Last night, I was struck by a bout of insomnia and couldn’t fall asleep. I decided to pick up my Kindle and began reading Marian Perera’s “Before the Storm,” thinking that I’d read for a few minutes and then go to bed. At six thirty this morning, I finished the book. Yep, it was one of those nights.
The first thing to note about this book is that the cover image is deceptive. I’m glad of that, because generally I don’t care for romance novels. “Before the Storm” really isn’t a romance novel so much as it is a fantasy/steampunk novel with romantic elements, and there’s only one sex scene in the entire book.
This book is the first in a trilogy, but it does have some resolution and can function as a standalone. For anyone who hasn’t read my previous reviews, this is something that makes me very happy in fantasy novels. I get frustrated when authors just cut off a story at the end of Book 1, forcing readers to hang on the edge for months or years on end until the next book is released.
“Before the Storm” is set in the kingdom of Dagre. Alex is a sex slave known as The Black Mare, and is passed around by Lord Stephen to other members of the nobility whom he wishes to ingratiate himself with. Stephen gives her as a gift to his enemy, Robert, who has acquired the nickname “The Bloody Baron.” Robert suspects a trap and thinks Alex is an assassin. Alex just wants to escape and not be a sex slave anymore, and she’s grown to hate Stephen for his cruelty over the years. Robert slowly begins to trust Alex, and starts including her in his plans for revolution against Stephen. However, Stephen has an Iternan sorcerer in his employ who is using Alex’s body to spy on Robert, and wants to eventually possess her to kill him. Meanwhile, Dagre is on the brink of its Industrial Revolution, and steam engines might just even the odds in the coming storm…
I did enjoy the book, as evidenced by the fact that I stayed up all night reading it. I thought that Alex and Robert were both extremely dense in their relationship toward each other, and they got a bit annoying at times. Luckily, there were steam engines and explosions to distract me from their quarrels. This book was my first introduction to steampunk, and it’s something I’ll definitely have to explore further.
I liked the secondary characters far more than the main ones. My favorite was Mayerd, Robert’s friend who was once an Iternan sorcerer, but can no longer use magic. Victoria, the long-winded representative of the Quorum, was also pretty cool. I did laugh at a couple of the Goodreads reviews that criticized the book for sexism, because “Before the Storm” contained a lot of strong female characters who rode into battle, blew shit up, and wore chainmail under their dresses.
As a whole, I’m a fan. Even though Alex and Robert’s relationship issues got a bit frustrating as the book went on, the steampunk elements balanced it out. I’d also have to say that this book is one of the best-edited that I’ve read on my Kindle thus far. I didn’t notice a lot of the formatting issues that seem to have been overlooked in several of the other e-books I’ve read, which is something that I appreciate as a reader.
This book counts toward the Speculative Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by Baffled Books.