Title: The Storm Crow
Series: The Storm Crow #1
Author: Kalyn Josephson
Publication Date: July 9, 2019
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pre-order: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Kobo
ARC provided by the publisher through Edelweiss. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.
Magic flies high in this first half of a planned duology by debut author Kalyn Josephson.
In the tropical kingdom of Rhodaire, magical, elemental Crows are part of every aspect of life…until the Illucian empire invades, destroying everything.
That terrible night has thrown Princess Anthia into a deep depression. Her sister Caliza is busy running the kingdom after their mother’s death, but all Thia can do is think of all she has lost.
But when Caliza is forced to agree to a marriage between Thia and the crown prince of Illucia, Thia is finally spurred into action. And after stumbling upon a hidden Crow egg in the rubble of rookery, she and her sister devise a dangerous plan to hatch the egg in secret and get back what was taken from them.
I will be honest here. I deliberately kept on pushing back writing this review. I can’t tell you how many Word documents I’ve opened and closed, how many false starts and scrapped drafts I went through before finally bringing myself to write this.
And, yet, I still feel guilty.
On the surface, The Storm Crow had everything I like in a Fantasy – an interesting premise, an intriguing world with diverse peoples and culture, heaps of adventure. The promise of a heroine battling depression (because it is an everyday battle) was another draw. Never mind that the plot has been done countless of times, I wanted to see a character who openly admits to having depression lead a story. But, somehow, even with all these, this book fell flat.
A lot of telling, not much showing
This was the first problem I had with this book. Being the first of a planned two-book series, there was a substantial amount of worldbuilding to be done. I get that, anticipated it. What I didn’t expect was being told stuff – about the characters, the world they move around in, the lives they and their people live.
There’s a reason why when you look up writing advice show, don’t tell is one of the first tips you get. Being told of what’s happening, how everything works and looks made for bland storytelling and, I hate to say this, it bored me, led me to put down the book several times.
Background image by Tran Nguyen
A story lost in its own world
Not to take anything away from worldbuilding – it is an important component of any story, especially if you’re writing Fantasy and Sci-Fi – but when you put too much focus on it, the story you are trying to tell gets lost in the middle of all the bricks of your world. This is exactly the case with The Storm Crow.
Perhaps Josephson bit more than she can chew, but I don’t think it’s because TSC’s worldbuilding was particularly ambitious. In my opinion, the issue here was control. The author put in too much, and while I appreciate the diversity worked into the characters and their world, I think it would have been better if she trimmed down on the details. The book was bloated with chunk after chunk of worldbuilding elements and it eclipsed the story.
Pacing (or the lack of it)
This issue sort springs from the first two I’ve already mentioned. The author’s focus on worldbuilding, which was unremarkable in the first place, screwed up the whole story’s pacing. It was so slow that it took my focus out of what’s happening with Thia and the other characters. It was, in short, boring.
With the exception of a few surprises, you literally only have to read the book’s summary to know what happens in this half of the duology. That’s it, end of story.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the representation and diversity worked into TSC. If anything, it was the promise of a protagonist battling depression that hooked me in the first place, and yes, her having depression is an integral part of Thia’s character but it felt so clinical, like rattling off a list of signs and symptoms from a textbook. She felt like a talking head, her character so dull that by the end of the book I didn’t really care what happens to her.
As for the rest of the characters, I couldn’t say much about them because I didn’t get to know them at all. They were barely fleshed out, their characterizations felt superficial. I think the only character who managed to somehow retain my attention was Kiva, but even her character needs more work.
To sum up, The Storm Crow could have been a good book. Kalyn Josephson shows promise and she does, I feel, have a story to tell with Thia, the magical crows and this curious world she created. This book just needed more work. As to whether or not I will read the last half of this two-book series? Maybe, if only to feed my desire to know what happens next, but it wouldn’t be high on my list.
KALYN JOSEPHSON currently works as a Technical Writer in the tech industry, which leaves room for too many bad puns about technically being a writer. Though she grew up in San Luis Obispo, California, she graduated from Santa Clara University with a degree in Biology and a degree in English (Creative Writing). Currently, she lives in the Bay Area with four awesome friends (because it’s the Bay Area and she’d like to be able to retire one day) and two black cats (who are more like a tiny dragon and an ever tinier owl). THE STORM CROW is her debut novel.
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