"The Last Stormlord" - Book Review

Glenda Larke's The Last Stormlord showed up for free recently and sounded interesting enough to give it a shot. The premise is fairly simple: we have a land almost entirely devoid of water, and "water sensitives" of varying power who bring water to the land. But there's only one "Stormlord" left, a man who can reach far enough to bring water from the ocean - and he's growing weaker with age and overwork because there used to be several stormlords to share the workload.

Our main heroes are Shale and Terelle: Shale is a male child in the poorest area of the country, an undiscovered water sensitive of considerable power. Terelle is a girl child at a whore house, approaching saleable age and desperately trying to get out. She has power too, of a different kind.

Larke works hard to build up the ecology and politics of a mid-sized continent under a harsh water limit. One review I saw made the rather cogent guess that the continent was based on Australia: it seems likely, especially given that it's Larke's homeland. But comparisons to Dune are also likely, and Larke's work doesn't hold up well when that book comes into the picture. Larke's characters are okay, but her politics are at best mediocre and her plot contrivances often painful. Shale and Terelle are always in bad situations, but every escape they make is from the frying pan into the fire.

And at the end of the book, Larke leaves you with a full-blown cliff-hanger: for example, two of the more likeable characters are left seconds from drowning in a water reservoir. Cliffhangers strike me as the author showing an utter lack of faith in either their own writing or the interest of their readers (these are very similar things in this context), making the author feel it's necessary to leave the reader with unresolved problems they have to buy the next book to relieve. It's a manoeuvre almost guaranteed to drive me away, although Larke lost me a couple hundred pages before that: each of the three books in the series is 650-700 pages, which is just too long given her skills. I've binned (literally, the recycling bin) the entire series.