SOURCE: One of the few books I've actually bought this year, Stormbringers was purchased from THE BOOK PEOPLE.
Luca Vero is a member of the secret Order of Darkness, tasked with searching out and reporting signs of the end of the world.
Breaking his journey in Piccolo, he finds a place filled with superstitious fears: of the unknown, of the forces of the sea and sky, of strangers. With him are his loyal friend and servant, Frieze, and his clerk, Brother Peter, as well as the Lady Isolde and her mysterious servant-companion Ishraq.
The five of them are followed into the town by a huge children's crusade, led by a self-proclaimed saint. Its young leader promises that the sea will part before them, and allow them to walk dry-shod all the way to Jerusalem. Luca and Lady Isolde are swept up in the growing excitement; but something dangerous is brewing far out to sea...
..... Inner front cover.
FIRST SENTENCE: The five travellers on horseback on the rutted track to Pescara made everyone turn and stare: the woman who brought them weak ale in a roadside inn; the peasant building a hewn stone wall by the side of the road; the boy trailing home from school to work in his father's vineyard.
MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 232): He served himself liberally and then passes his plate to Luca. 'Forgive me. I will eat with a better appetite if you would taste everything they have brought for me. I don't wish to be an impolite guest but equally, I want to survive this dinner.'
MY THOUGHTS: Now this is more like it. Having been quite disappointed by Changeling (the first book in the Order of Darkness series) I thought this second book with its mix of myth, fact and religion a much stronger read.
The story of a self-proclaimed child prophet, of a natural (or is it an other-worldly) phenomenon. A saga of superstition, of suspected witchcraft. There was so much to think about in this Medieval tale of what happens when a small fishing village is inundated by a group of children who, led by the charismatic Johann the Good, are intent on a 'child crusade' to the Holy Land.
But just as much as I enjoyed the unfurling events of the novel, of Luca's continuing search for signs that the end of the world is nigh, it was the characters and in particular Ishraq that made for such compelling reading. Their relationships, Luca's and Isolde growing attraction, the petty jealousies that spring up between the two girls that made the book so very readable.
So glad I put my disappointment with the first book aside and read this. I'm so looking forward to books three and four and hopefully to discovering just who (and exactly what) Milord, Lord of the Order of Darkness, is.
Which now leaves me with the question can Stormbringers be read as a standalone novel. In a word yes. Apart from the fact that Johann's story is a self contained one, totally different from that of the first book, there are just enough references to the main characters backgrounds, to Luca's mission as a member of the secretive Order of Darkness to make this readable in its own right. However, I do recommend reading it after Changeling if for no other reason than to see Luca, Isolde and co's development as characters.
PS If you haven't already done so check out my Alma Book giveaway HERE.
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