First published on Fantasy Faction I reviewed the first book in the Millenium’s Rule trilogy – Thief’s Magic – back in 2014 here on Fantasy-Faction and I’m sorry to say I was rather harsh. Angel of Storms, however, was superb and everything I’ve come to expect from such an accomplished author. A note from Canavan included in the hardback edition describes how the characters and ideas explored in Angel of Storms form the basis of the entire series. This made a lot of sense to me, as I felt that Thief’s Magic read more like an introduction instead of a rounded novel. Angel of Storms draws the disparate strands of the first book together to create an exciting story set in an intricate and beautifully described world.
We return to central protagonists Tyen and Rielle, who are much changed from Thief’s Magic. I felt both were less reactive in this book and it was interesting to watch them develop further, particularly Rielle, who was brought up in an oppressive society and for whom freedom to choose is a novelty. The other major character is Valhan, the ‘Angel’, who we discover is actually a powerful sorcerer. Tricked and then trapped by his enemies in Rielle’s magic-dead world for twenty years, he finally manages to escape, primarily thanks to Rielle’s ability as a Maker. The creation of magic through creative industry was an idea introduced in Thief’s Magic and here it’s explored further as Rielle discovers more about her gift.
The magic system is great, actually. Deceptively simple, it feels like a comment on modern society’s obsession with fossil fuels – particularly as the use of magic leaves behind the black substance dubbed ‘soot’. There’s something wonderful about the idea that humans can replenish magic through exercising their creativity. Everything from weaving to painting contributes to a world’s natural store of magic.
Canavan sprang the truth of her multiple world universe on us at the end of Thief’s Magic, which was something of a shock. Here it works as an intrinsic part of the narrative, as Valhan seeks to re-impose his rule. That makes him sound rather megalomaniac, but he’s a complex, sympathetic character, whose self-proclaimed role as ruler of worlds is more caretaker than dictator. He seeks to keep everything in balance and employs whatever means, be they harsh or fair, to do so. Since we’re never in his perspective, we have to rely on Rielle and Tyen to give us an overall picture.
Rielle struggles to see Valhan as anything other than the Angel, whom she loved and looked up to. When she begins to realise that this is merely a persona – one Valhan created to ensure he would have enough magic to escape Rielle’s world – she is forced to take stock of her beliefs and her role in events.
Tyen knows Valhan as ‘the Raen’, an all-powerful sorcerer, who must be allied with in order to preserve personal freedoms such as travel between worlds. Tyen promises to spy for him if Valhan promises to help restore Vella – the woman in the form of a book. To this end, Tyen joins a group of rebels attempting to overthrow Valhan. It’s a dangerous game, which makes for some great storytelling, as Tyen tries to hold onto both his principles and integrity when the two come into conflict.
Rielle’s storyline isn’t so linear. Left to die in a desert by one of the Raen’s allies, rescued by the nomadic Travellers and then taught magic by another of the Raen’s allies, she starts out as a pawn to be moved around a confusing chess board. It’s not until the final pages of the book that she puts her foot down for the first real time. If this sounds like a criticism, it isn’t. Rielle is a fascinating character, who discovers her power, both literally and figuratively, through trial and error. Her story is about transcending her personal limitations and the limitations imposed on her by family and environment.
Angel of Storms feels like the book that should have come first. I know why it didn’t – there would have been too much to explain without the help of the protagonists’ backstories. It takes all the bright threads of Thief’s Magic and weaves them into an enthralling tapestry of a book that’s hard to put down. Little was gratuitous or superfluous to requirements, except for a bit of unnecessary toing and froing among Tyen and the rebels. More importantly, this is a story told in Canavan’s enjoyable trademark prose, which I remember fondly from the days I first picked up The Black Magician Trilogy. The multiple world universe lets us visit lots of different settings, from an ice cavern to a rambling market to the crumbling, alien beauty of the Raen’s subterranean citadel.
Angel of Storms is a satisfying read and it comes with a host of intriguing questions. Will Tyen and Rielle ever really meet up? Will Vella be given a new body? Will the prophecy of Millennium’s Rule actually come true? You’ll have to read it to find out…