Storm Rising is the middle book Mercedes Lackey’s THE MAGE STORMS trilogy. We left off with the teen-age boy Karal from Karse in Valdemar to serve as secretary to his master, an envoy of Karse. Although a large alliance is going well among Valdemar and several nations, an assassin manages himself into the castle and murders a couple of them, including Karal’s master. Now he’s the envoy to Karse, but no one takes him seriously. But people from all nations will need to work together to solve the mystery of these “waves” that wash over the entire world, disrupting land, mutating animals into monsters, and destroying all magic spells.
Lackey jumps among three main points of view: Karal; An’desha, whose body had been inhabited by the evil mage Mornelithe Falconsbane; and Grand Duke Tremane, who is vying to inherit the throne of the Eastern Empire by proving he can take over part of neighbor-nation Hardorn. While the results of each “wave” and the source of the problem kept me reading in Storm Warning, it was the challenges each of these three characters faced that affected my reading most in Storm Rising.
Karal’s problem is one familiar to young people today: without older age, he is not listened to. He’s too young-looking to garner support, and he’s surrounded by suspicion, as Karse used to be the sworn enemy of Valdemar. I’m reminded of the student activists from Florida fighting for gun control after their school was shot up — those young people spoke up, organized, and acted. Karal is the same way, or he wants to be, and tries. He creates alliances and connections between variant groups in Valdemar, but overall is under attack (sometimes physically) by other envoys and members of the court. Anxiety eats at his health, another familiar connection that made Karal more relatable than any other Lackey character I’ve read.
An’desha feels himself becoming, in the true bildungsroman sense of the word, and the awkward romantic and sexual relationship he developed with Firesong right after An’desha got his body back from Mornelithe Falconsbane, a relationship that honestly sicked me and felt inappropriate of Lackey to write, is falling apart. Firesong is used to being catered to, worshiped, chased by potential sexual partners — and An’desha is doing none of that now that he’s developing his independence with friends, projects to destroy the effects of the “waves,” and getting more magic education NOT from Firesong. Without a desire to be Firesong’s pet, how will the couple survive? Lackey creates a toxic relationship that suffers from misunderstanding and lack of communication, and I felt the realness of this, too.
Grand Duke Tremane is the most mediocre-seeming man, but he’s respectable to anyone under his charge, even natives of a town he’s invaded. Organizing various town guilds and his soldiers, Tremane realizes that without magic, and being so far from the Eastern Empire, he’s not hunkering down for one of the worst winters the planet has ever experienced: he’s preparing a new permanent home, one that protects them all against the monsters created out of innocent animals when the “waves” hit. Through his actions, I was won over by Tremane, even though he was the one who ordered the hit that killed the envoys in Storm Warning.
Storm Rising is character-driven compared the plot-driven first novel in this trilogy, and I was happy with that. Each of the three characters’ points of view are developed in an interesting way. Sprinkled among them are a few chapters from Firesong that really worried me (in a good way!). He’s considering how clever it was of Falconsbane to hide in the void when his body died, where he could wait for a suitable new body and kill the spirit of its owner. Not that Firesong would condone such a reprehensible action. . . right? But what if he could live many lifetimes? Would he find someone to love him the way he demands, especially since An’desha seems disinterested? Lackey took a really dark road with Firesong, and my heart was all twisty thinking about it!
The novel ends in a way that reminds me of those old episodes of Captain Planet: everyone’s powers have to combine to defeat the bad situation, and in a way that seems too convenient, but I was okay with that. In fantasy, unless something makes NO sense whatsoever, I tend to roll with it. Magic isn’t real, and while it has to stick to the rules the author develops in her world, there’s nothing that says more information about magic can’t be added later on to present an easy-peasy (lemon-squeezey!) solution.
A great read that dramatically shifted all the main characters and pushed the trilogy in a new direction that I can’t wait to follow in the third book.
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