Second Perspective on Mary Weber’s “Storm Siren” (To celebrate Siren’s Fury at BEA 2015)

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    If you haven’t had the chance, you might want to read Jessica Curtis’ review of this finely written Young-Adult fantasy novel, before reading my own review below

After receiving Siren’s Fury, the sequel to this awesome YA title at this year’s Book Expo America 2015, it was a better time than ever to read and review the first entry in the series…

This novel is one that is ubiquitous in the world of book blogging, meaning that it is inescapable wherever you are. I’ve heard nothing but great things, from reviewers I trust like tea contributor Sara Letourneau, Sara Litchfield, and Jessica Curtis; all of whom I’ve worked with before in the past on things for this blog, and who have essentially served as trusted people when it comes to finding out about book recommendations from. First off, the cover itself seems superficially simple, yet so effective and mesmerizing to the buyer. It provides a promise of a glorious fantasy story with a strong female lead, with relatable flaws and character quirks. The story is set within a fantasy world, divided by different kingdoms, who all have a history steeped in war and several trade disagreements. The politics themselves are relatively commonplace, when it comes to the political dimension of fantasy novels. But the strength of Mary Weber’s writing shows, from the outset of the novel, in that she can provide a very clear, comprehensive overview of the political make-up of her world without being pedantic, or essentially robbing the story of its emotional core.

The writing is clear, deceptively restrained, but extremely poetic and effective in its way of being beautifully evocative of the deeper emotional layers of the story. Simply put, the story is essentially a lush,verdant landscape, when it comes to describing the emotional dimensions of each of the character, particularly the lead female heroine of sorts, Nym, who is endowed with powerful, mostly overwhelming elemental powers in the form of being able to control and manipulate the forces of weather in the natural environment she resides in.  In a sense, the storms become a visceral manifestation of her complex emotions, which as I’ve already pointed out, are very well-drawn and contain a wealth of depth and nuances, with the use of very subtle, powerful language. Effectively, Mary Weber is a master of the golden rule of writing, which teachers have long exhorted us throughout all our younger years, to always “show,don’t tell,” and that is something that Mary excels in in a way that is enviably seamless.

Some faults, though ,did crop up, and that was with the unclear development of a vague love triangle that sometimes felt just a tad bit forced, and sometimes developed in a way that didn’t quite measure up with the other stronger elements of this novel. That is not to say that it wasn’t developed well, when taken separately from the rest of the novel, yet it just felt a tad bit anemic and underwhelming, when it came to the better written parts of the novel, which dealt more with the tumultuous internal emotions of Nym, along with her complex relations with some of the colorful, quirky side characters that populate this story.

Also, the wealth of diversity of the characters themselves was truly commendable on part of Mary Weber. For example, the one servant that Nym first befriends,when taken under the wing of narcissistic, callous Adora,  named Breck happens to be blind, but is always shown in a way that is neither self-pitying, or marginalized, meaning her physical disability is not serviced or contrived by the writer to evince a sense of pitiful weakness, thus serving to manipulate our emotions into feeling that the hero that happens to be strong,well-structured, in mocking comparison, will help save these “poor, unfortunate” weaker souls. I never liked the demeaning ramifications of this form of writing, on behalf of the writer. It is not just manipulative; it is also invariably unrealistic. Most of the people I know in real life, or have known, that happen to have a disability of some kind are almost always strong, reliable, complex people, like anyone else. Nym suffers from her own disability of sorts; that being her purported power which serves more as a metaphor for the complexities of power more-so than simply being a power that the author equips her with in an attempt to just sum up her character simplistically as “powerful,” in the same sense that a less capable writer may have defined Breck’s disability, as means to make her pathetically weak, and someone we should sympathize with her pathetic nature. Thankfully, none of these generic elements pan out because these characters are well-rounded and fleshed out to the extent where these facets of their characters become a part of their wider story as a whole. Even without delving into all the details, we always get intimations from the writing that characters like Breck, with her blunt sense of humor,  or the highly flirtatious,chatty, though mostly affable boy Colin (the twin brother of Breck, and one of the love interests of Nym), along with the tough, though enigmatic Eogan all have deeper stories than the writing provides.  Even more than the subtly powerful writing, this strength of diversity,along with developing characters with deeper dimensions that what the writing clearly articulates are signs of a gifted writer.

On top of a highly engrossing story, the story has a very thick, almost numinous subtextual layer of “deeper magic,” that elevates the whole story into the stratosphere of containing strong allegorical potential. Much like the recent fantasy series Once Upon a Time  (a true favorite of mine), the story deals in-depth with the abstract powers of forgiveness, redemption in a way that is never saccharine (or cloying), and rather works a deep cathartic process on the reader. We get deeper intimations of this magic at different intervals of the story, which exemplify the fact that the surface drama that might appear whimsical, far-fetched, and nonsensical, in clearly logical terms, seems to have a demonstrable psychological effect on the reader. It was a certain emotional climax, towards the end of the story, where the deeper meaning truly becomes lucid to the engrossed reader, and that is when the faint, though inexplicably insurmountable sensation of hope, or something entirely inarticulate comes out in a epiphany-type scene where a truth about the mysterious workings of deeper magic in the world is elucidated. And as the reader, the vicarious observer of this drama; we somehow feel the same resonant truth, even if we are not directly involved with those events.

In the last year, I have only watched or read two other things with this type of deep emotional impact, or a strong, purposeful use of deeper magic. That would again be the series Once Upon a Time, which again and again, triumphs in areas other tv shows sometimes do not, by  expressing the deeper ethical truths of our reality (the deeper magic) in a way that is so subtle, yet so mysteriously impacting to the viewer that the only clear-headed reaction are the weird emotional frisson that shakes your core. Sometimes, these deep emotional truths are shown through sacrifices, or again, that realization, that comes out of synchronicity, or the unforeseen emotional response to certain highly emotional events that there exists some glimmer of deeper meaning, holding all our fragmented and frayed emotions together.

Much like Nym’s spiritual counterpart (or sister in a sense), Regina, the former “big bad” from Once Upon a Time has the same sort of conversation with Snow White about the notion of fate, and the complex idea of fortune, along with the idea of whehter there is purpose in the weird synchronicity of events. Nym defines herself as “evil” and “monstrous,” in the same sense Regina feels irredeemably evil, based on the notoriety of her name and acts throughout her fabled life and legacy.

Watch the scene below, if you’re a fan of Once Upon a Time, and have just finished reading Mary Weber’s Storm Siren, I oddly felt a weird sense of deja-vu, seeing this scene again with recent memory of reading a certain pivotal conversation from Storm Siren:

 If you enjoy fantasy stories with untold depths of deeper magic, well-drawn characters, subtly-effective writing, you must read Storm Siren, the first installment of a planned trilogy by Mary Weber. You will smile, chuckle, and even cry (which I did, oddly enough, at the end of the story…no spoilers). Much like Once Upon a Time (yes, this book is perfect for fellow fans of this epic tv show), Storm Siren  has all the magic, charm, and wonderfully realistic development of plot and characters we all crave in a good story.

Be on the lookout that the ending is extremely shocking!

Coming soon, Jessica C. and I are both offering our different takes on Storm Siren’s recently released sequel: Siren’s Fury!

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