I enjoyed Rebel Wing, the first in this series, and was looking forward to seeing the story continued in Storm Fall. Banghart’s writing is straightforward, easy to follow, and with strong characters. But the emphasis on the romances greatly derailed and detracted from the plot, making this a somewhat hollow book lacking in nuances and worldbuilding. Still, as an undemanding read, those that enjoyed the first book should also enjoy Storm Fall as well.
Aris was unmasked in the first book but did effect a very major change: women are now allowed in the Atalanta military. But they don’t have it easy: bullying, harassment, and general nastiness mean Aris and her female friends might almost have preferred to continue to hide their gender. When she is shot down over enemy territory, it will take her former friends and love all their strength and mettle to sneak in and retrieve Aris. But they will have to beat Elom to her first.
The story revolves around three romances. Aris and Milek (with her former love, Calix, thrown in for a triangle), Milek’s mother and a politician, and Aris’ friend Dysis and Daakon. Most of the story seemed to be about their little romance moments rather than much needed worldbuilding and plot. Even the villain, Elom, is casually disregarded for most of the book despite supposedly being the big antagonist. His scene at the end of the book is a complete throwaway just to have an Aris/Milek moment.
Admittedly, for me, the plot was overly simplistic and lacking purpose and drive. There’s a lot of soapboxing (women in the military, yay! War is hell, boo! Save the children, yay!) that is very heavy handedly applied. Between the romance moments and messages, there wasn’t any room left for much of a plot.
The heart of the book is Aris and she is a very likeable and relatable character. I only wish she had been given more to work with this volume. She flails for most of the story. I’d also have liked to see less emphasis on Milek’s mother (those scenes are pointless beyond the romance aspect) or Dysis’ POV. The book lacked punch by pretty much being 3 short story romance vignettes rather than one cohesive and driving narrative.
What really didn’t work for me, though, is the overt “we can do whatever we want” aspect of a relationship while in the military. If Aris is supposed to be a groundbreaker of bringing women into martial activities, nothing would destroy that foundation and weaken her and Milek’s authority by a very overt relationship with a superior officer. There’s no way he could be objective over her (or that any of the men would believe he could be). As well, that Calix would defect to save her because he is in love with her also emphasizes the point that women would ruin the military. That contradictory message is a real problem. It meant a loss of credibility and logic in the worldbuilding.
So although I did not enjoy Storm Fall (I’m not even sure where the name of the book comes from?) as much as Rebel Wing, I am sure those who prefer an undemanding romance with a strong female main character will enjoy the story.
Reviewed from an ecopy provided by the publisher.