the first-person POV (it draws the reader closer to Nym), I was thrown off by the use of present tense, the occasional slips of modern word choice, and frequent fragments. The tense and word choice issues in particular conflict with the historical setting, unless Storm Siren doesn’t take place as long ago as I think it does.
After that initial frustration, I found reasons to keep reading Storm Siren. The breathless action sequences, hints of a future romance between Nym and Eogan instead of a full-blown relationship within a short timeframe, Eogan’s explosive secret from his past that threatens to destroy those hopes – and the world-building! Weber’s imagination shines as she immerses readers in a fascinating universe of deadly monsters, steampunk-like airships, and parties where socialites wear vivid, animal-esque costumes (imagine the Capital from The Hunger Games, except even weirder). Even the world’s history and the characters’ slang is nothing like what I’ve experienced from other literary fantasy worlds.
Weber also deserves applause for tackling some tough themes in Storm Siren. Self-doubt, insecurity, and self-harm are difficult yet important topics to explore with a YA audience. I cringed when Nym described how she creates her memorial tattoos. But it’s incredibly symbolic of her journey toward self-worth, and I cheered for her as she learned to ignore the painful craving. So, kudos to Weber for examining those subjects with care and poise.
Now, the ending. Gah!!! What a cliffhanger! It screamed the word “sequel” and made me quaver with fear over Nym’s safety. It also left me dying to know what’s going to happen to another character – yet feeling violated as a reader because I can’t possibly imagine how said character will survive that plot twist. I’m not lying when I say that I slapped Storm Siren on my lap three times when I finished reading it and shouted, “No, no, no!” The reaction makes me laugh in hindsight, but it reflects how torn I feel about the ending.
But it’s a good kind of torn. Why? Because at its heart, Storm Siren is more than a story about power and magic. It’s a visceral and inspired tale of a young woman’s effort to save her home and the people she cares about while saving herself from her own worst enemy. And thanks to its colorful cast of characters and distinctive world-building, Storm Siren has a vibrant, quirky personality that helps it stand out in the fantasy genre. It’s not a perfect story, but it has me invested. You’ll find me in line when Book 2 comes out in June 2015.
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