Monday, July 28, 2014

Triple ARC Review: Storm Siren - Mary Weber

Storm Siren
Mary Weber
Series: Storm Siren #1
Genre: High Fantasy, Young Adult
Release Date: August 19, 2014
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 Stars
Word Rating: A-
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Read this now.

Holy crap

It's rare that I am so moved by a book of this genre, where the tropes and tricks are so well documented that it's become a chore to read the jacket covers. But Mary Weber, Unicorn Slayer, you have done me in with realistic and heart-wresting characters, your winding, well-orchestrated plot, punctual development, fantastic tension and suspension . . . Storm Siren is just textbook good. Since, as usual with good books, there's too much to talk about, I'll focus on a couple of things. Let's go.

Much of this, I think, has to do with the main character, Nym, our eyes and ears in the world of Faelen. Nym, at first, is shown to be effortlessly snarky, entirely contrarian, and with steel skin and an iron soul. This isn't entirely relateable for a first person POV novel, and relateability is usually the most effective way to bind a reader to wanting more. But Weber holds our attention -- with Nym's dark life as a slave girl (who shouldn't actually exist) sold fourteen times in a kingdom that's on the brink of destruction -- just long enough to reveal Nym's massive heart.

There's a scene early on in the novels where Nym, who is used to killing others with her powers, is carving a bird onto her left arm right after her owner has another ownership circle branded into her right arm.
"For a shame-filled moment, I wish [the bird] would free itself and carry me from what I am. But it doesn't. It just bleeds." (Weber, 71)
Nym is seriously damaged. She's even killed her parents with her powers. This type of character is usually not the protag in a High Fantasy and I like it, I like that instead of glimpses of shame and flickers of a fractured soul, there is an in-depth narrative about this type of suffering which has become a staple (come on, tell me who doesn't like a broken Will Herondale or, hell, Batman?).

Honestly there's a hell of a lot to say about Nym, especially on her development, and especially all of her scenes with Eogan, the first person she noticed caring about her, but in terms of characters, Nym is nearly overshadowed by the rest of the cast.

Breck, for example, is comedy gold in a world of Nym's haughty, dry wit. As funny as she is blind. And gods, I can hear her accent through the text. Weber's greatest gift probably lies herein, in the strength and depth of her secondary characters. Breck, who is overconfident and bold yet a servant girl, who eats as if she is going to starve and thinks the world of her brother. There's just so much to her, and Eogan, and Colin, etc. etc. etc.

At first the plot is a bit elusive, and it takes a bit of time for Eagon and Adora to sort Nym out and for the threat of Born (the nation currently attacking Faelen) to be a more immediate threat, but once things get going they do not stop.

The social issues like serfdom, racism, militarism, etc. are integrated quite nicely and with a contrarian and angsty protag, the issues are fleshed out just enough to make a point but without going full-rant. For example:
"I clench my teeth. She beat Breck without any idea whether I'd followed the rules or not." (180).
This book is just so damn good.

I have a couple of small gripes are with the philosophical bits where Nym's consolation is that she was Created for a Purpose with her great gift when she's already been consoled and begun the healing process with Eogan and Colin. That weird kind of false reconciliation (she still has to deal with the fact that now this Creator psychologically wrecked her for 17 years) was unnecessary in the face of the deep connections she was forming. The almost Game of Thrones level destruction of my emotional state around the last couple of chapters really makes those one or two moments forgettable.

Anyhow, this book is a refreshing must for any fantasy lover.

- Marlon

Noor's Review
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Enticing 

It's been a while since I've picked up a fantasy novel like this and before I started reading, I definitely had some reservations. A lot of times, authors will throw the world in the reader's face all at once like a tidal wave, or other times set up the story with pages and pages of background information before getting to anything interesting. I didn't know if this would read like one of those not-so-well put together fantasy novels that I personally suffer through. I'm very pleased to say that Storm Siren definitely lived up to its potential as a novel and Mary Weber has won me over onto this series and is definitely an author I'll be keeping tabs on in the future.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book right from the get-go. Nym, our protagonist, is our first-person narrator and I absolutely love the way the story is told through her eyes. Even in the beginning, we can see that she is tough as nails and I really enjoyed seeing her get fleshed out as she continued to face her trials and meet certain people along the way. We can see her soften up in some places, while we understand why her heart is hardening in others. You know when you have clay and at first the block is hard and firm and you pull and squeeze it until it starts to give and become more pliable? Well, Nym started out harsh and rough and as once event after another unfolded, she began to adapt and change and you really see it come out in her personal growth. She was just a really well-written character who I found myself increasingly wanting to know more about as the novel progressed.

