The Impending Storm by Clifford B. Bowyer
|Book Name:||The Impending Storm|
|Author:||Clifford B. Bowyer|
|Publisher(s):||Silver Leaf Books|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / eBook|
|Release Date:||February 1, 2004|
This novel and I share a very intimate history. One that I’m clearly not opposed to sharing with you, dear friends. One that I hope you’ll stay and listen to.
During my teenage years, when my love of fantasy was still budding, my dad worked for a small accounting firm that ran several publishing companies. Every Friday, the music magazine and the literary publishers respectively would leave out copies of unreleased CDs and uncorrected advanced novel proofs for people to take home and enjoy. Through this arrangement, I found myself a bit of a man ahead of his time, as I had discovered many bands who would eventually make it big months before their work was released, and I also got to enjoy some really great science fiction and fantasy pieces. Clifford B. Bowyer’s The Impending Storm was one such novel.
When my dad gave me this novel, he told me that it would change the face of fantasy forever. Being young and fresh to the genre, his praise intrigued me and I promptly devoured the book. When I finally reached the cliffhanger ending, I found myself desperately wanting more. It truly was an intriguing book, and I hoped to find its sequels during my journeys. To my disappointment, no sequels (or the book itself) ever saw the light of day by me, and thus my interest in The Imperium Saga sadly waned away. I came to think of it as a failed series that never got off the ground.
The conclusion of my personal saga will be reserved for the end. For now, let’s get back to why you’re all here. I would also like to add that as this is an uncorrected proof, I do not know if the issues I address are still present in the finished piece, so your mileage may vary.
Our story takes place in the realm of the Imperium: a fifty-year old empire comprised of seven separate kingdoms that was unified by a visionary leader named Conrad. When our story begins, Conrad is dead – the victim of a plot – and his seventeen-year-old daughter Karleena is empress. This does not please many of the people, including the commoners, who take to revolt. As Karleena’s top general: the Warlord Braksis, and his beautiful mystral companion Solara (Fantasy Stereotype #234: The beautiful agile warrior who wears armor that offers no true protection whatsoever) discover, these revolts are being guided by a mysterious man named Zoldex…who instantly wins the award for Name That Sounds Most Like a Prescription Drug.
To make matters worse, Zoldex (now available in generic) is apparently also riling the orcs, goblins, and hobgoblins to besiege the dwarves and elves, with the obvious intent of invading human controlled territories. This would normally sound like a job for our favorite last-stand alliances of men, dwarf, and elf, but it turns out that centuries ago the races all fought a war for supremacy, and man came out the victor. To that end, no race really trusts one another, and the race of man feels itself beyond the need for allies. Karleena and Braksis, on the other hand, begin forging alliances with many different races in order to prepare for the time when Zoldex will make his move.
It also turns out that Zoldex has a bit of a resume, as his previous endeavors included wiping out the homeland of a race of pink elves. The survivors scrounge away a meager existence on a savage island, and the elders predict that a Chosen One will come to save them. To this effect, three elves (though Kai is the only one who really matters or does anything) are selected to travel to the land where this Chosen One exists.
And so we in essence have three casts to follow: Braksis and Solara as they journey to put down rebellions and re-forge Braksis’s sword, Karleena as she tries to establish a more democratic empire and unite the races under a common banner, and Kai as she tracks down the Chosen One and attempts to defend her. Occasionally we may enter the mind of another small group – the best example that springs to mind is the band of Gatherers we meet towards the three-quarter mark – but these groups often work in parallel to another. All three plots are entertaining, engaging, and fit in well with each other, merging at just the right moments. There is never a dull moment, and you come to care for each and every central character.
Karleena is definitely my favorite character. She is portrayed as young but very regal, and carries with her an understanding of being the outcast and what needs to be done to save her people. Karleena grows from a timid girl who fights with her prime minister to a skillful politician and passionate speaker. The fact she does gather a small alliance and maintains the loyalty of her fellow monarchs is another testament to her power.
The setting itself seems to be set in its own time, though one could tell that there is quite a bit of Greco-Roman influence to the Imperium. The Guardsmen of the capital city instantly call up to mind Greek hoplites (albeit in golden armor and square shields instead of bronze and round shields), and the appearance of a minotaur in a labyrinth makes me wish I had some string.
The fight scenes are where the novel really shines. The choreography is incredibly detailed, and the battles are tense and generally well matched. We do suffer from the rapid-fire arrow syndrome a bit with Kai, but all can be forgiven during the shining melee combat. Magic is very rarely used, but when it is, the consequences are devastating.
