From the get go, Storm Thief has you on the edge of your seat. Chris Wooding once again creates a very vivid and realistic world full of danger and suspense, and the characters to go along with it. We meet stone-hearted villains, a frightened and bewildered half-machine-half-man creation, a day-dreaming thief, and many more. This is not for the faint of heart, or the full of stomach.
Orokos is an isolated city on an island in the middle of a vast ocean. It’s immensely over-populated, so the poor, the weak, and the sick find themselves living in the slums. If you find yourself inhabiting this cut-throat environment, there is no way out. Many come to live in the slums after being affected by one of the probability storms that plague the city. These unpredictable storms are caused by the chaos engine and they can change your eye colour, make your bones turn into glass, make buildings crumble or vanish, change the layout of the entire city, transport you to another place, or make you lose a body part, all in the blink of an eye. A probability storm is not like any natural storm; There is no rain, or lightning — just colourful waves of energy accompanied by a deathly calm as all the inhabitants of Orokos cower and pray that they are not next.
Rail and Moa are thieves in the slums of Orokos. Rail is a level-headed boy with the stealth of a creeping cat. After being touched by a probability storm, he is no longer able to breathe freely and must wear a respirator. Moa’s parents have been taken away by the protectorate. She’s a daydreamer who believes in a place beyond Orokos. While on an assignment from the thief mistress, Rail and Moa find an old and powerful artifact which may give them the key to (and the means of escape from) Orokos.
The plot twists and turns in Storm Thief are as unexpected as the probability storms. When you think you know what will happen next, Wooding takes the story in an entirely new direction. These twists are unpredictable, but they make sense. Wooding does not add anything extra, and everything he puts in has importance, if only to be realized at the end. There aren’t any wasted words in this book.
My one complaint is that I thought the characterization was inconsistent. Rail has depth; there is reason for everything he does, his personality is well-explained. We can understand Rail and how, by living in the slums of Orokos, he got to be the way he is. Moa, on the other hand, does not make as much sense. She is a daydreamer and she’s clumsy, giddy, and a bit careless. This is hard to believe because she lives in the most cut-throat and dreary part of the island, she steals and kills for a living, but her trust in her surroundings and carefree attitude should have gotten her killed already. We are told that she is deep and that there is turmoil going on in her head, but we never see this.
Even with this minor quibble, I think Storm Thief is a must-read for teens who are looking for a different twist on fantasy, and who have a strong stomach. Don’t let the atmosphere put you off; Let it draw you in.