The Stormbringer is a fantasy romance set in something like a post-apocalyptic world, about a century after a tyrant named Thyran blazed a path of destruction through the land. Even as people struggle to recover from Thyran’s legacy of harsh winters and roaming monsters, word comes that he is coming again. While it’s a compelling story, there’s little time for a romance to develop fully amidst all the action.
In this world, Darya is what’s known as a Sentinel, a warrior raised to defend humanity against monsters, and was endowed with certain magical gifts once she came of age. One such gift is the use of a soulsword, a weapon carrying a gem that holds the consciousness of an old wizard. The presence in her sword is a man named Gerant, a formerly powerful wizard who fought in the great war against Thyran. He can speak to Darya telepathically, and together they form a sort of crime-fighting, adverturesome duo who roam the world fighting monsters. As the book opens, they have come to an abandoned castle to kill the cockatrice living within, which has been a danger to neighboring lands. In a turn that feels very Sleeping-Beauty-esque, they realize after entering, that the castle is somehow enchanted, and find that deep within waits a man frozen in time.
A hundred years before, the warrior Amris was locked in a battle with Thyran, struggling to fend him off, when a spell was cast to freeze them both in time. For decades, Amris and Thyran stayed there, suspended, until somehow Thyran broke free. Months later, Amris is found and awakened by Darya and Gerant. Which is… awkward, seeing as up until he was frozen in time, Amris and Gerant were lovers.
Fortunately, there isn’t much opportunity for discomfort as Darya, Amris, and Gerant quickly realize that Thyran has escaped, and the world needs to be warned, so they hurry back to the nearest settlement, fending off monsters and catching up along the way. Darya gives Amris a crash course in recent history, and the pair soon find themselves attracted to each other. This interest is naturally complicated by the mental presence of Amris’ former lover, whom he and Darya both love (albeit in different ways).
Quite honestly, there was just way too much going on in this book. To begin with, this is a romance set against the backdrop of what is, essentially, a second apocalypse triggered by Thyran’s return. Between the world-building and the logistics of readying an army to fight off a tyrant, there isn’t much time for character-building. While I liked Darya, Amris, and Gerant, I didn’t get strong impressions of their personalities, in particular their flaws because there simply isn’t space for them to fight in battles as well as to dig deep into personal histories.
However, the bit of history we do get to know well is the one between Amris and Gerant, and I had mixed emotions about its role in the story. On the one hand, the pair’s affection is very sweet and has the depth of people who’ve known each other for years. It also acts as a bridge between Amris and Darya; while they might not know each other well, Gerant knows and likes them both, which is a good start. However, at a certain point Gerant’s closeness with both Amris and Darya starts to feel like a shortcut for the development of any relationship between Amris and Darya. It seems as though the main things driving them together are lust and their feelings for Gerant, rather their strong feelings for each other. The fact that Gerant is, literally, a sword with telepathic abilities ultimately makes it a strange sort of threesome-but-not relationship. More time to unpack everyone’s feelings is needed here – while the final pairing of Amris and Darya (and Gerant the soulsword) works, the journey to that place is too abrupt.
The Stormbringer is a busy fantasy with a somewhat lacklustre romance woven through it. It combines a number of interesting plot elements to make a fast-paced story that is difficult to put down, but is sadly unable to give all of the romance plot elements their due.