A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
One type of magic in this series incorporates talismans to concentrate power, and mages are gifted in various areas -- healing or mind control with touch. Other powers include communication with animals and control of weather. Readers can think about how this magical world differs from others they've read about. A few sailing terms mentioned and a look at the lives of ship's captains and pirates.
Loyalty to family, friends, fellow soldiers carries people through wartime. Shows how difficult repairing relations between countries can be after years of war.
Positive Role Models
New main characters both older teen boys who are gay. They hide many things from each other at first, but learn that trusting each other relieves them of burdens. They use the word "ruthless" often as their strategy to dispatch enemies. People get hurt, killed as a result, but it often serves to protect others in the end. Evan, once a pirate, turns into a fair merchant and sailor and tries to save lives by warning the Queen of the Fells about an invasion. Destin, beaten by his father for being gay, becomes a capable spy who works to have the best person in power. He's seen much corruption but doesn't fall into it; he fights it instead.
Violence & Scariness
Sexual assault that ends before clothes are removed; a battle on a ship with swords leaving pirates dead; zombie-like soldiers beheaded after skewering them with swords doesn't stop them; people killed by drowning, getting stabbed, falling from the air when a flying dragon lets go. A man loses his leg below the knee to a trap; other men are stung by venomous tentacles. Kidnappings, imprisonment, poisonings, and a drugging. A dog nearly decapitated with a knife. A fight leads to a broken leg. Story about a batterer beating his wife and son, and the son trying to kill him with a knife.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Two teen boys kiss. Talk of a man's many sexual encounters and how another man feels lucky not to have walked in on him.
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A sprinkling of insults including "bastard," "ass," "bloody hell," "s--tload," and "go suck a Breaker's balls."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Many scenes of drinking wine and cider while in company, once to excess. Many characters are older teens, but with very adult jobs: spy, captain of the army, pirate. Talk of a man fighting his addiction to a drug called "leaf."
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.