Book Review: Daughters of the Storm by Kim Wilkins
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
Series: Book 1 of Blood and Gold
Publisher: Del Rey (March 6, 2018)
Length: 448 pages
Combining magical fantasy and family drama, Daughters of the Storm follows the lives of five royal sisters who could not be any more different—unless you count each of them struggling with a bevy of personal problems as something in common. Bluebell, the eldest, is a fierce warrior, who has her sights on becoming the first ruling queen. Next is Ash, whose mystical abilities are developing much faster than she can handle. Then there’s Rose, trapped in an unhappy marriage to a king in a neighboring land, when in fact her heart belongs to her husband’s nephew, who also secretly fathered her child. The youngest are the twins, Ivy and Willow, who are both inexperienced and naïve in their own ways. The former is a self-obsessed girl whose only source of happiness lies in what others think about her, and the latter has secretly become a passionate convert of a religion that her family disapproves of.
Growing up, the sisters have not been particularly close, following their own individual paths. But when news arrives that their father is dying, the five of them must reunite again and figure out what to do. Bluebell, who has always worshipped her father, is convinced that his illness is caused by dark magic and suspects her stepmother of being the one to curse him. To Bluebell’s further chagrin, her stepbrother has also arrived at the news of the king’s impending death, and she fears that he may be working with his mother to seize the throne.
Daughters of the Storm felt like it was written for fantasy fans who enjoy complex family sagas and reading about the ups and downs of strained sibling relationships. It felt like there was little conflict in the story otherwise, as the truth behind the king’s mysterious illness became revealed shortly after the introduction, not to mention we also found out the antagonist’s endgame just as early. While there was a smattering of action and intrigue thrown in here and there, this was definitely more of a family drama, though let me be clear: I don’t want anyone to think I’m using this description disparagingly. After all, family dramas can be wildly entertaining and addictive, if the characters are written well and the author succeeds in making me care about them. And considering how quickly I devoured this book, I’d say Kim Wilkins might be on to something here.
If Daughters of the Storm had a main protagonist, the closest would be Bluebell. As the oldest of the sisters, she is also the most accomplished (at least in my eyes). A warrior princess who has won many battles, she strikes fear into the hearts of men and even kings tremble at the sound of her name. Bluebell was also my favorite character, though I admit this might have something to do with the fact that all the other sisters were so unlikable. Not that Bluebell herself was perfect, but she did strike me as having a good grip on her life and knowing her priorities, which is more than I could say for Rose, Ash, Willow, or Ivy. The twins were the worst; just about everything they said or did evoked a powerful desire in me to slap or throttle them, and of course, this only increased my sympathy for Bluebell, the person whom everyone turned to when they needed help. Bluebell, who already had her hands full trying to keep her father’s kingdom from tearing itself apart, was always the one expected to fix things for her little sisters, and despite her harsh demeanor, her love for her family meant that most of the time she would try and do her best, even when the sheer stupidity or selfishness of her siblings threated to bring all her hard work tumbling down.
Still, my dislike of most of the characters notwithstanding, I did have a good time with this book. It would be more accurate to say I “loved to hate” many of the younger sisters, who were all infuriating in their own way, but that didn’t mean I didn’t have fun following their antics. The best characters are those who refuse to play by the rules—who do what they want, when they want—and you could indeed make the case that each of the sisters were unscrupulous and incredibly self-serving to some degree. What truly impressed me was how the author turned this aspect into the story’s greatest strength, since many of her dubious characters were also those who received some of the best characterization and development. Their stories were just as entertaining to follow, and I can’t say I ever grew tired of reading about what happened with them. In other words, cheering on the good guys is well and good, but sometimes, watching unlikable characters dig themselves deeper or get their comeuppance can be just as satisfying.
If this trend continues, I could probably be convinced to read the sequel. After all, I like my stories to focus on characters above anything else, and it certainly doesn’t get any more character-driven than this. Daughters of the Storm will not be for everyone—especially if you prefer action-oriented fantasy or are looking for something with a little more political intrigue—but if you are drawn to the irresistible call of tangled relationships and fascinating family dynamics, then this is the book for you.