A few facts about Stormblood:
- Title: Stormblood
- Author: Jeremy Szal
- Series: The Common (Book One)
- Publisher: Gollancz
- Pages: 544
Vakov Fukasawa used to be a Reaper, a biosoldier fighting for the intergalactic governing body of Harmony against a brutal invading empire. Now, he fights against the stormtech: the DNA of an extinct alien race Harmony injected into him, altering his body chemistry and making him permanently addicted to adrenaline and aggression. It made him the perfect soldier, but it also opened a new drug market that has millions hopelessly addicted to their own body chemistry.
But when Harmony tells him that his former ally Reapers are being murdered, Vakov is appalled to discover his estranged brother is likely involved in the killings. They haven’t spoken in years, but Vakov can’t let his brother down, and investigates. But the deeper he goes, the more addicted to stormtech he becomes, and Vakov discovers that the war might not be over after all. It’ll take everything he has to unearth this terrible secret, although doing so might mean betraying his brother. If his own body doesn’t betray him first.
A vibrant and talented new voice in SFF: alien technology, addictive upgrades, a soldier determined to protect his family, and a thief who is prepared to burn the world down . . .
I wrote down so many little jottings while reading this book, and all were good things. So, here it goes, time to cobble them all together into a semi-cohesive review.
This is my first review of a science fiction book, while I read two books prior to this they were of the same series and where young adult books. While I don’t have an issue with young adult, and enjoy reading them, they are light in nature but often more surface level, if that’s an appropriate descriptions. Anywho, I wanted my first review to be of an adult sci-fi and what a first review to begin with. Stormblood was incredible.
The fact that this is Szal’s debut make it even more so. This book does not feel as though it was written by someone who hasn’t been writing for years.
I’m not going to pretend I know anything about the genre, but what you can find from this review is my thoughts on why I enjoyed this book.
I always find writing and publishing a review a little nerve wracking. It is with reviewers, as it is with authors, you let a little of yourself show in you writing, in the way you interpret a book. No review is unbiased, what we take from a book is subject to what we have lived and felt. What we have longed for, what we miss and what we have experienced.
So, while I am utterly new to this genre I’d like to think my review still counts.
Let’s do this.
Stormblood is such a fascinating and captivating story, and so well thought out. I can’t tell you any references or similar books/authors to who this book’s tastes will suit but I can tell you it is so much more than what the synopsis suggests. I really didn’t expect this to have such a deep and profound emphasis on many of the topics it does, some being siblings/family, drug abuse, poverty, trauma, brotherhood and camaraderie.
”People compare overcoming addiction to climbing a mountain, but that assumes there’s a peak to climb towards. Stormtech was more like swimming in an endless, churning sea. You never truly beat it. You just found temporary ways not to drown.”
It’s no secret that I don’t often like flashbacks, though to be honest the last few I have encountered I haven’t minded at all sooooo maybe I’m changing on that front. Annyyyway, where I usually dislike flashbacks I actually really enjoyed those I came across in stormblood. It was a nice way of answering the readers questions but what I enjoyed the most was the little insights into these culture rich memories. I got to experience the different places in the world Szal created through them being the home of a fellow reaper or the location of a current battle.
Szal’s writing is sharp and evocative. I genuinely felt gutted every time Vakov thought of the way things had turned out, each time it sunk in what his situation was. The highlight of this read though, has to be Vakov’s relationships. I cannot express how much I enjoyed watching them develop and grow. No relationship is the same, and all elicit such a level of emotion from the reader.
”But I’ve found friends to occasionally be like magnets: opposing forces attract.
Szal has created a thrilling world, one which you truly experience everything. It is so rich in detail, that you can picture each street and bar they visit, and Vakov and Grim visit a good few of those, they like their drink. There is a massive amount of detailing in this book, and not only in relation to the world building but in Vakov’s interactions, in his thought and feelings and in the tech that is used, especially his armour.
I really enjoyed the grittiness of this world, and when I say gritty I mean it has such a raw and real feel to it. The tone, in a way, reminded me of the film ’End of Watch’ in that it has a strong emphasis on the friendship of it’s characters through the difficult times they face.
”No matter how hard someone tries to knock you down, having someone to lean against, someone who’s got your back, makes it possible to stand up again.”
While the list of characters you meet in this story are on the lower side, which is by no means a criticism, they are all brilliantly compelling. I found Vakov to be really well developed, I loved his story and personality. I especially liked his own emotional confusion, whether his decisions were his own and how things could have been different.
Szal did brilliantly in writing this book, I was filled with dread at times. When I met other members of Vakovs team through flashback I was genuinely worried for them. Would one of these reapers he had lived and fought with fall victim next to his present-day situations or his past. He had lost so much, given so much already.
As well, I enjoyed the reversal of character development, whether you call it that or not, it is how I see it. At the start we find out one of Vakov’s old reaper brothers has become the victim of his current shitstorm, and at the start you don’t really care that he died. Yeah, it’s shit for vakov but you yourself don’t care about the character but through vakov’s flashbacks I found myself caring more and more. Seeing this chap with his team and how he was I grew more and more saddened at his loss. It was a nice spin on charcter development.
”Home isn’t where you’re born, Vakov. It’s where you feel calm and peace, even in a storm.”
Ohhh and the Mass Effect references in this really tickled my fancy. I love the little inserts such as a character being called Saren and a race not so dissimilar to the krogans.
***A quick note, the quotes in this are from a Netgalley ARC and may have changed in the publishing of this book***