The Secrets of the Storm Vortex: The Lightning Catcher, Book 3

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Secrets of the Storm Vortex: The Lightning Catcher, Book 3 Book Poster Image
Sequel stays highly imaginative but lacks momentum.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The series mixes weather fact and fantasy. The Secrets of the Storm Vortex talks about the water cycle and real hazards such as fog and large storms but also fanciful hazards, such as Murderous Mist, which tightens around victims like a boa constrictor, and Fearsome Fog, which causes hallucinations of scary monsters. There's also talk about the London Fire of 1666 (in that it was caused by Lightning Catchers) and the process of Egyptian mummification.

Positive Messages

Teamwork and bravery help fight the bad guys out looking for power at any cost.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Angus is an admirable hero most of the time. He's only interested in using his special skills as a Storm Prophet to help others. When his anger gets the best of him and he uses his powers against an annoying kid at school, he feels terrible about it and is determined to control his powers so it doesn't happen again. He and his friends Dougal and Indigo will do anything to track down clues and save the day, often going around authority figures at school and sometimes getting in trouble for it.

Violence & Scariness

As the title suggests, a storm vortex builds near the school. It contains real lightning but also fake hazards such as Murderous Mist (which can kill you like a boa constrictor) and Fearsome Fog (which surrounds you with scary visions). Kids are squeezed by the mist and run-away-screaming scared by the fog. Small creatures called Shimmer Sharks fly around and tear things to shreds. Bad guys threaten the main characters and almost kidnap them; a bad guy gets kicked in the nose, and icicles rain down on while the kids try to get away. Much talk about Angus' parents locked in a dungeon by the bad guys and whether they've been hurt in the storm (they haven't). Kids are threatened by a hook used to pull out brains in an Egyptian mummification process. Angus has a vision of the destruction during the massive London Fire of 1666.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Secrets of the Storm Vortex is the third book in the Lightning Catcher series, which will remind you a lot of Harry Potter, only here there's a secret school of kids learning about some crazy weather patterns instead of magic. Also, the content is milder than in the Potter series. In this installment there are some minor injuries. Lots of bad weather comes from the vortex mentioned in the title, most of it fabricated. Murderous Mist squeezes kids like a boa constrictor until they're rescued, and Fearsome Fog chases kids around giving them scary visions. One bad guy gets kicked in the nose when kids are nearly kidnapped. The three 11- and 12-year-old main characters are loyal and brave while fighting against some baddies in the weather world who want power and control. The main character's parents are being held in a dungeon by the worst of them.

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What's the story?

In THE SECRETS OF THE STORM VORTEX, Perilous Exploratorium for Violent Weather and Vicious Storms welcomes back Angus, Dougal, Indigo, and all the other Lightning Cubs studying to be Lightning Catchers -- but without the usual fanfare. Across the island hanging over Castle Dankhart a giant storm vortex rages above, and Angus' parents are locked in the dungeon below. Angus is worried his parents may be hurt in the storm and wants to get to the bottom of what evil Scabious Dankhart is up to. Did he make the storm on purpose? If so, how and why? Will he set the storm on Perilous? On the whole world? Of course all the adults at Perilous are as close-lipped as can be, but Angus needs answers. Luckily, being the only Storm Prophet at school has its privileges. Angus gets to start training with a Lightning Catcher in the incredibly secret Inner Sanctum. Exploring the area on his own is forbidden, but that's never stopped him before.

Is it any good?

This installment is as highly imaginative as the rest of the Lightning Catcher series, but, as with the others, it's very slow-moving until the very end. This would be the perfect series for kids too young for Harry Potter if each book were 100 pages shorter and the pace quicker. Angus is still a great character to root for, but it'd be nice to know more than hints about what being a Storm Prophet means for him. And it seems a bit strange and uneventful that Angus' parents have been languishing in a dungeon for three books with no word from them. A brief forward from their perspective would ratchet up the excitement in more story-building ways than descriptions of crazy weather patterns, skin conditions, and exploding puzzles.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about their favorite kinds of fake weather from the book. Would you like to run into a fog yeti? Or discover crazy phenomenon such as Shimmer Sharks?

  • What do you think of the Lightning Catcher series so far? Will you keep reading? What do you think will happen in Book 4? Will Angus ever rescue his parents?

  • Why is Angus worried about his abilities as a Storm Prophet? Have you ever been really annoyed by a classmate and wanted to have your own storm dragon to chase him or her? Since that's not an option for anyone but Angus, how would you handle the situation?

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