Review: The Last Stormlord by Glenda Larke

tlsSeries: Watergivers #1
Published by: HarperVoyager
ISBN 13: 9780732289294
Published: September 2009
Pages: 627
Format reviewed: Paperback
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Favourites

Glenda Larke’s latest series, Watergivers, begins with The Last Stormlord, which is a richly descriptive tale full of well defined, intriguing characters and an intricate plot that has you hooked from start to finish.  It draws you in slowly, to a world where water is sacred and everything is built around it, be it religion or social hierarchy.

The most important person in their world is the Cloudmaster, who is the most talented of all Stormlords.  They have the ability to control water, a hereditary gift that brings the responsibility of caring for the people, for they live in a world where Random Rain does not exist (currently).  It is the Cloudmaster’s duty to control the clouds and bring water to where it is needed… but the Cloudmaster is dying.  With no Stormlords to take over after he is gone, it seems that they will all surely die.

There are Rainlords, but they don’t have the necessary power. Several are sent over the lands to find any children with even the slightest talent and one of the Rainlords, Taquar, discovers a very likely child called Shale.  He keeps his discovery a secret though, as the reason there aren’t any current Stormlords is that they’ve been slowly killed over the years.  Shale is bundled away into secrecy so that his power can be trained until he is ready, but outside the world is slowly falling into turmoil.  There are the barbaric Reduners who wish for Random Rain to return, and they seem to have aid from a traitor in the Rainlords’ midst who may also be responsible for the murder of the potential Stormlords.

The Cloudmaster and the Rainlords are left with a difficult question to answer. Should they eradicate some of the population to ensure they have enough water to save the rest, or should they do nothing at all, even if that means they will all perish the same slow death?

Glenda Larke paints a wonderful world, full of creatures we can only imagine.  Their main mode of transport is a creature called a pede, (which I imagined to be quite like a millipede), that is big enough to ride and decorated with lace and carvings.  There is also a creature called a zigger, which is a winged beetle that attacks the first soft flesh it can find, eating the victim from the inside, bringing with it a terrible, painful death.

The characters, besides Larke’s wonderful imagination and description, are what bring this story to life. Nealrith, a Rainlord, is son to the current Cloudmaster and is disgusted with the idea of forsaking part of the population so that the rest of them can live.  He already laments that he doesn’t have the powers necessary to aid his father and their people, and his beautiful wife, Laisa, doesn’t make things any easier when she is derisive, and instead supports the idea of sacrificing the people.  Feeling worthless and unloved by she whom he adores, Nealrith pretends not to be hurt by her scorn, and sets out to do what little he can to save the people.

Meanwhile, there is Terelle who is a handmaiden in Madame Opal’s snuggery, yearning for escape.  She has no interest in being what is basically a Geisha – they are taught to sing and dance as well as provide company in bed – and currently it is only her young age that saves her from such a fate.  Just as her time runs out she manages to escape, but soon wonders whether she has only managed to run into a fate much worse.  Terelle has little choice though, as she was born waterless, which means she has to work for her right to drink water, or she has to purchase an allotment each day, and even then she is only allowed a controlled amount.  As the Cloudmaster begins to lose his strength, less rain is brought to the city, which means the price of water only grows, and soon people are being thrown out beyond the city’s gates, for those who are waterless have no rights, and are lucky to be alive.

Ryka and Kaneth are two other Rainlords, who are forced to marry and attempt to procreate in hopes that they will bear a Stormlord.  A botched proposal and then a hurried (and forced) wedding serve as light humour in this otherwise grim tale, and their situation at the very end of the book leaves you frantic for the next instalment.

Such a novel with so many important characters and deep symbolism could be a difficult read, however Larke has managed to weave it all together cleverly, being subtle with her messages of equality and environmental awareness.  At no part is this novel boring; it always leaves you eager for more and unable to put the book down.  There is something here for everyone who loves a good plot, whether they delight in battles or romance, and with this Larke is sure to bring many more fans to her already captivated audience.

The next book in the series, Stormlord Rising, is due out in March 2010, but I fear anyone who reads this book shan’t be able to wait that long for more…

This review was originally posted at SentientOnline on the 5th February 2010.

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