YA Weekend: Roar by Cora Carmack
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Series: Book 1 of Stormheart
Publisher: Tor Teen (June 13, 2017)
Length: 380 pages
Roar was perhaps one of my most anticipated YA novels of the year, and I was also glad when it got a cover to match my excitement. Piqued by that powerful image and by the book’s intriguing synopsis, I crossed my fingers and hoped the story within would be just as atmospheric and impactful. After all, it’s not every day you come across a story about “living” storms and the intrepid storm-chasers who risk their lives to harvest their magic. The book sounded like it had a lot of potential.
Things began with a betrothal. Our protagonist Aurora is a scion of one of the oldest and most powerful royal Stormling families in the lands of Caelira, and following the accidental death of her older brother, she is poised to inherit the throne from her mother, the Queen of Pavan. The only problem is, Aurora has no magical power of her own, a fact that the queen has gone to great lengths to keep secret, keeping her daughter isolated and preventing her to grow close to anyone. However, the kingdom is still going to need a protector from the devastating storms that plague Pavan each Rage season, and with Aurora powerless, the only solution left is for her to marry a Stormling prince with the magic to tame storms for them.
And at first, Prince Cassius seemed nice enough. Handsome and gifted, the second son of the King of Locke appears to be perfectly happy to marry into the Pavan royal family in order to make a name for himself. But the more Aurora gets to know him, the more she starts to distrust his loyalty and motives, especially when she catches him sneaking out of the palace one night to visit a black market for storm magic. Thanks to this experience though, Aurora also finds hope. As it turns out, the ability to control storms is not restricted only to Stormlings, opening up a whole new world of possibilities for her. After all, if the regular common folk can learn to harness the power of storms, surely she can do so as well, negating the need for her marriage to Prince Cassius. Calling herself Roar, our protagonist dons a disguise and manages to convince a group of storm hunters to take her along for their next expedition, while faking her own kidnapping to throw Cassius and his guards off her trail. And thus begins her tutelage under Locke, one the group’s most talented and experienced hunters, who has taken it upon himself to teach Roar all the knowledge and tricks she’ll need to survive in the storm-ravaged wildlands.
While Roar had its ups and downs, the book ultimately turned out to be more than I expected. Cora Carmack is a new author for me, but being aware of her background as a romance writer, I knew before going in that there was to be plenty of romantic drama and was thus prepared for the intro’s slower pacing. Rest assured though, there will be storm-chasing action, even if it doesn’t come until later on. The first half of the novel is mainly world-building and character development, especially when it comes to the electrifying tensions between Roar and Cassius. At this early point, the story really teases the direction of their relationship, making you wonder which way things will go before revealing the truth of Cassius’ secret, therefore setting off Roar’s desperate final bid to escape their marriage.
The world-building was also phenomenal, and probably my favorite aspect of this novel. I love the concept of magical, quasi-sentient storms with literal hearts that fuel them, and it is this essence that drives both Stormlings and storm hunters to pursue them. Stormhearts are forever inextricably linked to the one who extracts them, though they can also impart powers to those who wield or consume their magic. A magically imbued crystal pendant can warn the wearer of an incoming storm, for example, and ingesting the powder of a Firestorm heart can even protect one temporarily from the heat of flames, explaining why the black market magic trade is so lucrative and why Stormlings are always trying to quash it. There are also multiple classes of storms, from blizzards and twisters to other natural phenomena we typically don’t think of as storms such as tsunamis or fog. Basically any force of nature that can cause major death and destruction can be considered a storm, and along with them comes the fear of the populace, some of whom even worship them as a religion. A lot of surprising revelations will also come to light on the origins of these storms, and these answers end up tying nicely into the climax of Roar’s story.
There were some hiccups, of course. For one thing I’m very particular about my romantic plot arcs and I dislike seeing angsty, melodramatic YA heroes whose love always seems to manifest as overprotectiveness and a hard time understanding the concept of personal space. I also wish that the cliché of a guy giving the girl an annoying and patronizing pet name will die a horrible, painful death. Roar also annoyed me a little. While I understood her desperation to learn magic and break off her betrothal, she gave no thought to the fate of her kingdom or to the many who died because of her fake kidnapping stunt, and that total disregard for anyone but herself made her a hard protagonist for me to truly embrace. In the end though, I suspect the biggest issue for a lot of readers may be the lack of resolution. Things don’t end on a cliffhanger exactly, but the book also has no true conclusion and does not feel complete. It definitely has the feel of a series opener, with clearly lots more still to come.
With all that said though, I’d still be quite happy and willing to continue with the sequel, though my expectations for it will probably be even higher now. I liked what I saw from Roar and had a good time with the story; now I’m curious to see where the next book will take our characters.