Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Above the Storm by JMD Reid (#fantasy)

The fantasy genre has largely shifted away from the wondrous, magical fields of epic fantasy, and into the darker, more human dungeons of grimdark. It is a shift that has alienated me to some extent, since I have always looked to the genre for a joyous escape, which is why Above the Storm caught my attention with the opening scenes.

JMD Reid launches into the story with a temple above the clouds, an aging avian woman (complete with beak and feathers), her reptilian protector (warm and caring despite his cold eyes), and a shocking maelstrom rising from those clouds, with warriors of a humanoid race assumed long-dead riding to battle. The whole scene is as unsettling as it is wondrous, and it demands you keep reading. That is how I like my fantasy to begin!

There is a coming-of-age element to the story, along with a strong romantic element, marked by those conflicting, confusing emotions of young love. In the wrong hands, those elements can drag a story down and leave more mature readers rolling their eyes, but Reid clearly has a grasp on the characters and their relationships, allowing him to draw us in and engage us emotionally as well as intellectually.

Surrounding all of that, however, is a violent, energetic, action-packed tale of magical and military conflict that offers a lot in the way of wonder and amazement. We have pirates and soldiers, air ships and magical steeds, and a mix weapons and magic that keeps the story fresh and original. I tend to gravitate more towards swords-and-sorcery quest fantasy than muskets-and-magic military fantasy, but the way this plays out, and the way Reid keeps the focus on the characters, made it work for me. It is wonderfully paced, with a strong sense of tension throughout, and numerous twists that feel like a natural extension of the story, as opposed to a deliberate attempt to shock the reader.

The mythology here is fantastic, with a lovely amount of world-building that really brings the story to life. More importantly, though, we care about what happens to the people and their world, and that makes the next story of The Storm Below a must-read.

JMD Reid has been a long-time fan of Fantasy ever since he read The Hobbit way back in the fourth grade. His head has always been filled with fantastical tales, and he is eager to share the worlds dwelling in his dreams with you.

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