Turning the Storm by Naomi Kritzer. ★★★1/2
This is the second book in Eliana’s Song, which is really more like a single book divided into two than a series. The first book is Fires of the Faithful. Having said that, this review will contain spoilers for Fires of the Faithful, so beware.
When the last book left off, Eliana had led a rebellion of prisoners at a forced labor camp, and her new army was working to overthrow the tyrannical government and the magician’s Circle, which had blighted the land. The majority of the rebels were believers of the Old Way, an outlawed religion.
In Turning the Storm, Eliana goes undercover as a spy in the capital city, which may not make complete since but isn’t surprising. The missing love interest, Mira, was dragged off to capital, and the two had to reunite at some point.
However, Mira is just not a very interesting character. Maybe I’m forgetting what she was like in the first book, but in Turning the Storm, she has almost no page time. She’s not developed. How am I supposed to care about the love interest when she’s hardly even in the book?
Turning the Storm also suffered from some dragging sections, mainly the “Eliana as a spy” episode and the last hundred pages or so. The main plot finishes sooner than I expected, but I can understand why Naomi Kritzer chose to do this. While it may have felt draggy, it did allow her to explore and lead to a conclusion some of the themes she’s been working with, most notably religion. I found the direction that took very interesting, but I won’t give anything away.
One of the best things about the Eliana books has been the treatment of the revolution. Too often, fantasy and science-fiction books tend to paint rebellions in black and white, whereas Turning the Storm did a good job of showing the complexity of the situation.
The solution to some plot problems at the end felt rather forced and bit too convenient, and that led to some of my dissatisfaction with the ending. Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t a terrible ending or anything, I just was frustrated with some aspects of it, although there were other aspects I really appreciated.
I think the major risk that this two book series runs is covering too many topics in too little page space. While I never found it overwhelming, I think some of these ideas could have been explored more if the books or series were longer. Mira certainly needed more page time, the music magic could have used some more as well, and it would have been nice for some of the ideas about religion to get a bit deeper exploration.
However, on the whole, this is still a series worth reading. The plot and characters are enjoyable, and while I might wish for a greater explanation of some elements, Naomi Kritzer does manage to get you thinking.