Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Part social critique, part adventureJune 2 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
House of Storms is the loose sequel to The Light Ages. Loose, because it takes place chronologically after the first book but with a different cast of characters. At the core of the novel is a bizarre love triangle between Alice Maynell, the mother who ruthlessly climbed her way to the top of the social ladder, Ralph, her son who is thrust into a position of power, and Marion Price, a fisherman's daughter who steals Ralph's heart. As events progress, Ralph and Marion go their separate ways and find themselves on either side of a class war brought about in part through Alice's political maneuvering.
The book is split into two parts, dealing with Ralph's youth and relationship with Marion, and years later the final stages of the war enveloping the East and West of Ian MacLeod's fictional Britain. I felt that the first half of the story was the stronger of the two as there was more development of the characters and better dialogue. The second half was more disjointed and lacked some of the charm of the first half.
It may be my lack of a British perspective but alot of the social themes were not clear to me. As with Light Ages, the overarching message was that despite changes the status quo stays the same. Perhaps someone with more experience with the British class system will take more away from the novel. That said, the story stands on its own and is an enjoyable if slightly overlong read.
As a final note, magic or aether as it is referred to in the novel plays a central role here as it did in The Light Ages and is creatively integrated into the storyline.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
somewhat weak 4 due to weaker second halfAug. 17 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
The House of Storms takes place roughly a century or so and in the same world as MacLeod's The Light Ages. Though it could therefore be called a sequel, one needn't have read The Light Ages to jump into House of Storms, as the characters and the culture aren't quite the same. House of Storms is not as strong as the first book, though like Light Ages it has fully developed vivid characters; a slow, methodical pace; a complex plot, a balanced look at the "good" and "bad" guys; and lush, poetic language. It didn't, however, maintain these strengths quite as consistently as Light Ages did, creating I thought a noticeable flagging in the second half of the book.
The novel is set in a sort of late-Victorian era England where magic (in the form of aether) and technology work side by side. England is controlled by a small group of guilds, the most dominant one of which is the Telegraphers' Guild. Alice Meynell is the current Greatgrandmistress of the Guild, a position she's achieved despite her low background through using sex (her husband is the Grandmaster), magic (she's a darkly proficient adept of aether), and the not-so-infrequent murder. At the book's start, neither her magic nor social position however can do anything to save her consumptive son Ralph, who stands to inherit control of the Guild. To save him she makes a bargain with a group of Changed (names so for the effect of a too-great exposure to magical aether). With his recovery she returns to plotting Ralph's (and thus her) rise to power, along with increasing the fortunes of the Telegraphers' Guild, refusing to be deterred by Ralph's love for a common "shoregirl" named Marion Price or his increasing interest in natural science and his burgeoning theory of evolution.
The first half of the book deals with these plot points and more, while the second half swerves into a civil war between England's East and West (partly economic, partly over slavery, along with other reasons--including some directly tied to Alice). In the war, Ralph as head of his Guild becomes a general while Marion turns into the Florence Nightingale of the other side. Armies march, society is turned over, the countryside razed, all while Alice continues to plot and manipulate and Ralph and Marion move closer and closer to a reconnection.
As mentioned, I thought the book's first half stronger than its second. The war sections seemed more diffuse and disjointed, less solidly set up and fleshed out. New characters were introduced, but not as successfully. And the ending seemed somewhat anticlimactic. That said, though Storms didn't match the brilliance of Light Ages (a tough task anyway), there's quite a lot to like here, beginning with the list of shared strengths listed in the first paragraph of this review. And the book is almost worth reading for Alice herself, a character you almost can't help reveling in despite (or perhaps because of) her murderous single-minded drive. Recommended therefore for Alice, along with its many other strengths of character and prose, though with a wisp of disappointment.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
special blending of sorcery and alternate historyApril 27 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
On an alternate earth, the fifth form of matter, aether is discovered. This element is used in magic spells to run machinery and electricity and just about anything else one can think of. The guilds control the supply of aether and no one is more powerful than Alice Meynell, the Greatgrandmistress of the Telegrapher's Guild. Her only son Ralph is dying and she takes him to Invercombe on the west coast of England in the hopes that exercise and clear air will cure his consumption.
