Friday, June 7, 2013

Book Review: Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles, Book 1

The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles, Book 1, by Alexandra Butcher
**** (4 stars)

A long time ago, I thought it was unfair that in the fantasy books I read, wizards never got to have personal lives. Kings and princes and ordinary village guys and everyone else, yes, but not wizards. "The Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles" certainly makes up for that.

Aside from the sex scenes (which are not frequent, but are very explicit, occasionally bordering on kinky), The Light Beyond the Storm is an intriguing tale of a world where elves and mages are oppressed, an elf woman, Dii, who decides to fight for her freedom, and the powerful human mage, Archos, who assists her and becomes a force for helping elves and other oppressed people against the cruel, decadent nobility and the ruthless Order of Witch Hunters. It also involves two very sweet love stories.

Dii, who starts out the novel, kind of fades into the background after Archos comes on the scene, but Archos is such a seriously cool character that I didn't mind too much, though I do like to see the female character take a more active role. Even so, it's clear that Dii is a big motivation for everything Archos does. And, to be fair, with Dii being a female elf mage, she has virtually no freedom or ability to act independently in this world. Archos is awesome - handsome, powerful, scary when he's doing his really cool magic, completely badass and ruthless when he has to be, but also with a very tender side, and a genuinely good heart when it comes to helping the unfortunate and oppressed. I don't know if it's kind of contradictory to say this of a book with such graphic sexual content, but it's refreshing to read a fantasy novel with a clear moral compass, where the good people are strong, smart, and admirable, instead of being weak, stupid, and pathetic as is so common in current "dark" or "gritty" fantasy (*coughgrrmartincough*). I enjoyed the other characters, but Archos especially stands out.

The world is painted in vivid detail, from ancient magic caves to fields and forests to the dark and dangerous city. I would have liked to know more about why elves are so oppressed, how they came to be treated as little more than property to be used and abused, and what gives the Order of Witch Hunters so much power. The background of the elves is hinted at a little bit late in the book; I get the feeling we'll learn more about that in the next book.

The book could use a careful edit to smooth out some long, tangled sentences and tidy up the punctuation.

For those who prefer not to read such graphic content, I would say that this book can still be enjoyed even if you skim over or skip the sex scenes. Also, there are a number of rapes that occur in the book, but none of them are described in detail.

Overall, I found myself caught up in wanting to see if Dii could keep her new-found freedom and if Archos could help the captured, enslaved elves, and in the two romances. I'm looking forward to finding out what happens in the next book.

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