By Chris Wooding
Storm Thief takes place in the fantasy world of Orokos, a city on an island run by a totalitarian government, ravaged by chaos and by the probability storms that re-order the world wherever they strike. It has been this way for so long that history has forgotten it, and its citizens don’t believe that anything outside exists. The main characters, Rail and Moa, and are teens from the ghetto who steal for a living. When they steal something that holds the key to secret of Orokos, there are others who would do anything to get their hands on it. And just like that, Rail and Moa are on the run—on the way, they pick up a misshapen golem named Vago, who knows nothing of himself but his creator’s name.
Chris Wooding is, without a doubt, one of my favorite authors, and he does not disappoint in Storm Thief. Dark and thrilling, he explores a civilization plagued by choas and storms that rearrange reality (Moa’s eyeshadow changes color when the storm passes through her, but it once took away Rail’s ability to breathe, leaving him in need of a respirator). Storm Thief’s plot, while slightly predictable at first, delivers a stunning twist (that I will leave you to discover); it asked me unanswerable questions about humanity and left me reeling. The sudden ending of the book was a disappointment—I felt that there were so many places Wooding could have taken the plot, and it is definitely left open for a sequel. I wish that it had been a little longer and contained a bit more depth. Storm Thief is complicated—a world weaved together fairly quickly and with little to no explanation—but Wooding makes it work. He ties it all together and I believe in the story. His description is dark, beautiful, and rich, leaving the reader with a very clear picture of what’s happening.
His characters are strong and real. Rail is strong (or pretends to be), prideful, and smart. His morals are definitely questionable from years of living in the ghetto, and he doesn’t rethink his decisions. His need to protect Moa is admirable and understandable, though I didn’t care for her character—she is righteous, sweet, and kind despite her circumstances, but a bit annoyingly stubborn. I felt her character didn’t have much depth—she was almost saintly, existing solely to be protected and loved. Regardless, I loved her relationship with Rail and rooted for them as a couple. Even if the usual romance that pervades books like this was (refreshingly) not quite there. Wooding gives us a beautiful friendship where both characters admit what the other means to them and deeply care for each other.
But my favorite character is, unquestionably, the golem Vago. He is the most interesting; he represents so very much about humanity. He was made to kill, and he knows that it is what he does best. He wrestles with questions that we, as humans, struggle with. Why is he on Orokos? What is his purpose? Who is his maker? Is he inherently evil or is he good? Can there be an in between?
Storm Thief is full of gray areas. Is the villain really a villain? He wants a better world and has ideas of peace and order, but he doesn’t care who he hurts to get that peace. But I wonder, after reading his justifications, if he might just be right? Are any of his actions justifiable based on what he faces? What is ever the “right” thing to do?
As per his usual, Wooding intertwines these questions about humanity in an organic way. The reader never needs to pause or slow down and wonder about these questions beyond character exploration. A great read for children, young adults, and adults alike.
Written on 22nd August 2014 by Vanessa .