by Cora Carmack
In a land ruled and shaped by violent magical storms, power lies with those who control them.
Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora's been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.
To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks―storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.
Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage.
She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough.
Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.
“You are lightning made flesh.”
To have an opening line as powerful and evocative as this is to set an incredibly high bar. When I first read it, the line set my teeth on edge and shot electricity through my veins until I felt I could feel the hum of lightning beneath my skin. I was almost scared by my sudden levels of excitement, sure that the book would not fulfill its first promise.
Never have I been more glad to be wrong. Roar is resonant. The words cast a slow-burning spell that works its way easily beneath the skin and nestle deep within the mind. Each character feels as if they were forged by an expert blacksmith, bearing weight and depth that leaves little doubt to the value of their experiences and views of the world. And what a glorious world it is.
Roar has one of the most unique fantasy world structures I’ve seen. The Stormheart series focuses on storm magic and those in possession of it. Tempests plague the land and only those living in cities guarded by the magical Stormlings seem to be able to survive, let alone thrive. This creates not only an immediate sense of tension in the story as it opens just before the start of the rage season (when storms are relentless in the skies), but also an interesting political dichotomy. What happens to the people who can’t afford to gain entrance to the city, or live within its walls? What about people who might have a different kind of magic than the famed Stormlings, one looked down upon through the world’s history? And of course there are the storms themselves—semi-sentient beings with hearts capable of being claimed for power.
Through Roar, Cora Carmack takes us on a full journey of the wildlands around Caelira and imagines storms of such breathtaking magnitude and beauty, one longs to join the hunt. And with the band of stormhunters Aurora joins, we get an even better and more diverse look at the world’s politics and imbalance of power, as well as the very magic everyone desperately needs to possess.
Beyond the outward craft, Cora took another daring leap in that she has not one, but two POV characters who suffer from anxiety and self-doubt. While Roar is smart, brave, and bold on the outset, she faces a constant internal battle over whether she can trust herself or those around her, what path might be the right one. She has the weight of a kingdom on her shoulders and it shows. Nova, on the other hand, faces extreme anxieties that are both her own making and thanks to a part of herself she has little hope to control. Despite all of this, she gives everything she can to aid her best friend.
Roar is about finding one’s place in the world not on one’s own merit, but through the relationships one forges and the opportunities one takes. Aurora could have easily bowed to her mother’s wishes and wed Cassius Locke, never to discover the true power she held within, but she doesn’t. Nova could have served her own interests and blocked out Aurora’s cries for help, but she won’t. Even Cassius abandons his self-servicing nature to a certain extent when a relationship is threatened. Without the stormhunter crew behind her, Aurora would never have grown into the incredible, dynamic woman she is by the end of the book moving into Rage, and it shows.
My final note is on romance. Cora began as a romance author and it shows beautifully within this story. While Roar has a greater focus on epic fantasy worldbuilding and several storylines, romance does play its own, significant role and it is brilliant within these pages. It is slow, built off a friendship and reluctant mutual respect, and the moment it culminates into proper being, the reader can’t help but scream with pure joy.
This is a book I will not soon forget, if ever. It’s one I’ve loaned to several friends and hope to keep loaning, if only so that others can take part in this wondrous story and be emboldened by Roar.
5 out of 5 Magpies