But let’s cut to the chase: I’ve been putting off this review for a week now. I finished it one day ahead of schedule, on January 6th, because I started that night (with 150 more pages to read in two days) and I just could not put it down. Once it was over I found myself wide-eyed and confused in my bed, with a finished book in my hands, at nearly two in the morning. It was that good. So! Here goes.
Let me repeat: this book was really, really good. And I wasn’t expecting it. That sounds mean, but I read Weiland’s book Dreamlander mid-2015 and I just … didn’t like it. But judging from most of the other reviews I’ve read, everyone else did. So maybe my heart is just cold and dead, but Dreamlander simply didn’t enchant me.
Storming was the opposite.
In the high-flying, heady world of 1920s aviation, brash pilot Robert “Hitch” Hitchcock’s life does a barrel roll when a young woman in an old-fashioned ball gown falls from the clouds smack in front of his biplane. As fearless as she is peculiar, Jael immediately proves she’s game for just about anything, including wing-walking in his struggling airshow. In return for her help, she demands a ride back home . . . to the sky.
Hitch thinks she’s nuts—until he steers his plane into the midst of a bizarre storm and nearly crashes into a strange airship like none he’s ever run afoul of, an airship with the power to control the weather. Caught between a corrupt sheriff and dangerous new enemies from above, Hitch must take his last chance to gain forgiveness from his estranged family, deliver Jael safely home before she flies off with his freewheeling heart, and save his Nebraska hometown from storm-wielding sky pirates.
Where Chris from Dreamlander felt like a bumbling, amiable character I’d seen a few too many times, Hitch read like an old friend; a perfectly crafted character with needs and wants and desires and fears that shone through his every word. Reading through his point of view was like reading the thoughts of someone real, and I always find myself in awe when an author can cross that line. Weiland did a fantastic job making her (pretty large) cast of characters all feel authentic and distinct, with every character and motivation intertwined.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of this book was the hefty amount of subplots going on. I’m a sucker for subplots; they bring any straightforward story to a new level. And Hitch was a character with a lot on his mind. There was an angry brother to deal with, a young, mute boy who follows Hitch around like he’s his hero (which he is), a loyal doggie with one floppy ear (who reminded me a lot of my own sweet Aussie, so that was an instant win!), a bitter sister-in-law, a set of old, curmudgeonly brothers who bicker constantly, a money-grubbing owner of the flying circus, and of course, a power-hungry sheriff. Oh, and let’s not forget the Jael, the girl who, while being pursued by an evil guy named Zlo, fell out of the sky in front of Hitch’s biplane…
… while on fire.
Basically, the guy’s having a rough week. But it was a great rough week to read.
There were a few aspects of the story that I wish Weiland had gone into further detail on. For instance, we never really learn much about Jael’s past. We know she was an outcast on Schturming, working in the engine rooms, but we never really learn about the way Schturming‘s society works, and why she would have been an outcast in the first place. Was it her birthplace? Was there a class system on board? I’m not sure. We know she’s fiesty, fierce, proud, and willing to give up a lot to save the people she loves, and for me that was enough. While I would have loved to know about her past, her present was just as good and the lack of information didn’t really detract from the story as I read. I knew enough to get by, but some other readers seem to find fault with this since the label of the book is “speculative fiction”. Shouldn’t we then speculate?
Eh, it wasn’t a deal breaker for me.
Another thing I would have loved to know more about was Schturmingin general. The ship was immense, although hidden most of the time in the clouds, but it begs the question, how would this have gone unnoticed by society for almost seventy years? And how is society impacted by the discovery, and the discover of the weather control machine? Going into further detail for this would have been nice, and seeing the ripple effect in society could have been a nice aspect of the story. But this story is so closely centered around this one town that I’m unsure how she would have pulled that off.
But again, these issues were minute in my opinion. I read the book and liked it for what it was. It wasn’t a thriller by any means — it started off rather slow (and I was assuming it would be a three or four-star review), almost like a historical drama, which of course wasn’t a bad thing, but it’s just not what I’m into. But I could obviously appreciate the craftiness of the whole cast of characters. The entire story was definitely character driven rather than plot driven. But the ending, the part I couldn’t put down, was one of those where once I finished, I sat the book down on my lap and just sighed melodramatically (in a good way). The ending is what earned this book a solid five stars for me. It was fast-paced, action packed, fantastic. A bit predictable, yes, but again it didn’t detract from what was there.
Overall this story was great. And having a beautiful paperback for my bookshelf is even better. So thanks, Ms. Weiland, for the awesome hard copy and the fantastic read.