I actually first saw this book in a stack at my mother-in-laws. I loved the cover and read the back blurb, finding myself intrigued. The story line lingered in my mind long enough that when I ran into Ms. Hall on Twitter, finding Storm Dancer tantalizing me once again, I knew I’d read it.
What drew me to this novel was the setting: a fantasy story set in the desert. Plus, I was intrigued by the main character of Dahoud being both the hero and the villain, a man plagued by inner evil that he seeks to control. As a writer, I had to see how Ms. Hall pulled that off. She does it brilliantly.
The setting of a harsh desert country beset by drought, during a time equivalent to our bronze age, is rich and well written. Neighboring counties are a threat, even when it is assistance they send rather than war. Merida is such a beneficial ambassador, sent to help a land considered primitive by her refined homeland. The plotting of a corrupt government quickly entangles Merida far from home and without aid. She has only her wits and ability to call rain to keep her somewhat safe.
There are many great characters in the novel and each are unique in their failings and strengths. The interweaving stories along with what would seem to be inconsequential details thread together to impact the ending - a feature I admire in a story and author. The twists in the plot left me surprised. I never really knew where the story would go next, which was lovely.
As others have written, the novel is graphic with both torture and rape. Oddly though, I agree with others in that I think one of the few failings in the novel is that it could have been darker yet. The one time that Dahoud’s djinn wins its battle of lust and conquest, the scene is quickly glossed over. Most of the time, Dahoud wins over his demon with only hints of the time in his life where it had ruled. I would have loved a larger moment or at least a longer after effect of guilt when Dahoud succumbs to his inner evil.
I would have also loved some insight to Merida’s thoughts at the end of the novel, especially when she makes the final choice she does in the story. The ending to me was very believable as she changes during the course of the story, but I would have liked to hear that final epiphany from her.
Lastly, I would have loved a map to visualize the world, though directions and landmarks were consistent enough that I felt familiar with the landscape and cities. But a map to look at while reading would have enhanced my experience.
I will read this novel again in the future. I am a very fast reader, so the story length was great for me (it took more than a day, yeah!). However, it pulled me in so tightly, I raced through it finding it hard to put down. I want to go back without that need to see what the next page or chapter holds and really enjoy the setting and story!