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The Stormcaller

by Tom Lloyd

(Gollancz, £12.99, 438 pages, trade paperback, published 16 March 2006.)

Review by Martin Owton

cover scanThe Stormcaller is the debut novel of Tom Lloyd, a young British writer and the first in a series. It is set in 'The Land', the western edge of a continent, where different tribes of men maintain an uneasy peace and the elves (nothing like Tolkien's elves) lurk in the wastelands waiting for a chance to take back their former territories. The central character is Isak, a white-eye. Born to be taller, stronger and more resilient than other men; he dreams of a life as a soldier, but the Gods have other plans for Isak. He is the Chosen, heir-elect to Lord Bahl, the white-eye leader of the Farlan. Within a short time a messenger arrives from Nartis, God of the Farlan, bearing gifts that mark Isak out as the fulfiller of ancient prophecies. Prophecies that speak of a time of turmoil, conflict and the elves regaining their lands.

A classic epic fantasy set up then? Certainly. Tom Lloyd has stacks of imagination. He has thrown in preternatural warriors, ancient prophecies, magic, gods, elves and there is even a dragon. The story follows Isak learning and growing into his power as war envelopes the Farlan. But does it all work? Not really. Tom Lloyd gives it a good go, he writes stirring action scenes and plenty of them, but there are just too many things in the mix and it all gets confusing. It is never really very clear how the magic works and there is not enough backstory to explain many of the plot elements with the result that many of the happenings seem rather random. This, combined with the author's poor control of point of view, meant that the dramatic tension never really wound up for me. I kept expecting the dragon to show up and do something significant and it didn't, except for a brief appearance as a ground attack weapon. What should have been one of the big set pieces, the death of Lord Bahl, takes place offstage. Even the map at the front of the book only shows about half the places in the tale and not the tribal boundaries.

None of this makes The Stormcaller a bad book, it just could have been so much better. I suspect that I would get more out of it reading it a second time, but really it needs to get it right first time.

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