Luke Reviews is obviously going through some changes. The new site is up and running, with the old one being nothing but a place to dump old reviews, making them convenient to link to. This new expansion gives a lot more opportunities for growth, and to allow the Luke Reviews community to interact even more. However, all this shouldn’t overpower the most important part of Luke Reviews: the books! We are beginning a string of fantasy books. Storm Approaching by Brian Libby is starting things off, and we will follow it up with a special surprise related to Kell’s Legend, the book that spawned this action/adventure fantasy streak, then reviews of The Fighters: Master of Chains by Jess Lebow, Beyond the Black River by Robert E. Howard, and Reiksguard by Richard Williams.
Brian Libby’s first fantasy novel, Storm Approaching, follows Andiriel, an orphan who seeks more than her tame village life offers. Andiriel manages to bump into Sir Branlor, a very important knight, and plays an important, if small, role in securing the future of the Empire. After her successful work, Branlor takes her back to the Capital, where she becomes a member of the Sovereign Order, a group that works to protect the Empire and its Emperor. Her first mission takes her far from home, to the island of Calman, as she goes undercover, searching for a man who disappeared while doing work for the government. However, that is just the beginning for Andiriel, who is about to go on a life changing journey after a falling out and a run in with some mercenaries.
Libby’s novel is not the average popular fantasy, with very little in the way of the fantastic (other than the occasional wizard-figure who does unexplained magic, and a fox that has a very special, if unexplained, bond to Andiriel), and this give it much of the texture that fills this tale. There are no dues ex machina magical save-alls, making this a far more real tale where death means forever. However, despite that dark allegory, it is a very upbeat, happy tale, with a spunky tomboy protagonist, and a host of very well-realized and full developed characters.
Storm Approaching has the occasional section where things get a little too slow (mostly the very few chapters in which Andiriel doesn’t have a part, as they seem far less involved in the immediate storyline), but for the most part the pace of the plot is spot on. While this book is very much able to stand alone, there are a number of occasions (particularly in the slower chapters I just mentioned) that you can tell that, despite the slowing down, Libby has definite plans for the future of this series. Beyond the first book, he apparently has the next three novels in the Mercenaries series written out, their publishing to occur only if the first book does well. After reading Storm Approaching, I truly hope that sales are excellent, because I cannot wait to find out what happens next to Andriel and company.