Themes Explored: religion, racism, social caste systems, slavery, rape, honor, warrior skills, hunter-gatherer society, magic, loyalty, economics, politics, romance, prostitution, murder, environmentalism, climate control
Synopsis: Quartern is a land with little water. All moisture comes from the magic wielded by the mysterious Stormlord. However, the current Stormlord is old and dying. Without an heir, the country is on the brink of collapse. Then a young boy is discovered and he possess the rare rain magic. Now that an heir has emerged, the political machinations of an ambitious rainlord threatens to extinguish the country’s last hope. Can the new heir survive long enough to develop his abilities? Or will the country be thrown into a civil war with devastating consequences?
Review: The Waterivers is also published as The Stormlord Trilogy. I had never heard of Glenda Larke until I chanced upon this trilogy while perusing the shelves at Barnes & Noble. The premise sounded intriguing, though very similar to Frank Herbert’s Dune. By the fourth chapter is become rather obvious that Larke’s fantasy world strongly resembles Australia. The series is interesting, however, Larke struggles with pacing. I probably would have enjoyed the trilogy more if each book was about 100-150 pages shorter.
The Last Stormlord opens with a land on the verge of collapse. Water is incredibly difficult to procure, however, the Stormlords have the power to bring water from the southern ocean to the moisture starved Quartern. However, the last remaining Stormlord is weak and dying. Creating rain requires a lot of energy and each deluge brings the Stormlord closer to death. Enter Shale Flint, a young boy possessing the power of Stormlords. Since he is poor, his gifts have been log overlooked and his training may have started too late. Taquar is an ambitious rainlord who seeks political power and will eliminate any and all threats to his plans. In the red desert, Davim is a tribal war leader who seeks to kill the “rain sorcerers” and return the land to the time of random rain. This is a violent story, in the first chapter there is a horrific murder and an attempted sexual assault. While the descriptions are excellent, I have a couple problems. First, the characters are incredibly fleshed out, but the characterization kills the pace. The action moves way too slowly because each character’s background and motivation is explored in excruciating detail. Second, Taquar is a man who has manipulated society for years yet is unable to lie convincingly to the naïve Shale. Third, all the “romantic” relationships are incredibly convoluted and everyone hates each other due to contrived misunderstandings. This was not a bad read, it was just not phenomenal.
Stormlord Rising picks up where The Last Stormlord left off. All the surviving characters are trying to survive the desert tribe uprising. A lot of characters die at the end of the first book, but most of them are magically resurrected in Stormlord Rising. Thankfully, Rising has a faster moving narrative. This installment finds Terelle a prisoner to her master’s water-paint magic. Shale is forced to work alongside Taquar. Ryka and Kaneth find themselves prisoners of the dune nomads, the Reduners. Now that everyone is stuck in unsavory positions, the narrative races ahead at a steady pace. But they all find time to sit down and talk. For people enslaved in one form or another, they find a lot of time to philosophize. Shale even holds a deep conversation while in the middle of the book’s main battle. This installment contains some great world building as Larke explores most of the country. All the various religions are explored: the dune gods of the Reduners, the One True God of the Alabasters, and the Sungod of the Scarpen cities. Most of the problems I have with book are superficial. First, Ravard’s actions seem culturally off. He was enslaved as a boy and rises through the ranks due to his superior warrior skills. But he makes several decisions that undermine his dedication to his newfound rank. Second, Kaneth’s personality is almost completely different from the first book. And his recovery from nearly fatal injuries is unbelievably quick. Third, the villains are almost cartoonish in their depiction. Both Taquar and Ravard have enough depth to be depicted as more gray-scale villains, not pitch black caricatures.
Stormlord’s Exile ties up most of the loose ends and fulfills the outcomes hinted at in the other books. Shale, now known as Jasper, is now responsible for bringing the rains to the people of Quartern. He must stretch his powers or risk having everyone die of dehydration. Meanwhile, his own councilors plot against him and the Reduners are coming for revenge. Terelle helps Shale boost his powers with her water-paint abilities. But her strange gift compels her to cross the desert and seek out her own people. Her people gave Quartern their first stormlord and may hold the key to saving Shale. Kaneth and Ryke reunite and try to reconcile their past with a new reality. Once again, the pacing in this book is a little slow. It moves quickly but dwells too long in some places and speeds quickly through other sections. Exile closes the trilogy in a satisfying manner, everything is resolved. But I had a few problems. First, the main villain is even more evil than Taquar. He is incredibly one-dimensional and is essentially a stock villain. Second, some of the plot resolution happens in a rather convenient manner. Terelle makes it to her homeland and the first people she encounters are not only members of the ruling family but also her relatives. Third, water is a scarce resource but the Reduners magically find a place with an unthreatened source of water. Fourth, the Alabaster people are secretive but are also good at disguising their existence from the world. No one has ever heard of a group of people with water magic in a land desperate for moisture. Even though the Alabaster people have a thriving trade route, seems a little too far fetched. Otherwise, this was a strong ending to an original trilogy.
Overall, The Watergiver Trilogy was an interesting read. However, I doubt I add it to my fantasy re-read list. The world-building is excellent and the society is marvelous detailed. But the personalities the characters were a little flat and the interactions verged on the edge of cliché. I had a difficult time connecting with any of the protagonists. The strongest element is the world building. Larke put a lot of thought into the politics, economics, and hardships of a water starved country. Also, I liked that a lot of the cities and several characters are named after rocks.
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