I also loved the way Nym's emotions were so raw and powerful, and it really helped set the scene for so many parts of the book. Take this part in the very beginning when she uses her abilities for the first time in the book:
"The familiar crackle rips along my veins, and then the pain pierces through as my muscles stiffen and coil inside me like the air above. Igniting. My body, both master and slave to the elements. And I don't know how to breathe, how to stop it, how to be anything but this thing fracturing the sky."
There's much more surrounding the scene but this was really one of my favorite parts and it was only 12 pages in so I knew I was in for a good book. For a protagonist who speaks so straightforwardly, Nym has so much force behind her words. I can feel all the power and intensity rushing out of her and I can tell that she is a character who experiences things very strongly and her writing made it so all those emotions hit you full blast in the face as you're reading so you can feel them too.

Speaking of which, this book was very well written, which was also a huge factor in why I loved it so much. Mary Weber has some serious writing skills and she put them to good use. The way she describes things really hooked me onto this book because she isn't overly descriptive but in a few, direct statements manages to capture the essence of everything she is trying to describe, which I think is amazing. Every statement has purpose and carries such a heavy weight and it's really hard not to fall in love with her writing when she phases things so well.

Every character in this book, even the bad ones, were exceptionally well-developed and really helped drive the story. Everything was integrated in such interesting ways and I really can't wait for the next book in the series because that ending definitely left me wanting much more!

- Noor

Amrutha's Review
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Genuinely phenomenal 

I am so SO glad I got this book at BEA 2014 and even more glad I kept reading read this book: and the reason I'm so happy is that I usually ignore my instincts about books. I am usually able to tell whether I'd like a book between the blurb and first couple chapters, but I continue reading regardless of how I feel about it. It is times like these that make me so glad I kept going with this book, even though it isn't really my style or genre (LOL edit: just read Noor's and Marlon's reviews, I'm glad we all have the same thoughts on this).

Let us talk about Nym, our protagonist. She is so hardcore - she's in the category of "teens with superpowers" as so many other YA protagonists are. However this book is filled with so many plot twists that it isn't the typical easy-to-predict-"wowza"-"I got superpowers" novel. Nym as a narrator is so descriptive and impassioned that Weber made it incredibly easy to see the world through her eyes. Also she's pretty sassy, which I love (who doesn't like a little bit of sass in their protagonists, especially in the 17 year olds girls who aren't even supposed to be alive).

The writing in this book was just straight up fantastic. The way Weber expresses Nym's voice, with all of the emotion that every 17 year old often feels like they are feeling, but placing it in a realm that is expertly built (seriously, there was just the right amount of description for building Faelen), makes the book so fascinating to me. The plot was not only fantastic, but the side description is really what made the book (this sounds a little strange coming from me, because I usually don't like patches of description, but this was done so well that I have to praise it).

Unlike Noor, I didn't love the opening of the book: it was a little dry. Do not let that stop you from reading this, because as soon as a real threat approaches Faelen, the plot picks up so quickly (but quickly in the way that makes you want to glue the book to your hands so you never have to put it down, not in the "this moves so fast that the characters aren't even developing" kind of way.

Also: Colin and Breck - even though these two are just supporting characters, they are so well constructed. Like Marlon mentioned, Breck's snark with Nym's PoV really come together to lighten the story with some humor. Even the tiniest details of this book were sorted out by Weber: she wasn't one of those authors who concentrates mainly on establishing a realm or on a budding romance or on the growth of the main character. Rather, she works with all of these aspects, and it really provides for an awesome book (cannot wait for the next one!).

This is yet another note to self never to judge a book by the blurb or first few chapters or the genres I have pigeonholed it into. This was absolutely fantastic and I can't wait for Weber's next book!

- Amrutha

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  1. I love the cover of the book and the story sounds great! I really like your double reviews!

    1. Thanks! We've got a bunch more double/triple reviews scheduled so keep your eye out for those!