Along my reading journey, I’ve made a conscious decision to not only read the books on the shelves at my local Barnes & Nobles store, or online at Amazon, but to also try self-published, or indie, works as often as I can.
Now, I know several of you are snickering in the background or rolling your eyes at my idiot crusade to bring a few good indie works to light. And, believe me, I understand why you’d do that. Several years into this, I have to admit that I’ve probably stopped reading more indie stories than I’ve finished, but if I don’t share those triumphs and failure, then no one else will know whether these self-published stories are worth investing their time into or not.
The Coming Storm by Valerie Douglas
Series: The Coming Storm #1
Publisher: Self-published (April 13, 2011)
Author Information: Website| Twitter
Length: 798 pages
My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.
Hundreds of years ago, the Wizard War tore apart the world, as mad sorcerers tortured innumerable captives to gain blood magic by which they augmented their powers to godlike levels. Their madness driving the world to the brink of destruction.
To defend themselves, a grand alliance of humans, elves, and dwarves sprang into existence; the evil wizards eventually destroyed – except for a handful who escaped into the dark lands, passing out of knowledge.
And so, peace returned to the realms; a near universal tranquility broken only by political machinations at the High King’s court and the constant patrol of the dark border, where tireless human and elven warriors hunt down the occasional dark interloper. All seems well with the world . . . until the unthinkable happens!
In the Elven hold of Aerilann, Elon, advisor to the High King of Men, is filled with feelings of uneasy; his magic whispering to him of a wrongness in the land. His unease sending him off into the wilds to track the dark things venturing into the border lands. His only companions on this quest of discovery his true-friend Colath, Jareth, a human wizard, and Jalila, Elven archer. But even this band of wise adventurers finds it hard to read the signs of the coming disaster.
Meanwhile, Ailith, heir to Riverford, resides in her father’s highland kingdom. A tomboyish girl, more likely to ride out to hunt dark creatures with her father’s hunters than to dress in frilly gowns and read poetry, she is the apple of her parents’ eyes; King Geric and her mother Selah adoring their only daughter as only parents of a single child can.
Then, unexpectedly, things change in Ailith’s once loving home. A new man, Tolan, appears at the castle, taking up an advisory position with King Geric; the once even-tempered and jovial king transforming into a strange caricature of himself. When Ailith turns to her once strong-willed mother for understanding, she finds Queen Selah engulfed in a malaise as well, unable to do aught except stay in her rooms in a trance-like state. Left adrift and alone in a world turned mad, the princess begins her own quest to discover what has changed her parents; a quest that will change her life and place her very soul at risk.
Sounds good so far, doesn’t it? Maybe a bit too Tolkienish for some but still a good premise for an engaging story. And the fact of the matter is — for all the criticisms you can make about editing or writing style — the first half of the book is a good read. The story draws you in, and the characters (especially Ailith for me) made me care about them and want to see where their differing quests led them. But then something just goes wrong with the book.
When a book goes wrong, it’s like a cake recipe not turning out just right. Did the baker not put enough sugar in? Maybe too much? Was an ingredient left out? That is the way I view a good book turning out not quite right, and that is the way I view The Coming Storm: there are a few ingredients that just didn’t mesh well.
First, there was too much action. The characters would go here, fight these dark creatures, then discover this new piece of the puzzle that leads them to travel to yet another place to fight more creatures. It got to the point I just skipped the action scenes because they did
nothing to actually move the story forward.
Second, one of the main character evolves too quickly from powerless to powerful. I understand that it is common fodder in fantasy books that hobbits find magic ring or farm boys discover magic sword, but those type of stories only work where the main character struggles along the way with the power. In The Coming Storm, one character stumbles onto power after power whenever that particular power is most needed to overcome an obstacle. The other character’s response to this amazing string of luck something along the lines of “Well, I really like Steve, so while it’s really weird he has gotten the ability to transmute stone right after he got those amazing fighting abilities I guess he is just lucky like that.”
Third, the powerless character (The one who discovers all these magical talents) also turns from a follower into a leader. A leader whom other more powerful and more experienced people instantaneously wish to defer to. When you add to this the fact that the character turns from ordinary looking into this regal, beautiful creature seemingly between pages, you might begin to understand why this whole transformation just did not ring true.
Fourth, the main characters continue making these mind numbing decisions that throw them into danger; some of which just do not make any sense. The main one that kept popping up in my head was why this group of important people continued to travel around by themselves. Honestly, once you’ve identified there is a danger and that an enemy is after you, wouldn’t you go get a group of soldiers or even hunters to accompany you around as protection or something? I really believe you would, which is why every time they’d ride off into danger I’d think to myself “Really? They are doing this again!”
Fifth, the elves are given too much deference. I personally love elves, having been raised on Tolkien’s version of these mystical beings, but here these guys are treated like the wisest, most infallible beings ever created. The constant fawning of everyone over them really got annoying after a while.
Even with all these issues, I still found The Coming Storm a story filled with lots of things to appreciate. Definitely, it could use a good bit of editing, some rewriting to jettison the overpowered character issue, and maybe a plot tweaking here or there, but it still delivers an entertaining tale, which many would thoroughly enjoy — especially those who prefer their fantasy slanted more toward romance. Personally, I would give the first half of the book a solid three (3) star rating, while the second half dipped down to a one (1) star. But give it a try and see what you think of it.