Stormchaser: Large improvement over the first book

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsStorm Chaser Paul StewartStormchaser by Paul Stewart

Stormchaser is the second book of the Edge series and it is a vast improvement over book one — Beyond the Deepwoods. The book picks up a few years after Twig’s adventures in Beyond the Deepwoods. He is now sailing aboard the skyship of his recently-discovered sky-pirate father and has exchanged the monster-horrors of the Deepwoods with the more human horrors of city-life, pollution, and corruption (though monsters still make the occasional appearance).

Whereas Beyond the Deepwoods suffered from being overly episodic, plunging Twig into one-unrelated confrontation after another, Stormchaser is much more focused and has a much better sense of narrative. The famed sky city Sanctaphrax is at risk of breaking its mooring and taking off forever unless it manages to replenish the rare substance that keeps it from sailing away. The same substance, in a mysterious alternative form, has also kept the waters that feed Undertown drinkable and the shortage is leading to an ecological and social disaster. For various reasons, Twig’s father is the one sent out on a quest for this rare material and various adventures ensue.

While there is still an episodic sense to the story, it’s mostly confined to the book’s second half when Twig and others are forced to march through the Twilight Woods and the Mire. Even here though, the encounters are still related to the overall arc of the story, making each encounter more significant and more memorable in comparison to Twig’s one-monster-after-another adventures in book one.
The plot is also improved by the move away from conflict based simply on threatened violence (usually in the form of being eaten) to one based on politics, corruption, and intrigue among all types of characters (though being eaten remains a threat now and then).
Characters are also delved into more deeply. We learn more about Twig’s father — what forced him into becoming a pirate, why he refuses to acknowledge himself as Twig’s father publicly, more about his motivations and personality traits. Twig is given more opportunities to grow, but these seem a bit contrived and, as in the first one, somewhat formulaic and unearned at times, though not as baldly as in Beyond the Deepwoods. A few of the side characters have moments of depth, but overall remain shallow figures.

There is a lot of death in this one, some of it quite grisly, though it is never lingered on, having more the feel of an uncensored Brothers Grimm tale rather than a modern-day slasher flick.
Overall, while Stormchaser still suffers from a few of the first book’s flaws, mainly some shallow characterization and some formulaic coming-of-age “growth” events, it is a major improvement on the first and bodes well for the rest of the series.

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BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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