Science fiction and fantasy
Echoes of a Distant Storm
by Wendy Simpson
Cael Blackshear is a young dafhalla boy, that's to say a member of a warrior race, living in the town of Bright Autumn. His father, Shar, is one of five people who have been chosen to perform a special magic ritual intended to keep the evil Entity from entering their world. But Cael notices a change in his father each time he returns from performing the ritual, a kind of cold madness that takes him over. Everyone else believes that this illness that affects those who perform the ritual is simply a consequence of performing the exhausting magic.
Cael begins to ask questions, and he turns to Elder Avenarius for answers. However, just before Avenarius is due to meet him to clear things up the old man is murdered. The citizens of Bright Autumn blame Cael, and they don't seem inclined to listen to reason. It's as though they are bewitched.
With the help of his friend Damiana, a feyhar girl with wings and a gift for magic, they escape the baying mob. Their flight takes them across country, through forests and even to an otherworld. On the way they meet more strange creatures than you would find at a Star Wars convention. They are trying to catch up with the Five and warn them about the dangers of the ritual they are about to perform. But the Entity is always after them, sending its minions to confuse and destroy them.
This book is full of people saying things like "safe journey and swift justice", and minions who say "Yes, master" and then grovel for mercy when they fail their tasks. Wendy Simpson is guilty of the crime of using clichéd fantasy-speak at every opportunity, without the mitigating circumstance of writing a parody. Cael and Damiana go from one strange encounter to another without any logical connection between each event. The whole story appears to be set up merely so they can have adventures and be heroic, and the author often uses the deus ex machina of magic to get them out of trouble. There's no apparent theme or deeper moral meaning behind this. It's just a straight good versus evil romp, and the evil is depicted without any nuance.
That said, Echoes of a Distant Storm has good pacing and dramatic timing. It's both suspenseful and moving, with peaks of action and troughs of calm in all the right places. Cael and Damiana are likeable characters, although Cael occasionally seems to be 17 going on 13. This book is aimed at younger teenagers, and some people of that age might enjoy it for its action and melodramatic fantasy elements. But most will be discerning enough to realise that this is the mental equivalent of eating treacle: sweet and sugary, but hardly nutritious.
If you like this, try:The Ice Crown by Sean Beech
A young prince sets out to discover what happened to the lost crown of the Lands of the Moon in a bid to unite his people.
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