A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Stormcaster, by Cinda Williams Chima, is the third book in the Shattered Realms fantasy series, a spin-off of the best-selling Seven Realms series. If you haven't read the first series, you can still keep up -- there's a map and some explanation near the beginning of the first book, Flamecaster, of how the magic in this world works. As in the first two books, two characters get special focus and form a bond. In the other two books, the characters are straight. In Stormcaster, they're gay teens. Destin grew up being beaten by his father for who he was. Evan grew up on the streets and turned to piracy. Both have vital roles in protecting the Realms from an evil queen who controls an army of zombie-like super-soldiers that can only be stopped with beheading. No big war in Book 3, but there are a few skirmishes and zombie soldier beheadings. Other violence includes a sexual assault that ends before clothes are removed; people killed by drowning, getting stabbed, and falling from the air when a flying dragon lets go; a man losing his leg below the knee to a trap; and other men getting stung by venomous tentacles. Add to that kidnappings, imprisonment, poisonings, and a drugging. There's a smattering of strong language -- nothing beyond "s--tload" -- and a lot of drinking in company by teens (with adult jobs) and adults. Two teen boys kiss, and there's much talk about a man at court and his many exploits.
What's the story?
In STORMCASTER, Evan finds out he's a Stormcaster when his pirate ship is attacked by Queen Celestine's ship and he unleashes magic to save himself. He both uses and hides his identity after that, altering the weather just enough to sail ships safely, but trusting no one with his secret or even his real name -- until he meets Destin Karn at a country house he'd been squatting in. They don't quite hit it off: Each thinks the other has been sent to kill him. Evan breaks Destin's leg in a fight. But in time, they begin to trust each other, and Evan explains the threat that Queen Celestine poses to him as a Stormcaster and to the Realms. Fast-forward a few years. Destin is back in the kingdom of Arden in the south, acting as spy to a young and foolish new king. Evan runs a port in the north. From different sources, they hear of Celestine's takeover of the Chalk Cliffs and know that she means to conquer the Seven Realms. Both Evan and Destin have an integral part to play in convincing their warring kingdoms to unify in order to save the Realms.
Is it any good?
Full of spies and pirates and palace intrigue, this third installment weaves a complex and windy tale but serves more as a setup for the big final battle. Fans who are in it for author Cinda Williams Chima's great characters will be glad to hear that all the major players they've met so far get a turn to narrate: Lyss, Hal, Ash, Jenna. And in Stormcaster, there are two more as well: Destin, a spy, and Evan, a pirate and Stormcaster. Chima does a stellar job making Destin and Evan, characters with conflicted pasts, worth rooting for. And she brings gay characters forward to take the main storyline when, in fantasy especially, this doesn't happen often.
The downside to following six people so closely is that more than 500 pages pass and the big battles still haven't begun. There's no climactic action here that would befit a series about warring kingdoms -- just revelations that are supposed to tide readers over. Yes, the staging is well done -- spies double-crossing spies, new alliances formed -- but it's still staging, and it will make the wait for Book 4 so much harder.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the gay main characters in Stormcaster. How often are gay characters represented in fantasy?
What obstacles did these characters face that the straight romantic pairings from the first two books did not encounter?
Will you read the next book in the series? Do you think Evan and Destin will see each other again? What about Lyss and Hal? Ash and Jenna?
- Author: Cinda Williams Chima
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses and Fairies, Brothers and Sisters, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Pirates
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperTeen
- Publication date: April 3, 2018
- Number of pages: 544
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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