In celebration of the release of Stormlord Rising in the UK this week, here’s my revew of the preceeding volume:
The Last Stormlord
Watergivers Book One
By Glenda Larke
It’s rare that a fantasy novel sets itself up in a world so obviously influenced by the idea of climate change. Usually such issues are left for science fiction. Yet in her latest blockbuster, Larke sets herself firmly in territory that few fantasy novels have dared to tread. Rather than traipsing through a ‘medieval’ past, she reveals a bold, original world that could possibly be our future, albeit one without technology.
In a world where water is more precious than gold, the men and women who can sense its presence, and manipulate it at will, hold the ultimate authority and political power in the land. The Stormlords are an aristocracy of Rainlords of varying ability who administer the distribution of water and rule by right of water-sensitivity, rather than talent for government. The Cloudmaster, the highest ranking Stormlord, has powers that enable him to draw water vapour from the ocean and send it across the desert, where the clouds it forms break upon distant mountains and rain down into massive cisterns, sending water back to the cities on the coast. When the current Cloudmaster lies dying, without an heir to bring water to the desert land, he sends his Rainlords out in search of any child who shows the potential of a ‘water sensitive’, even if it be a child of the poorest of Quarters. But not every Rainlord wants to bow to another Cloudmaster, and so starts a power-play that will change the face of the Quarters and their Rainlords forever.
Shale, an uneducated Gibber boy who displays a powerful water talent, may be the Quarters’ best hope for survival. But before he can be found, he is stolen away and his whole village slaughtered – man, woman and child. Terelle, a slave girl purchased to be a handmaiden in a brothel, runs away to discover she has talent with water that not even the Rainlords understand. As water becomes increasingly scarce, the coastal cities are threatened by drought. The tribesmen of the Red Quarter see a chance to finally rid the Quarters of Rainlords and bring back the time of Random Rain.
The common link in Larke’s novels is her ability to craft worlds that are vibrant and vivid, immersing us in a world that has depth and substance in a way that few writers can match without bogging down in ‘info dump’. This story is no different and I think is her best work to date. That she can also tell a sweeping saga that runs the gauntlet of human experience, immersing us – quite disturbingly at times – in that white water rapid of joy and despair, unmistakeably marks her as one of Australia’s best speculative fiction writers and one you should not miss.