Here, Mom, you should read this. The low, hoarse voice echoed through the room with only the occasional squeak or crack to reveal the speakers tender age. He placed the book on the table and made his way back through the dank tunnels to his own shabby lair, in which he had secreted those things which he most valued. I watched him go, reluctant to let him leave so abruptly, yet knowing that I could yell at him later for leaving all his crap laying around in his room. Right then I had a book to read! And what a book. I may never read another book written for adults again young adult literature has taken me hostage.
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Orokos is a horrible, beautiful, awful, magical place. Rail and Moa, two young thieves living in a designated ghetto, know those things only too well. More precisely, Rail knows of the bad, Moa tries very hard to concentrate on the beautiful and magical. They are inseparable. Storm Thief is their story, and the story of this amazing world in which they just barely manage to survive.
Orokos exists as an entity unto itself, in the middle of a vast ocean, believing that there is nothing, no one and nowhere beyond its cramped borders. Its a tormented society in many ways, overpopulated, vast disparities between rich and poor, fighting a never ending war against an unknowable enemy and eeking always closer to complete chaos. Literally. For in Orokos, there are Probability Storms. Kind of like one of those summer thunderstorms when the light turns yellow as the clouds become black and it feels like the very air is changing around you
except in Orokos it might be doing exactly that. A Probability Storm can change anything, anywhere, at any time. When Rail and Moa stumble upon an artifact from another time, when the world was very, very different, they too become something of a Probability Storm, changing their world with every step they take away from their carefully predetermined fates.
Storm Thief isnt just a good Young Adult book its a good book, period. Rail and Moa are introduced quickly and the action starts early, but their character development is never skimped on. As we move through the book, we begin to understand their bond and why they need each other so badly. Their connections are spelled out well enough that a young teenager will understand their tenuous but heartfelt emotions, but adults wont be gagging on any excess emotional purging. They arent as much a couple as they are two parts of a whole neither could survive without the skills of the other. There are other, more peripheral characters, which get developed in degrees depending on their purpose. Vago, a golem, gets the best treatment of the peripherals. Hes a primitive personality, just forming, so we get some of his confusion and anxiety. The bad guys, and a few good guys, are mostly cardboard cut-outs representing the evil factions that dwell within the heart of Orokos. Theyre nothing particularly interesting, but they serve their purpose.
Thematically, author Chris Wooding tosses in a healthy dose of political and societal commentary along with the journey toward independence of Rail and Moa. Throughout Storm Thief youll find parallels to our own history and present, from Nazi Germany to accepting the loss of personal liberty in the face of fear and the unknown. Were never pounded over the head with Woodings point of view he leaves it up to his young readers (hey, I am too a young reader!) to draw their own conclusions about this society and its flaws and struggles. Within reason (you cant really portray tattooing people and tossing them in a ghetto in a positive light) he supplies ample explanation for how things got the way they are and its an understandable conundrum. The fact that he manages to insert all of this within the basic setting and plot, at a level both transparent and opaque, is simply marvelous. Storm Thief is more than appropriate for young adults, but complex enough to give their brains a work-out.
Orokos itself is a fascinating setting. I love the Probability Storms and wish there were more (how sadistic am I?). The Storm Thief (as the Probability Storms are known to the people of Orokos) has so many possibilities; it would be fun to see more of them play out within the plot. Be that as it may, their mere existence creates tension throughout the book. We never know when there will be one and what it might do to our young heroes. The city is wonderfully described in all its grimy, smelly glory. Cramped and filthy in some places, eerie and empty in others where the war plays out, the whole place reeks of decay and a society on the brink of collapse, with those in power desperately holding on with the most drastic of measures. All of this is wonderfully represented through Rail and Moa and their journey. Wooding does lots and lots of showing instead of telling (I love it when that happens), his imagery giving us a real sense of place in this very unreal setting. I hope no one ever tries to make this book into a film there is simply no way it could ever match what imagination creates as we creep through tunnels or fearlessly scale cliffs or hear the forlorn wail of the Probability Storm sirens.
Overall, strong characters, descriptive, fluid prose, an amazingly creative yet creepily familiar setting and wonderful premise make Storm Thief one of the best books Ive read in some time. Its a terrific book for older kids to share with a parent, or for an adult to simply gobble up with no kid intervention whatsoever.
So I never did get around to yelling at juniornocket about his nasty, grubby room. I was lost in a place where even his dirty socks would be afraid to dwell. I should have known by his stealth book drop that he had ulterior motives its always in his interest to distract me so he can listen to his iPod (singing hoarsely with the occasional squeak and crack) in his own designated ghetto. Too bad for him that I have now finished Storm Thief. Hed better clean up his personal Orokos lest a Probability Mom swoop down and change everything in his lair
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