Storm Glass by Jeff Wheeler is a fantasy novel and the first instalment in the Harbinger series. The book came highly recommended to me via other fantasy reading friends, which prompted me to check it out from the library. However, shortly afterwards I discovered it on sale for a couple of dollars (the Kindle edition), so I went ahead and picked it up, and finally read through it.
Storm Glass is about two young girls who are from very different circumstances. Cettie, an orphaned girl, was living in the slums until one day she meets an individual who feels an indescribable connection to her and decides to adopt her, thus saving her from her dire situation. Sera is the daughter of an exceptionally wealthy and influential person and resides in the magically floating islands that the realm associates with power and privilege. Each girl has uniquely separate desires that eventually lead them to one another, with the hopes of changing their fates forever.
I wanted to like this book so much, and in many ways, I adored it. The writing is careful and calculated. The magic system was fascinating and a bit different than others within the genre that I’ve read. There’s a duality between the main female protagonists that helps initiate a bit of a critical and analytical aspect to the overarching story. Even so, there were far more elements in Storm Glass that left me unfulfilled and disenchanted by the end.
One of the things about the writing that I found quite gratifying was the world-building. Recently, a lot of the fantasy books that I’ve encountered—adult and young adult alike—seem to ignore this essential part of storytelling and it always leaves me a bit bitter and frustrated because it’s my favourite, favourite part of the genre. Yet, with Storm Glass, there were tons of details to help the reader truly visualise the frightening conditions of the slums or the glamourous gala that was being hosted by the rich-and-famous. I could get a great sense of the consideration that went into moulding the universe in which the story takes place. Even so, it didn’t quite envelope me in the ways I hoped. What I mean by that is that rather than stimulating the different senses, I felt like I was being told what to feel in a detached way, making it harder for me to really formulate a strong connection with the narrative.
The same thing can be said about the experiences and exchanges that the character’s have. I never got the chance to empathise with them because whatever they were feeling or thinking came off as stoically manufactured. Being told to feel sad here or excited there or angry at this exact moment is inhibiting to my personal enjoyment of the novel. I live for escapist types of stories, especially in fantasy and science-fiction—my favourite genres ever. I want to dive into a story and get swept away by being able to feel transported to the specific environments or to almost become the character I’m reading about. If you handed me this book and told me it was a textbook rather than a work of fictional fantasy, I’d probably believe you. This disconnected vibe kept me at arm’s length through all the plot twists and curious revelations; it was extremely disheartening.
The magic system was quite fascinating, however, most of the information surrounding it was irritatingly vague. There are multiple instalments that follow Storm Glass, so there is a chance that all of its functions and processes and etc. shall be explored more in the following additions. Nevertheless, for an introduction to a series, I need some sort of hook that will draw my curiosity out enough to make me return for the sequels. Morsels of complex information were teased at here and there as one of the girl’s is revealed to have a unique ability, but it was a couple of sentences over a hundred pages and, once again, that rapport between me and the cast, or the story, never got a chance to be nurtured.
But of all the phenomena observable to society and students, the relationships between people are not unknowable. Just as a plum will drop to the ground after falling off a table, so our fellow creatures respond in predictable, even self-injurious ways.”
The duality of Cettie and Sera had the most potential in Storm Glass, yet once the book was over, it was extremely weak and dull in the whole scheme of things. The girls’ exchanges were so miniscule over the course of the three-hundred-fifty pages that it seemed more like a minor subplot than the main overall idea (as advertised by the snippet). The bullying that Cettie faces and the imprisonment Sera endures due to her social standing are unoriginally cliché, with very little to nothing that sets it apart. Plus, it took fucking forever to get to the point of everything that happened. If the novel underwent a bit more editing and cut out approximately one-fourth to one-third of unnecessary descriptives of socialite life and drama (there were some repetition with these throughout) and gave more attention to Cettie’s and Sera’s relationship, then even with the weaker aspects, the book would’ve been far more pleasant.
Overall, Storm Glass was not a book for me. I feel pretty bad about my feelings because so many people loved it! I sort of feel like this outsider to their love for this book because I honestly don’t get it at all. Between the uninspired clichés and the excessively bulked out plot that is painfully diluted, and characters whom are flat and emotionless—this was not my gig in the least. As it stands, I’m not interested in reading more of the Harbinger series. If I do read anything else by this author, I’ll probably try out one of his other serials to see if they fit my tastes better. Maybe a different story entirely can make the big difference between tolerable and no thank you.
2 shadows outta 5!