While there she visits Einfell where people are no longer human because they were changed by the overuse of magic. When she returns, her son Ralph is cured so she leaves him at Invercombe while she returns to London to set in motion plans that will give more power to her and her son. The result of her scheming leads to a civil war that will affect the lives of everyone living in Victorian England.
This is a thick and juicy alternate history novel that is set in a Victorian England where everyone is dependant on magic like oil is in our world. Alice does what she must to get and keep her position no matter who she hurts. Her only weakness is her son who turns out to be under his mother's thumb when he takes over the position of Greatguildmaster once held by his dead father. Ian R. Macleod continues to fascinate readers with his special blending of sorcery and alternate history.
Highly recommendedAug. 6 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
This novel, while not exactly a sequel, is set in the same world as McLeod's brilliant "The Light Ages", in which the discovery of a magical substance called "aether" transforms Victorian England society. The substance is controlled by guilds, which puts an interesting, economic spin on the concept of magic. Also, high levels of exposure to the substance cause mutations, creating a sub-class of people called (depending on who's speaking) the Chosen or changelings, who live as pariahs. "The Light Ages" is a superb, original fantasy novel.
"The House of Storms" is set about 100 years after the end of "The Light Ages" and can be read independently. Greatgrandmistress Alice Meynell of the Guild of Telegraphers, one of the most powerful women in the country, is desperately trying to find a cure for her son Ralph's consumptive disease. In their travels, they end up at Invercombe, an ancient mansion with an aether-powered "weathertop" that can be used to manipulate the weather, making it a great place to convalesce for Ralph. As Ralph heals and resumes normal life in the more rural Invercombe area, he finds that he may not want to follow in the footsteps of his mother.
One of the most interesting aspects of this wonderful novel is the way society has evolved with the discovery of new technological advancements such as electricity and the telephone (which might make aether less valuable and important). In addition, colonization has begun and, with it, slavery becomes an issue. London is very much the center of the guilds and the old powers, where cities in the west are moving away from this. While the novel is definitely a character-driven story, McLeod also does a wonderful job in making England, on the brink of a civil war and in the middle of economic decline, become a very tangible place for the reader.
Strong characterization, a unique and interesting setting, and to top it all off, some of the loveliest prose you can find in the genre. The second part of the novel (dealing with the civil war) is considerably slower than the first part, but over all this is still a highly recommended novel.
Magisterial and bittersweet, but slow moving, not quite as good as its predecessorMay 20 2006
Richard R. Horton
- Published on Amazon.com
Ian R. MacLeod's The Light Ages was one of the best novels of 2003, depicting an alternate England in which the magical substance aether is used for all sorts of industrial purposes. That novel portrayed a shift to a slightly more technological age. The House of Storms is set some decades in its future, and the world seems ready to transition to yet another "age".
Alice Meynell is a scheming Greatgrandmistress of the Telegrapher's Guild. She brings her ailing son Ralph to the manor Inverhome, near Bristol, and he is miraculously cured. Ralph falls in love with Marion Price, a local shoregirl, while Alice continues her lifelong plotting. At the same time tensions are rising between the more rural, and slaveholding, West, represented by Bristol; and the more urban East, represented by London.
Neither Ralph nor Marion recognizes the baleful influence of Alice on their future, as they end up on opposite sides of the inevitable Civil War. But they had a son, spirited away by Alice, and he and his friends, a group of aether-altered Changelings, may be the key to a true new Age, and to some sort of resolution of the tensions between East and West.
The story is beautifully written and emotionally involving, as we expect from MacLeod. It is also slow-moving. And to some extent the plot developments are a bit cliché: not just the echoes of the American Civil War, but also the roles taken on by Ralph and Marion, who are respectively sort of Charles Darwin and Florence Nightingale. Still, by the end an unexpected conclusion is reached, magisterial and bittersweet and darkly moving. I'm not sure the novel as a whole is quite sufficiently in service of its ends - perhaps it is too long, or too diffuse - but it remains a lovely and powerful work.