Storm Warning is the first book in the Mage Storms trilogy. If you’re looking for reviews of the books in the previous series, look no further:
Ah, a fresh start with a new trilogy! I’m so glad, because the previous trilogy was getting both too stale and sadistic for my tastes. Storm Warning gives fans a new character to root for, Karal, a secretary to a priest from Karse who is serving as the envoy in Valdemar. The novel opens with Karal and priest-mage Ulrich being escorted to Valdemar. When they get there, Karal will be surprised to learn how diverse Valdemar is compared to Karse, a homogeneous country that used to be Valdemar’s sworn enemy. A boy of about fifteen, Karal is both eager to help his mentor and plagued by homesickness.
But everyone has bigger problems after a something like an earthquake disrupts all the countries, friend and foe. All magic spells are destroyed, patches of land are oddly changed, animals become vicious, mages are physically sicked by the “wave” of power. . .
Though the focus is not an individual villain like in previous books, Storm Warning opens with the bad guy: the king of the Eastern Empire. Mercedes Lackey’s description of how the empire is run and who the king is made me fear his abilities. He’s logical but ruthless, trained to be a strong king without getting too greedy like the dunderheads in previous trilogies. His people use magic for everything, including transporting entire armies and supplies, and in a way that is unknown to mages in Valdemar. Right away, I knew this was going to be an exciting story if the king of the Eastern Empire is the foe. Their reliance on magic, though, is a massive issue when the first “wave” hits.
But the focus is Karal, a teenage boy, suggesting Lackey’s focus will always be young people discovering their identities. Tasked by Karse’s leader, the priestess Solaris, with caring for Ulrich and taking notes at every important meeting, Karal seems like a “nobody” at first. But he’s loyal and practical. He connects the mages in Valdemar and the math fanatics, whom mages and heralds ignore, to solve problems. Acknowledging his feelings as needed and looking past them to do the right yet challenging or scary task, Karal is someone readers easily care for.
Since Storm Warning is from an outsider’s perspective — that is, Karal is from the sunlord-worshiping Karse, has never been to Valdemar, doesn’t know the language well, was raised to think heralds and companions are demons — the story feels fresh. Characters carried over from previous novels seem new through Karal’s eyes, especially Firesong, who can only be described as a well-intentioned know-it-all. Talia, who hasn’t really been a big presence since her own trilogy (The Heralds of Valdemar) is a friend and mother-figure to Karal, drying his tears and helping him make friends. I forgot how she was different from Elspeth, as in the last trilogy the two characters seemed to serve the same function, but they are decidedly individual people now that Lackey has remembered to emphasize each character’s unique personality.
Most exciting is the plot. After the first “earthquake,” one of the villains thinks Valdemar has attacked them, but it doesn’t make sense. He receives reports from messengers from his different armies explaining what happened after this first disruption that destroyed all mage spells across the globe:
There are places where rocks melted into puddles and resolidified in a heartbeat, sometimes trapping things in the newly-solid rock. . . . Strange and entirely new insects and even higher forms of life have appeared around the camp. . . . Roughly circular pieces of land two and three cubits in diameter appear to have been instantly transplanted from far and distant places. There are circles of desert, of forest, of swamp — even a bit of lake bottom, complete with mud, water-weeds, and gasping and dying fish.
An exciting story, indeed, one that shows mages and mathematicians working around the clock to learn when the next “wave” or “earthquake” will strike, and where, had my eager to turn the pages.
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