The Lady of the Storm
When I read the absolutely delicious prologue to The Lady of the Storm I thought perhaps I’d found an adult replacement for my childhood favorite, Tolkien. In it, the reader learns that the England of William the Conqueror has been taken over by seven mad elves. William himself has become a prize of sort, held by whichever of the elves’ human army is currently winning their war games. The rest of the world ignores England’s suffering out of fear and greed, so it’s up to the humans and the elves’ half-breed children to take England back. Excellent premise, but the book turned out to be just okay.
The main characters each have elvish blood. Cecily is half elf, possesses very strong water magic, and is elvish in appearance. Her father is one of the original seven. Giles’ blood is more diluted. His appearance is that of a very beautiful human and his only magic is that of combat. When Cecily’s mother escaped her father, they moved to a small village hidden behind a powerful spell which keeps her father from locating her. Her powers make her a valuable tool for the resistance movement, so Giles has been forbidden to join the rebels so that he can stay near Cecily and protect her. In the guise of a simple cottager and a village blacksmith, they’ve lived peacefully for years.
Everything changes one day when the village is invaded by troops looking for men to impress into military service. Cecily’s mother is killed, and it is made clear to the villagers that she and Giles are more than human. Cecily expends a great deal of magic, which apparently weakens the protective spell. Afraid that Cecily’s father will have sensed her magic use, Cecily and Giles have to leave the village. They decide that they have to get to London to join the rebels and find Cecily’s stepfather, a force in the resistance and the caster of the dissipating spell. Once they get to London, they’re given a seemingly impossible mission, the very mission that was given to Cecily’s stepfather before his disappearance.
The fantasy part of this book is great. Although this was the second book in the series, I never felt lost, even though the worldbuilding is complex. The descriptions of how the elves carved up territory in England and what their powers did to the individual landscapes are vivid. Several of these areas are explored as Cecily and Giles travel through different parts of the country. The cast is easily visualized and one villain is particularly chilling. The Lady of the Storm has no lack of action and the story moves along swiftly.
The romance? Not so much. The conflict is the age-old “I’m not good enough”, which I found very frustrating. When Cecily was a teenager she was madly in love with Giles, and not only for his beauty. She slipped into his bedchamber to declare her love and give herself to him because she just knew he had to love her in return. Instead, Giles pretends to not even know Cecily, and she has to slink away in mortification. She doesn’t trust him or herself after that. Giles is just a mess of insecurities. The fact that Cecily is half elf, a magic user, a daughter of nobility, and the stepdaughter of his hero are all factors in his self deprecation. He’s a commoner, his elf blood is diluted, and her stepfather will never allow him to have her…all excuses he uses to keep her at arm’s length. When they finally get together you think it’s going to be for forever, but then Giles loses some of his beauty and is very cruel to Cecily because of it.
So, while I found a lot to admire in this book, it is being marketed as a romance and that’s the part I didn’t like. Angst is not romantic, and that pulled me out of the otherwise great story many times. Thus the C grade.