Title: The Tempest Guild
Author: David Mullin
Publisher: June 2018, Velo Productions
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Blurb: The fragile peace in Talam is disintegrating. The northern ice pack is melting and the king of Sinistra plots to take advantage of the calamity to start a conflict.
Oblivious to the looming natural disaster and a coming war, street urchin Phaedra lives in the underbelly of the capital city. She has a unique and powerful ability, but she is too frightened to use it. Shunned by society, she longs to fit in. When two factions in the underworld clash, Phaedra is caught in the middle. Forced to defend her life, she finally unleashes her power with deadly consequences.
With Talam on the brink of doom, Phaedra is thrust into a conflict she doesn’t understand. She must flee the city in possession of a plant that could change the course of history, but she can’t do it alone.
With her antagonistic band in tow, Phaedra must find a way to escape Sinistra with hundreds of thousands of lives hanging in the balance.
What a whirlwind (haha, get it? Because tempest??
I’ll see my own way out, thanks) of a fantasy novel. Out of all the books I read for SPFBO, I think this style of writing was the strongest and pulled me in so easily. I loved how we were introduced to all of our main players early on and I could easily picture what I was reading, putting myself in-scene and becoming curious about this compelling and magical world that was presented before me. I seriously enjoyed this story and I was so curious to how it was all going to tie together (and I love those moments when the characters’ separate storylines all come together to start pushing the plot along in a unified way and I found myself nodding along when it happened here, too).
So I want that to be clear: I definitely enjoyed this book and, if a sequel is written, I will totally be reading, as I’m most certainly curious of how this story continues.
But, this was read as part of a contest and, though it was one of my deserving semi-finalists, with this review, I am cutting it from the running of being a finalist. As such, I want to spend the rest of my review explaining that decision (and hopefully giving some helpful feedback to the author in the process)!
While I thought the characters were complex and varied, with some pretty striking personalities; and the world was intriguing, making me want to learn a lot more lore surrounding this world being presented, I think my biggest reason why I’m cutting this book from the finalist running is because the entire book felt surface level, despite how enjoyable it was to read. I flew through reading this book, even with it being on the shorter side. I think it needed to be longer and much more fleshed out, to give the characters, their personalities, their backstories and the lore more time to develop and grow. Right now, I don’t think I understand any one character fully enough to become completely invested in their story, though I definitely have my favorites. But I just wanted more out of this story: more introspection from the characters so I could understand their desires, their motives and their stakes. More worldbuilding so I could become completely immersed, instead of teased with the intriguing taste I got, almost like this was a sample, instead of a fully fledged story. More tension and a tad bit slower pace, so we could really linger on the conflict and understand not only the players in this game, but also exactly what was being risked.
There were a few other minor things I also noticed. Some of the dialogue wasn’t always my favorite, i.e., it didn’t real realistic and pulled me out of the story. Sometimes, some of the information revealed or choices the characters made didn’t make a lot of sense, e.g., one character reveals he hasn’t seen his mother for 15 years after he betrayed his clan and his friend is surprised by this admission. Yet they have also been friends for 15 years. Wouldn’t he have known he hadn’t been able to return all this time, since he was with him (using vague pronouns to avoid spoilers), making this entire conversation feel like it was put in solely for the reader’s benefit? Also, the ending was really abrupt and it didn’t feel like the story being told here was fully wrapped up. I think it needed more to fully finish this tale, instead of cutting it off so suddenly, instead (I assume) continuing in the sequel.
So, that is why I cut The Tempest Guild, making it my first semi-finalist to fall. I thought the story itself was really intriguing and the strength of the writing was obvious. It kept me enjoying what I read as I kept reading to find out what happened next, despite the issues I did have with it. It’s definitely a book I would recommend everyone who enjoys a good fantasy give a try. The bits with the tornados were particularly fun and I’m hoping more instances of those storms–and some more explanation of how they work–comes in the sequel.