Review Blog

Oct 06 2009

The Last Stormlord by Glenda Larke

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Harper Voyager, 2009. ISBN 9780732289294. Random Rain: Book One.
(Ages 12+) Glenda Larke has done what should have been more than obvious to many: she's created a world where water is the most valued commodity. It is controlled and regulated by the state and not just water but the rain and where it falls. There is nothing random about rain in this fantasy saga. To put it more correctly, that is the way it was, now the last remaining Cloudmaster is dying and there is no one to replace him.
The land Larke has created is an easy one for the reader to imagine. The Scarpen Quarter contains closely packed cities with flat roofed adobe built houses running down slopes, the rich at the top and the poor and waterless at the bottom. The Gibber Quarter is a stony desert with small communities scratching out a poor living. The Red Quarter, is an area dominated by red shifting sand dunes populated by tribes of nomadic desert dwellers and the White Quarter is an area of mines and mysterious white skinned and robed people. All the communities depend on the regular and regulated supply of water given to them by the Stormlords and the Cloudmaster.
Flint and Terelle are two young people who have important skills and talents. Flint is revealed early in his life in the Gibber as being water sensitive. But this talent he keeps very much to himself for fear his drunken, abusive father will object to his drawing too much attention to himself. Terelle has a more mysterious background that is revealed to the reader gradually. She has been bought by a brothel owner who feeds and gives her, her water ration until she is old enough to earn for herself. She eventually escapes the 'Snuggery' and becomes apprenticed to a water painter where she learns she has very special talents.
It is during the search for those of the population with any water talent that Flint is discovered, but he is deceived and is used by someone who wants the power of a Stormlord for personal gain. It is this lust for power which sees the tribes and clans of the Red Quarter at war with the rest of the Quarters. They have no fear of a return to a time of random rain. Larke's first volume ends with the death of the Cloudmaster and the end of the rule of the Stormlords.
The use of water as the ultimate resource is timely. There are already alarm bells ringing in Australia about water supply and like many in the Scarpen Quarter, who control the rain, complacency seems to take precedence over action. Glenda Larke has drawn her characters well, there is enough depth of emotion in them all to be believably human and enough insight into their various roles too see the reason behind their differing view points. A most enjoyable (600+ page) read. I hope she doesn't run out of steam in what I presume will be a trilogy.
Mark Knight

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