Genre: Dark Fantasy
Synopsis: Everyone relies on Cloudmasters to supply water. Unfortunately, the last Cloudmaster is old and his power is failing. People are already in danger of thirst, and there are no Cloudmasters to help him or take over for him–his own son, Nealrith, was unfortunately born without the power.
Shale is born poor, in an village far from the cities where Rainlords and Cloudmasters dwell. He hides his own water abilities, because in his village, it’s considered an insult to the Cloudmasters to work with their element. Out of desperation, Nealrith and other Rainlords go even to the place Shale lives, looking for potential Cloudmasters. But someone isn’t interested in letting Nealrith find and train a Cloudmaster to take over for the old one…
Terelle was sold to a snuggery (like a brothel) at a young age, and she’s been trying to find a way out before she grows up. A way out finds her, but it isn’t what she thinks it is, and it is more relevant to the problems of the land than she could possibly imagine.
Series: First in a trilogy.
POV: Third person multiple
Romance: Two of the secondary characters have a small subplot going here.
Dark fantasy, no fluffy puppies here. (Although there are some adorable giant insects.)
Ostensibly, this series follows multiple characters, but let’s face it. Shale is the star of this show. It looks like Terelle is being set up to be more important in future books, but for this one? Shale is the character that matters most.
And Shale is fun to follow. He loves his siblings, and has a core of compassion. He has a sense of loyalty and responsibility. He’s intelligent enough to figure out some ways to influence his life, despite the machinations around him. But he has to use all he has to fight against the people or circumstances constraining him. It’s interesting how his isolation makes it hard for him to communicate with people sometimes, and how he comes off as reserved to other people. Especially in the face of how much he cares, and how emotional he feels when reading from his perspective.
Most of our protagonists are maneuvered into situations that trap them–this seems to be a theme for the book. As soon as they break free, they’re lead into another kind of trap. There’s a constant struggle for agency, for the power and ability to do what they want to, or need to, do.
I spent a lot of this book wishing Nealrith would do what he wanted to do, instead of what he was supposed to do. The poor man tried his best to do right by everyone, and ends up as this book’s punching bag. A lot of the people in his life fail him, and that’s not the worst of it. There were times when I wished he’d stepped up and he didn’t. But now I just think it’s sad when someone with such good intentions went through what he did.
Terelle’s story was interesting, while hinting at things to come in the future. The concept of her powers and how she’s trapped by the powers of her mentor make for an intriguing idea, and could be used in all kinds of varied ways. It also creates a huge character dilemma. She has this power, but she knows what it’s like to have it used on herself, and she knows the potential it has for hurting people.
Book one of the trilogy sets up the action by moving the players into position, and going through the lives of our main protagonists. Shale and Terelle start out young, and powerless. They fight back against the forces that try to control them, and it’s a constant struggle. They do make small progresses, but they have to keep fighting.
I like Shale and Terelle, and I do want to see them develop into their own people. I’m also developing a taste for Glenda Larke’s writing (having already read another book by her), and will be catching up on the rest of her works.