This is a great time to be an audiobook reader! I've said often recently that I'm so pleased with Audible Frontiers for bringing us some older fantasy literature on audio, and this month their UK production team released Stormwarden, the first novel of Janny Wurts' The Cycle of Fire trilogy which was first published in 1984.
Having greatly enjoyed Wurts' stand-alone novel To Ride Hell's Chasm, and knowing how several of my fellow FanLit reviewers feel about her The Wars of Light and Shadow saga, I've been waiting and hoping to find one of her epics on audio. So when Audible Frontiers UK released Stormwarden, I snapped it up within a few hours.
Stormwarden is a coming-of-age story that focuses on three youth (Jaric, Emien, and Taen) who get caught up in a battle between kingdoms, sorcerers, demons, and aliens. There are some now-classic fantasy characters here -- scrawny orphan boy who gets a sword, white-bearded sorcerer who controls the weather, a beautiful enchantress with white hair and violet eyes, and a beautiful dreamweaver with black hair. (Someday I want to read about a middle-aged, overweight, brown-eyed sorceress with thin mousy hair... or maybe I don't.) But these characters are treated with respect by both author and audiobook reader (David Thorpe) who pack them full of vigor, drive, and both admirable and reprehensible character traits and emotions.
There's plenty of the unexpected, too. For example, much of the story takes place at sea. Also, an alien endows humans with supernatural powers by injecting them with crystallized demons. For a coming-of-age story, the plot is refreshingly unpredictable and Stormwarden ends with an exciting action-packed climax -- a trademark Janny Wurts feature. The reader also gets a sense of Wurts' expertise in sailing, horsemanship, and other outdoor pursuits -- all of these elements feel real and this is something that sets this fantasy novel apart from most of its peers.
The narrative style is more expository than is my preference, and sometimes it's wordy (for example, "cognizant of the fact that..." instead of "knowing..."), but it's full of passion and David Thorpe's perfect performance lends enthusiasm and verve, allowing Wurts' characters to live and to capture our hearts. I look forward to continuing their adventure in Keeper of the Keys, the next novel in The Cycle of Fire, soon to be released by Audible.