A few months ago, I received an ARC of The Storm Crow by Kalyn Josephson. They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but when it comes to the cover of The Storm Crow… I mean, can you blame me? I’d heard enough about the plot to be intrigued, but seeing the actual thing had me hook, line and sinker. Still, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it. The problem I find with ARCs released so early is that they either have sections that are eventually cut from the final manuscript or are riddled with mistakes that pull you from the narrative. Although the latter was the case with The Storm Crow, I’m glad to say the book itself didn’t disappoint in the slightest.
In her opening chapter, Josephson introduces us to a culture so unlike our own, yet still somehow makes it feel… normal. Giant magical crows, some of which are kitted out in battle armour, who control the weather and the growth of crops? That can disappear into the shadows and heal? Yeah, that’s normal. And then she violently rips it away from us, throwing us into a world that is both glacial and sweltering. Flawlessly, Josephson puts us into Anthia’s shoes, mourning for what once was and suffocating in the situation we now find ourselves in.
Don’t let her silence the storm inside you.
Anthia is a great character. She’s nowhere near perfect, not before the invasion and definitely not after it, and it makes her a brilliant character to follow through the narrative. She struggles –mentally, emotionally, as well as physically – and unlike so many books I’ve read in the past, she’s not miraculously cured by the end of it. She’s definitely one of the most relatable characters I’ve read in a long time.
The characters who populate the world around her are just as wonderfully three-dimensional. Some you’re fearful of, some you fear for, but not a single one is redundant, even those lost in the opening chapter. What’s more, none are black and white. Even the minor characters have a grey tint to them, some more than others. In this regard, Ericen really stood out for me. Torn between two worlds, there was something about him that made him feel more like a white character in a black circle.
What I also loved was how many LGBTQ+ characters there were in this book, with mentions of their sexuality in an everyday, nonchalant manner as opposed to being thrown onto the page to tick a box.
I am more than my emotions, more than my depression and fear.
What surprised me most with The Storm Crow is how brilliantly it dealt with grief, depression, anxiety and PTSD. Each of the main characters, from Anthia and her sister, Caliza, to Ericen and his ‘evil’ mother, Queen Razel, suffered from something. Not once were these addressed in throwaway statements. They were shown. Felt. It was relatable, subtle and used only when necessary to the plot. Again, not a tick in a box.
All in all, The Storm Crow left me wanting so much more in all the best ways. Discovering that it’s a duology has me torn. Part of me is eager to get my hands on the next book, the other part is heartbroken that all I have is another 350 pages. Either way, this is definitely one of my favourite YA fantasy books released this year.