Storm Born
by Richelle Mead, fantasy (2008)
Zebra, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-0096-9


Storm Born is the first book of the Dark Swan series. I know, I know, yet another series. What else is new, huh? But this one is interesting in the sense that this is what the Merry Gentry series would have been if Laurell K Hamilton hadn't fallen off her rocking chair. We have fairies, we have the heroine whose worth rests on her ovaries, and we have plenty of amorous sidhe guys wanting to play with the heroine. However, in Storm Born, the amorous fae guys have very distinct personalities and they are actually sexy instead of merely having colorful Barbie doll hair that glows in the dark. The story doesn't consist of the heroine resting on her back and taking on all comers for over two hundred pages. No, there is actually a plot, a structure to the story. Imagine that!

Our heroine Eugenie Markham is a shaman trained by her foster father to banish or slay any misbehaving sidhe that have crossed over from the Otherworld to cause trouble in our world. She is known to the sidhe as Odile Dark Swan, the most successful assassin of their kind... or, at least, that was how things were back then. When the story opens, Eugenie realizes that her real name is known to some of the sidhe she introduces her gun to. What seems like a simple - if very dangerous - mission to cross over to the Otherworld in her physical form to save a teenage girl from Aeson, one of the rulers of the many realms in the Otherworld, turns out to be a trap laid exclusively for Eugenie. Not only does Eugenie learn of the real identity of her father, she only realizes that a prophecy has galvanized what seems like every other male sidhe into wanting to be the first to impregnate her so that the first-born will pave the way for the sidhe to regain their power in Earth.

Beltane, the time when the gates of both worlds swing wide open, allowing more sidhe than usual to enter our world, is coming close. If Eugenie wants to keep those creepy fairy penises away from her, she has better figure out which of her probable allies are the ones she can trust. Can she trust Kiyotaka, a mysterious fellow who appears out of nowhere to literally charm her pants off her? Or can she put her faith in Dorian, another King in the Otherworld who dislikes Aeson and seems willing to help Eugenie as a result?

Eugenie is a decent heroine here, although she can get frustratingly whiny and bratty at times. I actually have a hard time envisioning her as the most successful slayer of the sidhe because there are way too many scenes in this story where she is unable to reach for her weapons and is therefore helpless. There are moments when her priorities are all screwed-up as well, such as when she insists that she doesn't need help when she knows very well that the rampant brigade of angry tumescent fairy penises are out to violate her every day and night. If Storm Born entertains me tremendously - and it does - it's despite the heroine, not because of her.

However, I love the world that Ms Mead has created for her series. While not everything about the Otherworld is original (rather, it is an amalgamation of various recognizable folklore with plenty of creative liberties taken to improvise things here and there), the setting is very well described and most interesting to me. Dorian is a most intriguing character as he is both easy-going and ambitious to the core. Poor Eugenie can't really tell whether he has manipulated her or he is being genuinely nice and affable as long as they are on the same side. Kiyo is not as interesting in comparison as he is pretty much the boring and bland goody-goody boyfriend character who just happens to keep some secrets from Eugenie. I personally would rather see a love triangle between Eugenie, Dorian, and the psychotic ghost Volusion. Now that would be a truly dark and twisted love triangle indeed.

In the end, it's all about the story, and Ms Mead has me enjoying every word in this story despite the occasional juvenile behavior from Eugenie. I want to know more. I want to find out what will happen next. All things considered, Storm Born has done its job very well. It is going to be a long wait to the next book and I am really going to miss Dorian and Volusion in the meantime.

Rating: 88


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