Series: Stormheart #1
Published by Tor Teen on June 13th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
In a land ruled and shaped by violent magical storms, power lies with those who control them.
Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora’s been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.
To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.
Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage.
She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough.
Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.
Instead of writing a YA fantasy, perhaps Cora Carmack should’ve written a handbook on ‘How To Ruin a Good Magic Concept With a Mediocre Plot And an Insufferable Romance 101’. Because, for me, that’s exactly what went wrong with Roar. Yet another female author who tried to pass possessiveness in men off as sexy, and I’m having none of it.
When I picked this up, I knew I was not going to like the portrayal of men. So, I purposefully decided to focus on something else. The main character Aurora Pavan seemed interesting at first. A girl born without magic in an ancient royal family of Stormlings (= people who control the deadly storms ravaging the lands). Carmack gave me something I could work with: A princess who didn’t immediately receive the ‘special snowflake’ stamp from me. Unfortunately, I couldn’t connect with Aurora aka Rora aka Roar much otherwise. Aurora was entirely too naive and too reckless for her to appeal to me as a heroine. Her plans weren’t thought through, which brought much annoyment about, and she didn’t have any distinctive spark. Towards the ending, I had to give up the notion that Aurora was anything else but speciuuul, so unfortunately, that’s just another negative point I now have to add to this review.
The other characters couldn’t compensate for Aurora’s flaws, either. The side characters were neither distinctive nor fleshed out. I did like Carmack’s casual introduction of dark-skinned characters, but that’s about it when it comes to things worth mentioning about the supporting protagonists – and I’ll get to the male leads in a second. Also, have I mentioned I’m not a particular fan of Carmack’s choice of names? This is not usually something I pay attention to, but it really irked me this time. I’ve already encountered a Cassius (Red Rising) and a Locke (The Lies of Locke Lamora), and the familiarity of the names made it hard not to connect them with other books (and better ones, at that). Carmack’s choosing of ‘Locke’ for both a kingdom and a male character struck me as particularly inconvenient.
Speaking of kingdoms, let me get in a few words about the world-building, which wasn’t all negative, before I really get into my rant about the romance. The world-building was, perhaps, the least annoying thing about this book. The realm was not particularly original nor did it seem finished in its crafting, but I did like Carmack’s idea for the element of magic. Roar‘s magic concept was unique and thus intriguing. There were a few explanations missing here and there, for sure, but I would hope that Carmack elaborates the concept of the Stormlings further in the sequel (which I’m not sure I’ll read, but that’s besides the point). The idea of storms having hearts that can be taken to control them, which is done by Stormlings and storm hunters alike, was most creative and the best thing I have to note about this book.
And now, let me address the source of sighs, eye-rolls, and annoyed grunts.
From the very beginning, it had been clear to me that Roar was going to anger me with its romance tropes. This book throws insta-love at your face in the first chapter, when Aurora meets Cassius, and then manages to do it a second time, when Aurora meets Locke. Seriously, the romance and the depiction of men as condescending-but-well-meaning morons succeeded at pissing me off during the first chapter already. I had hoped the romance in Roar wasn’t as bad as its reputation, but wow, that was impressive in a negative sense. I’m not sure the romance qualifies as a love triangle since Aurora shows interest in only one of them for most of the book, so I’m going to push that aside and get to the gist. The two love interests, or suitors or whatever, may just be the two most arrogant, possessive, overprotective, testosterone-driven idiots to ever cross my path. With Cassius, you can tell from the beginning that he’s going to be the ‘possessive-but-sexy’ type. Carmack tried to pull off a morally grey storyline, I think, but it was overshadowed by his behaviour. Locke’s immediate infatuation with Aurora seems rather harmless at first. Until things happen. Let me give you two exemplary quotes that will express more than I could ever say with my own words (one quote was provided by courtesy of my friend and fellow reviewer, Simona).
And as long as she met Locke’s expectations, as long as she exceeded them, she had the chance to become exactly who she had always wanted to be.
Though this is taken out of context, it conveys a feeling that accompanied me throughout the book. Aurora desperately tries to measure her worth by exterior things, such as the acquisition of magic powers or living up to the expectations of a man she barely knows. The gist of this book should’ve been that Aurora was a worthy heir to the throne, powers or no powers, but that wasn’t going to happen now, was it?
He leaned down to nip at her swollen bottom lip. “I’m the first to touch this mouth? To taste it?” Her nails dug into his shoulders, and her blue eyes flashed with heat. She nodded, her tongue darting out to sooth the skin he had tugged between his teeth. “That means it’s mine. My territory. And I’m prepared to protect it, every hour of the day if I must.”
What in the actual fuck was this line? First of all, this scene was about as sexy as mountains trembling during orgasms (sorry, I just had to), which is to say the sex appeal was somewhere below zero. Second of all, possessiveness in men (and women!) never has and never will be desirable, sexy, or healthy in relationships. It was obvious that Carmack tried to balance this out by having Aurora establish some ground rules with regard to personal space, which I appreciated, but Carmack never had her heroine call the love interest out on things he said. If you do not somehow challenge problematic verbalisations your characters make, you give those words space they should not be given. Sadly, having read that ending, I have a feeling the romance is only going to get worse. Not due to the depiction of undesirable traits in men, but the entry of yet another alluring male figure on the chessboard. The testosterone levels have just risen to an even more uncomfortable level, and I’m not sure I’m going to stick around.
An overhyped, mediocre YA fantasy book with tropes you’d usually find in falsely romantic, guilty pleasure NA reads – that is my final verdict of Roar. The magic concept was promising, the plot was coherent and semi-interesting, but the characters, the world-building, and the romance need some serious work, in my humble opinion.