Saturday, February 28, 2015

Storm Siren

Well, it's been more than a month since I read Storm Siren, a young adult fantasy by Mary Weber, and alas, the details are slipping away. I know I enjoyed it quite a bit and gave it four stars on Goodreads.

The story is this: Nym is a slave, sold from owner to owner because of her unusual looks, looks that mark her as an impossible and dangerous magical being. In Faelen, they kill her kind at birth, but perhaps because she is female (when all the others are male), she escaped that fate, and now no one knows what to do with her except pass her along before she kills them all. Nym doesn't want to kill, but she can't control her powers. When her emotions rage, she ends up calling forth storms and lightning from the sky until everyone around her is dead. But her fifteenth owner is delighted with her powers and offers Nym the chance to use them to fight in the war. Nym really doesn't have any other options, and when she meets the first person who has ever been able to keep her powers at bay, her training begins.

Weber's world is unusual and exciting with a bit more detail than you typically get in young adult fantasy but not so much as to make it high fantasy. This world, its fantastical and bizarre characters and creatures, Nym's struggle with her own powers, and the war setting all draw the reader into a tale that intrigues to the end and excites anticipation for the next installment in the series. There's a little romance, too, of course, but the book is a clean read. No sex or graphic violence, though people do die (it's about a war, after all).

What surprised me most about the book as I began to really enjoy it was that it appeared to be from a Christian publisher: Thomas Nelson. I didn't think I was reading Christian fiction at all, mainly because most of the ARCs I have access to are secular and because most Christian fiction doesn't impress me easily. It's either too preachy or too safe, not morally (I like good, safe morals) but thematically. I'm more impressed by stories where the author is Christian but writes a book that appeals to secular readers and perhaps has a more subtle message. Good stories are good, period, and shouldn't have to be encapsulated in a religious bubble to remain "Christian." That said, there are some great Christian authors out there, who write both secular and Christian stuff, like Ted Dekker.

This story had nothing in it to scream "Christian message coming your way!" except a piece in the middle that was written with more mythological flavor than religious. However, it was clear enough to me, seeing where the book was coming from, that this was the author's way of squeezing a bit of belief in as subtly as possible. Actually, I think it still might have been a little over-the-top. This quiet, pastoral setting just popped up out of nowhere and provided background for the mysterious, religious focal point of the book. It didn't quite mesh with the direction of the rest of the story. I think what the author was trying to accomplish was necessary, but I'm not sure she chose the best way to say it, carefully as she tried. Ironically, I found it too much and too little at the same time. Obviously she was trying to say something without saying too much of anything, and I'm not sure it got said. It honestly could have been written from several different religious viewpoints. But it was a small enough section of the book that it wasn't obtrusive. I don't think there's room to read too much into it.

Aside from my mixed feelings about the presentation of belief in the book, I am always excited to see a book like this on the market. Subtlety is beautiful. Let's not throw our soap box messages at the world. Let's speak our hearts instead. Let's be storytellers like Jesus. He who has ears to hear, let him hear, right?

Storm Siren is certainly an original story, entertaining right up to an end that surprises and leaves you eager to know how it will all unfold. The jury's out on that one until Siren's Fury arrives in June!

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