The Umbral Storm by Alec Hutson

SPFBO Status: Finalist

Rate: 9/10

Medium: eBook

Overview (No Spoilers):

The Umbral Storm is such a delightful read that I would continue reading chapters despite saying I needed to go to sleep, and I most definitely didn’t want the story to end. Starting off in a remote harvesting operation on the far edge of civilization, we are introduced to a world where slaves are forced to scale massive trees in search of rare crabs that are considered delicacies. This system highlights the brutal differences between slave, master, and indentured, but after an unexpected guest arrives one stormy night, Hutson soon takes the story in a totally new and magical direction.

I loved how Hutson introduces the magical elements, even though the aftermath is brutal to read. This first glimpse at the magic system is especially well-crafted as the next element of magic adds some order to the chaos, though the distrust from that first encounter lingers throughout most of this read. 

The Umbral Storm volleys the point-of-view between Heth, the slaver’s entitled son, and Deryn, an indentured worker. With these characters coming from such vastly different backgrounds, their perspectives on the various situations they find themselves in is enlightening, if not amusing. This back and forth proved even more fascinating when their paths diverge into almost opposite roles, albeit in a totally foreign society. Then around the halfway point, we are treated to a new perspective that I couldn’t help but be overly excited about: we are finally given a glimpse into Alia’s thoughts, allowing us to learn more about the mysterious girl from the forest. As for the rest of the characters, the majority of them are vivid and detailed, striking a good balance between exploring their past and maintaining enough mystery to stay intriguing (especially Kaliss).

While much of this story is predictable, it is enjoyably so, as the familiar twists and turns are entwined with its own brand of fantasy, keeping it engaging. As the tale approaches its final conclusion, a series of surprises take the story in a totally new and unexpected direction with far-reaching implications that leaves me excited and impatient to find out what happens next. Overall, The Umbral Storm establishes a delightfully complex and detailed foundation for both its worldbuilding and unique magical system that leaves this story brimming with potential for Hutson to expand upon.

Check out Lynn’s Books review of The Umbral Storm here.

Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):

  • What did the former slaves do to Gavin (the unbound) after Kilian left? What happened to the slaves?
  • Why did Shade not like Kaliss? Does it have to do with her past? What are her unique skills? Why did she kill Mazim Chain? How does Leantha know about it?
  • Who is Leantha? What does it mean that the Elowyn has seen her before?
  • Who else is an agent of the Unbound King? How long had Vertus been replaced?
  • What is the purpose of the clear shard? 
  • Who is the ‘Old Boney’ that the Elowyn from the ruins mentions? What will the group find at the House of  Last Light in Karath?
  • Will we get to eventually explore Gendurdrang?
  • Who are the Others? What will be the effect of Deryn inviting them into this world?
  • What is the book written by the elemental? Will Deryn be able to read it? How did Shade know it is important but the extra shards were not?
  • What is the history of the Unbound King, Xend an-Azith?
  • What will Karath be like and why will the shards not work there?
  • What happened to Rhenna’s mom? Who is Deryn’s mom? What if Rhenna and Deryn are siblings? Who is behind the attack on Rhenna’s convoy? Is it actually her father? Or maybe her brother?
  • Will the balewyrm show back up again? 
  • What powers will Alia have now that she has a green shard?
  • Are there still Ice Sharded around? What about the soul shard?
  • Menochus’s betrayal is painful to say the least. What happened to his shards?
  • Who is the old warrior that Deryn found in the balewyrm’s pit? 
  • Will Deryn run into Crimson Grass again?
  • Why is Azil so loyal to the Shadow? What are his ambitions? What about Kilian’s?
  • What caused Deryn and Rhenna to fall asleep so deeply?

Vocabulary Builder

Abattoir – a place where animals are butchered; slaughterhouse

Agog – full of intense interest or excitement; eager

Apoplectic – extremely enraged

Assuage – to lessen the intensity of (something that pains or distresses); ease

Barbican – an outer defensive work; a tower at a gate or bridge

Cataphract – a suit of armor for the whole body; coat of mail

Dagging – a decorative element added to the edges of garments and objects

Efface – to cause to vanish

Fete – a lavish often outdoor party

Flense – to strip of blubber or skin

Frisson – a brief moment of emotional excitement; shudder, thrill

Gloaming – twilight, dusk

Immutable – not capable of or susceptible to change

Limn – to outline in clear sharp detail; delineate

Lintel – a horizontal architectural member spanning and usually carrying the load above an opening

Midden – a refuse heap

Nacreous – possessing the qualities of, consisting of, or abounding in nacre; iridescent

Offal – the waste or by-product of a process, such as the viscera and trimmings of a butchered animal removed in preparing it for market or for consumption

Orrery – an apparatus showing the relative positions and motions of bodies in the solar system by balls moved by a clockwork

Oubliette – a dungeon with an opening only at the top

Puissant – having puissance; powerful

Quaff – to drink (a usually alcoholic beverage) heartily or copiously

Susurrus – a whispering or rustling sound

Tureen – a deep and usually covered bowl from which foods (such as soup) are served

Unctuous – having, revealing, or marked by a smug, ingratiating, and false earnestness or spirituality

Welter – a state of wild disorder; turmoil

Ziggurat – an ancient Mesopotamian temple tower consisting of a lofty pyramidal structure built in successive stages with outside staircases and a shrine at the top

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