First with Vampire Academy, then with Succubus Blues, and now with Storm Born, Richelle Mead has stolen my heart through her wonderful prose, lively characters, and intriguing ideas.
In some ways Storm Born reminds me of Jim Butcher's Storm Front (odd coincidence there). Eugenie Markham is a shaman-for-hire (kind of like Harry Dresden being a wizard-for-hire), taking on the odd job of banishing spirits and gentry who disturb the human realm. But aside from some similar traits between the main characters, that's where the similarities end.
Things get sticky when a human named Wil hires her to rescue his teenage sister, who was kidnapped by gentry intent on using her body. Of course, being compassionate, Eugenie takes the job even knowing that crossing into the Otherworld to complete this task makes facing death that much more real.
Unlike her previous novels, Mead isn't shy about jumping headlong into the sex scenes. But like her previous novels they are tasteful, passionate, and written without silly euphemisms. And, like her previous novels, the concept of sex plays a larger role than just pleasure. The creatures of the Otherworld, knowing Eugenie's heritage even before she does, are intent on using her to sire a powerful heir.
Storm Born is full of fun characters, intense action, and passion that sizzles in the form of a love triangle. Eugenie is in love with Kiyo, a kitsune, but also dangerously taken by Dorian, a gentry king. Normally love triangles make this reader iffy, but Mead is one of the few who does it so well. Both Dorian and Kiyo are possessive of Eugenie, but Eugenie doesn't simply capitulate to either man's wants or desires.
In fact, Eugenie herself is my favorite aspect of the story. She's strong, witty, and highly resourceful. She may not have all the answers, and at times he has to do things that mentally scar her, but damned if she'll just give in when she can find a way around a problem. At the same time she's wonderfully flawed and makes mistakes--and the people around her aren't afraid to point it out. She's so brilliantly fleshed out and realistic--even in first person, a format I tend to loathe, Mead has created a character I want to root for and see win.
And I may be one of the only ones, but the twist involving Jasmine did honestly surprise me. It's another wonderful thing about Mead's writing--there are so many layers to her story that you know will be revealed sooner or later (maybe not in this novel, but over the course of the eventual series), that in trying to keep track of them all she manages to sneak in quite a few foreshadowing hints that still end up surprising you as a reader.
In short, this is one of the best dark fantasy novels to come out this year, and to date this may just be Mead's best writing to boot. I will be eagerly anticipating the sequel, as I am wont to do with Mead's writing.