There were a few aesthetic things that were jarring enough to rip me out of the reality of the story. Gold must be one of the most common elements in this world, as everything is gold. The rooftops of almost every building in the capital city are made of gold and the Guardsmen wear golden armor (which I imagine would be exceptionally heavy and cumbersome). The mages are perhaps the worst offenders, as all of their robes and armor sport a certain amount of gold designs based on their rank and status, and even most of the structures and main chamber for the mage council are made of gold. Yes, gold is one of those ores that we all value (unless you’re a silver man like myself), but adding so much just makes the place seem gaudy and unrealistic. Unless they specifically mention that gold literally grows on trees. And now that I look back on the Greek influence, I can’t help but think we’ll be seeing Braksis eat from a golden apple tree (though I prefer granny smiths) or using a golden fleece.
But even more jarring than the gold are the dialogue anachronisms throughout the novel. When one reads a fantasy novel, we expect the dialogue to have a certain look and feel to it. It’s a smooth, relaxed vernacular (unless we’re referring to nobles) which still gives us the sense that we’re in a world of swords and magic. In other words, the dialogue and speech has to match the tone of the world. While Clifford B. Bowyer does a good job with the dialogue, there are times when the speech can get a bit too modern. Modern terminology and words such as ‘chick’ or ‘cool’ pop in now and again, or phrases that have such a modern feel that it jars me out of the world more completely than the mass quantities of gold. Also, one of the organizations uses an acronym, which again serves to pull us out of the medieval-esque semi-Greco-Roman atmosphere.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that there are a few moments where the tone shifts from the serious to downright comical. The character of Angel is introduced about a third of the way through the book, and after a few scenes is never mentioned again (until a recap moment towards the end), and honestly I do not miss her the time she’s gone. Most of that jarring vernacular I was referring to comes from her, and it feels like she was added in to be our thief character, though this persona is quickly lost. Perhaps if we had stuck with Angel for her task, I may have grown to like her, as unlikely as that sounds. She’s quite the paradox in that the task she is given is a rather important one, but she’s just not all that likeable and we don’t spend time to get to know her outside of her cocky attitude and blunt nature.
Braksis as well seems to suffer from sudden plot shifting, as in the first half of the novel we establish that he and a queen instantly fall in love (seriously, it takes the grand total of A PAGE!!) and they want to be devoted to one another, and then in the second half he and Solara have a nagging romantic subplot (which is started up by a comment Angel makes). It’s nice to see one romantic plot resolved so completely before we move on to the next.
Zoldex seems as though he wants to fit into the role of Sauron: a great manipulator who promises power to his minions and gathers hordes to his side. In some respects, he does succeed. For the most part, however, he feels less like Sauron and more like one of those head villains from a Power Rangers series. The most proactive he gets is chastising one of his minions for allowing his men to rape and murder women and children (to which I have to give Zoldex kudos for) and then infusing the man’s axe with magic to become indestructible. Most of the time, he sits in the dark, offers advice to a weakling of a prince, manipulates things from the shadows, and sends out the occasional army of foot soldiers. There’s no clear reason for Zoldex’s actions, and we never get to look into his own thoughts until the epilogue, though the sequel promises we will.
Speaking of the sequel, when I started this review I instantly went on a hunch and checked out to see if there were any more books released. To my delight, I have found them! In fact, this is probably the point where I mention that The Impending Storm is the set-up novel to two separate series: The Fall of the Imperium, which chronicles the (I imagine) eventual fall of the Imperium, and The Chosen One, which is a young adult series that follows Kyria, our Neo for the series. It’s a neat, clever, and ambitious idea, I think, though it does force you to pay for two separate series if you want the full story.
Issues I have with the story aside, I quite enjoyed my reread of The Impending Storm. Like when I was younger, the cliffhanger ending leaves me hungry for more, and I cannot wait to satisfy that hunger.
PS – I know I left out two very entertaining characters from this review. Mostly due to the fact that they too offer us little, only appear twice, and seem to be disliked by the creator. I do hope they make appearances in the sequel, however.
Narrative: A few nagging issues, some repetition, and awkward placement of anachronistic dialogue only moderately effects what is otherwise a very straightforward style. – 3.5/5
Heroes: The heroes generally undergo very interesting arcs. They are appropriately heroic. – 5/5
Villains: Manipulative and destructive, though there’s no clear reason why. – 4/5
Plot: The lingering plot of the Chosen One seems to be a low priority to all but a single elf, while the threat of Zoldex and Karleena’s efforts to bring equality are compelling enough to keep me reading. – 4/5
Magic: No real explanation on how magic works. Then again, I don’t recall any of the principle cast using magic. – 2.5/5
World: The world is populated by a very diverse group of races and the variety of cultures and histories makes this a memorable and believable place. – 5/5