Roar (Stormheart #1) by Cora Carmack
If you enjoy incredibly vast world-building, magic systems, found families, with a dash of morally grey and corrupt characters then you need to pick this one up immediately!
About the Book
Publisher: Tor Teen | Release Date: June 13, 2017 | Pages: 380
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy | Format: Hardcover | Source: Purchased
Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora’s been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.
To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.
Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage.
She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough.
Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.
This post uses affiliate links and I may receive a small commission for purchases made through my links at no additional cost to you. Click here for more info.
My favorite reading experiences are when a book takes me by complete surprise. It isn’t often that I pick up a book without any influence from other readers, but I picked Roar up at just the right time. I don’t even know how to write this review, which is probably why I spent half an hour contemplating which Stormling affinity I would have (⛈️ Skyfire, if you must know). If you enjoy incredibly vast world-building, magic systems, found families, with a dash of morally grey and corrupt characters then you need to pick this one up immediately!
“Our world is brutal, but you are brave enough to face it.”
Roar is told primarily in the third-person perspective of Aurora Pavan, the 18-year-old heir to one of the most powerful Stormling families in Caelira. Only she doesn’t have the magic which keeps her family in power, trapping her in a cage of fear with little options.
“She spent every moment of every day yearning for adventure, and she would gladly take it from his hands.”
Too often I find the Sheltered Princess Character indignant and bratty, but Rora exhibits an eagerness to learn from everyone that is refreshing. Rather than balk at her worldview being challenged, she takes it as an opportunity for new experiences. She grew up sheltered in the palace for fear that her lack of Stormling magic would be discovered, dreaming of going on adventures and seeing the world beyond Pavan’s walls. She’s brave and fiercely independent, but also vulnerable.
“She would have to learn from the experiences of others instead of just her own.”
As much as Rora’s story is about her learning more about the world, it is also about her gaining agency over herself. Her decision to join the storm hunters on the surface is her way to earn magic so she can keep her kingdom without having to get married, but it also her way of taking control of her life.
“As a child, she had belonged to her parents, then as new heir, she had belonged to the kingdom. When her magic never manifested, her life belonged to her secrets. She had hoped that when all was said and done, she could finally belong to herself.”
Where Rora is fearlessly independent and holds a youthful idealism, her storm hunter mentor Locke is battle-hardened and hardened by a hard life full of loss. He’s tall, dark, and dreamy with long hair and a scar in his eyebrow (a la Spike). What can I say? I have a type. Watching both of their walls come down and open up to each other was one of the most beautiful things to read.
“If she were a storm, she could destroy him, and he would never lift a finger to protect himself.”
As a rule, I am over the Alpha Protector Male, so I would be remiss to not touch on the love interests’ propensity towards possessiveness. A lot of the tension comes from the Love Interest’s desire to protect Rora rather than trusting that she can take care of herself (which she proves time and time again). But what I did appreciate was his coming to terms with her independence, and I think falling in love with her because of it. You can see his language and thoughts surrounding her evolve as she challenges his possessiveness, which I found to be a rather nuanced look at how toxic masculinity can evolve well challenged (provided the person is willing).
Honestly, I could write essays about how much I love the characters, even the morally grey Cassius. It’s no secret that I adore ragtag found families, and this group of hunters shares the playful banter that I can’t get enough of. I honestly lost count of the number of times that I laughed out loud and their back-and-forth teasing. While the majority of page-time is dedicated to Rora and Locke / Cassius, each of the supporting characters felt fully developed with their own motivations. Each character is complicated with multiple layers, and I felt connected to all of them . . . even Cassius, because there is more there than what meets the eye. Despite this, he is problematic and I don’t think that the book implies otherwise; I appreciate that Rora extricated herself from that situation. I am really excited to see what happens next in Rage because everything and everyone is set up well to dive right into the action.
“Storms are the greatest predators in existence because they can destroy you with their savage strength or enthrall you with their terrible beauty.”
The world-building is intriguing and doled out slowly rather than all at once. The world that Carmack crafted is remarkable, and I relished in the intricate magic system. I’ll admit that I was a fair bit confused about how Stormling magic works and its limits, but I think that is done in large part because Rora knows so little. Once she meets up with Locke and the others, the magic system is explained in a lot more detail rather than as a matter-of-fact concept.
This book is beautifully written without falling into purple prose, is fast-paced, and action-packed. The story is excellently plotted with rising action that builds up to the very end of the book and sets up the sequel nicely while also having a semblance of closure. I was fully immersed in Rora’s journey, but while the occasional Cassius or Novaya section to give an update on the happenings in Pavan didn’t feel disjointed or pull me out of the story which often happens to me with multiple POV narratives. Unfortunately, by the time that I reached the end of the book I was left feeling that the Cassius and Novaya sections didn’t add anything to the story. I almost wonder if the ending would have been more of a shock had the reader also been unaware of what happened since she left.
Overall, I loved Roar and am exceedingly excited for Rage. Carmack crafted an intricately fascinating world where storms ravage the land and people have the power to control them. If you enjoy stories with found families, an amazing cast of characters and a well-plotted story that builds up to what I expect will be a solid sequel, I cannot recommend this book enough!
CONTENT WARNINGS: death, violence
Let’s go on another adventure together!