Storm Thief

Storm Thief

Author: Chris Wooding

Publication: 2006, Scholastic

Pages: 320

Overall Rating: bth_45_zps06f87659[1]                       

Rating for Action:bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_3-star-rating_zps73bdba73[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary:  Rail and Moa are two thieves living in the city of Orokos – a lonely island nation barricaded behind high metal walls.  Life in Orokos is chaotic, as probability storms sometimes sweep through the city changing anything in their path.  Buildings move, people might be given a horrible disease or cured of one.  Anything can happen.  Rail and Moa survive in one of Orokos’ many ghettos, earning just enough to get by, until the day they stumble across a rare and valuable artifact.  Choosing to hide the find from their thief-mistress the two go on the run.  They are soon joined by Vago, a half-man, half-machine golem.  Together, the three of them must escape the massed forces of Secret Police the and the even more deadly menace of the Revenants – energy ghosts born of the probability storms who instantly kill and possess anyone they touch.   But the artifact that Rail and Moa carry is more powerful, and more important, than they could ever have imagined – it may even be the key to unlocking the deepest secret in Orokos.

Age of Main Character: About 16, though the exact age is never known

What I Liked the Most: Orokos is an unbelievable, richly imagined city, described in loving detail.  Whether we’re in the lair of the Mozgas, one the subterranean communities beneath Orokos, the hidden settlement of Kilatas, or the rain spattered streets of a Revenant infested district the settings in this book pop with life and the level of sheer creativity Wooding displays in this book is something you have to experience to believe.

Rail, Moa, and Vago are all rich, fully drawn characters.  Their fears, hopes, and uncertainties were laid bare for me to experience.  Wooding often switches back and forth between the characters.  Many chapters are done from the Point of View of other characters entirely, and occasionally he even moves from one character to another mid-scene.  For many others that can serve as a real stumbling block, but for the most part Wooding handles it so smoothly you’re hardly even aware it’s happening.  All it does is intensify the experience by opening up more characters and providing you with a greater range of perspectives on what’s happening.

The probability storms and Revenants are such innovative ideas, and the very notion that they were created by some long dead residents of Orokos blew me away.  I couldn’t see how Wooding was going to pull it off, how he was going to be able to explain why anyone would create something so insanely chaotic and destructive and foist it on their descendants.  But somehow Wooding pulled it off.  The explanation, which comes close to the end, was perfect and made utter sense.

What I Liked the Least: We know about some of the things that probability storms have done in the past.  They shut down Rail’s lungs, forcing him to use a respirator.  They pulled Vago out of the tank where he was raised and dropped him someone’s attic.  During the one probability storm that happens during the book we learn that a factory has been dropped into a Revenant-infested district.  But we never actually experience anything bad that happens to Rail or Moa as the result of a probability storm.  So while we know that it can do bad things – and has done bad things to our main characters in the past – we never actually see it do anything to them.

The people of Orokos believe they are the only people on earth, that there is nothing beyond the city.  Automated defenses set up by the city prevent anyone from leaving or entering.  All that is fine with me.  But at one point, the residents of the hidden community of Kilatas state that they have seen colored lights exploding in the sky just over the horizon.  That was a clear reference to fireworks and helps to convince the residents of Kilatas that there must be land nearby.  The problem is that this doesn’t jive with the long held belief that the people of Orokos are alone in the world.  If there was inhabited land close enough that they could see fireworks in the sky, then they also would have seen fishing boats and other vessels.

How Good was the Action? Wooding provides some excellent mix of blow-by-blow action and fills his scenes with enough tension and adrenaline to keep the blood pumping.  Some of the best scenes take place as Rail, Moa, and Vago try to navigate their way through a Revenant-infested district.  It was easy to get caught up in the rapid fire action as they race down the streets with Revenants and Taken close on their heels, or as Vago battles hordes of Revenants with his aether cannon before leaping off a building.

The only downside to the action was trying to follow three main characters.  When they were on their own, as with Vago fighting the Revenants, this wasn’t a problem.  But when all three of them are together, because they’re all main characters and we get chances to see the story from all of their perspectives, I often found myself wanting to see how a different character was handling the situation.  For example, if the action was taking place from Rail’s point of view, I wanted to know how Moa or Vago were feeling.  This wasn’t a big deal, but occasionally it did make the action less emotionally engaging than it might have been if there were only one main character.

How Engaging was the Story?   Storm Thief is a wonderfully rich and elaborate story; the kind of book that sticks in your mind long after it’s over.  Whether it’s the powerfully drawn characters, the lush scenery, or the wildly creative plot, I was fascinated with the world Wooding had created.   This is a story that will draw you in, entertain you, and make you think.  The ending is a powerful commentary on the precarious balance between order and chaos in society, and the human tendency to strive for a perfection that we can never achieve.

Overall Assessment: Storm Thief is an intelligent and beautifully crafted story that doesn’t shy away from violence and intense action.  Like the more recent Ship Breaker it manages to combine all the best elements of action/adventure with gorgeous language, finely crafted settings, and deep philosophical underpinnings more commonly found in literary fiction.

Profanity: Only a few words like ‘frek’ that Wooding has created especially for the book.

Sex: None.

Violence: Yes, but it’s not graphic. People die, but there’s no blood and I mean that quite literally.  The Revenants kill without drawing blood and the aether cannons that the soldiers and secret police use when fighting the revenants also kill without drawing blood.  Perhaps the most violent scenes come early in the book when Rail and Moa come across the dead victims of a group of mutants called the Mozgas, who tear their victims apart and eat them.  But we never see any of that happen – we just hear about and see the bodies of their victims described in modestly graphic detail.

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