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  • kjoannerixon


After I read Witchmark, it took me ages to read Stormsong and Soulstar, which I regret now, because honestly to me these books read less like a trilogy and more like a single novel. Each has a personal arc for the main character that revolves around romance and self-actualization, but the actual events of the books cover a short time period and the same complex political/social problem, just slightly different aspects of it.

So, not that this is a bad way to divide up a story or market a trilogoy, just that it becomes increasingly difficult to review these books as individual books.

Stormsong is really lovely on the level of political intrigue. Gorgeous elves who are essentially all-powerful yet reserved and ineffable, an ambitious but suggestible prince, fancy robber barons with massive political power, scrappy socialist organizers--it's good stuff. And while Witchmark ocurrs in the streets and the hospital corridors, at the level of private investigation of an individual death, Stormsong is set at the level of national politics and the survival of whole ethnic/social groups.

The drama at that level is great, and so is the tension between Chancellor Grace Hensley and her father, one of said robber barons, who is dying of cancer and in prison but somehow still running the country and ruining her life. Grace's instinct to engage with her father even when she knows he's dangerous is immensely relatable and human, and drives some of the best emotional turmoil in the book.

The romance is, frankly, not quite as enjoyable. I want to say it comes out of nowhere, although in fact it doesn't--Grace and Avia, her love interest, know each other and have admired each other from afar. But it does get very intense and very committed, very fast, with very few hiccups along the way.

On top of that, Grace herself is frustratingly pure of heart. Not that no one is ever an idealist--people are idealists all the time--but her devotion to Doing the Right Thing gives her the superpower of not minding when her own position is diminished, when her own fortunes turn to dust, when her own father is stripped of power and respect. Some of this is because we don't see her lose access to luxuries, not on the page--she maintains the lifestyle of a rich woman with servants who make her her favorite food and dress her in the latest fashions, even when she throws in her lot with socialist reformers. The things she gives up are all the things she doesn't mind giving up, like the ex-fiance she was going to marry for politics but who now she doesn't have to marry anymore. She never liked him anyway!

All this ties in with the less satisfying things about the romance. Avia has had to sacrifice for her ideals. She lost her family, her fortune, her inheritance, her lifestyle. She had to go live in the slums and work every second of the day to make it in a harsh world. But Grace doesn't have to dive into Avia's world to be with her. Grace doesn't get to prove the strength of her love, because she doesn't have to give up much. She spurns the rich boys who want her on their team, and that causes a certain amount of political work, but she doesn't lose.

All this is just my attitude when reading it, though. There are certainly days when I want to see a world where rich women can just go be lesbians with their working class girlfriends and it's fine and no one dies. There are days when I want to believe that the Chancellor of a country that has captured people to put their souls into the Soul-Grinding-Power-Plant can be friends with the nonviolent activists trying to rescue people from having their souls ground up. Like, that would be really nice. So if you're having a day where you want to believe in the essential goodness of the human spirit, this is 100% the book for that. And if you're here for the political intrigue, you'll also have a good time.


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