Julie here for the CSFF Blog Tour!
Storm by Evan Angler
Ridiculously simplified summary: Book 3 in a series. The end times are upon us, with all citizens of the American Union needing to be Marked in order to buy or sell anything. All Marked Americans serve the charismatic European leader Cylis and the American leader General Langston.
After being betrayed by his sister, who is now a top soldier working for the Marked, the Unmarked Logan Langly and his friends seek to save the life of their Marked friend Erin Arbitror, who has fallen ill with a mysterious virus. Meanwhile, the weather mill that brings rain nationwide has been malfunctioning, causing a nationwide drought. Can Logan save the world as he knows it?
Content: This started out surprisingly optimistic, for a book about the end of the world and all. The Christian aspect was rather subtle--I'm not sure how much there was in Books 1-2, or how much there will be in later books, but I think this particular one would be suitable for anyone who's not outright hostile to Christianity. The ending was fairly dark but not entirely without hope. On the one hand, the fact that it wasn't entirely hopeless is surprising for a dystopian book. But on the other hand, there was so little preaching throughout the book, that I felt like the hope in the book is more about the hope of love in general, rather than being directly linked to Christ.
Compelling: 8 out of 10. I found the first few chapters fascinating, learning about this world and how it ticks, how the Marks work, and so forth. Later in the book gets more about politics and numerous double crosses, but somehow those didn't interest me quite as much because I didn't feel like the characters were all that differentiated. (Meagan tells me that problem comes from not reading books 1 and 2, which in fairness, were not part of the tour. But I've come in at the middle of other stories, even for the blog tour, and liked/understood the characters, but didn't feel that way here for the most part.)
No matter; I think this is more about the big picture than the individuals. And I'm considering going back and checking out the first two from my library, so that's something in and of itself. When it comes down to it, though, I'm not sure I want to read the fourth book, though that depends on how I end up liking 1 and 2.
Characters: 5 out of 10. Like I said, many of the characters blurred together for me. For instance, there's a climactic scene that includes Logan and Hailey, but I don't recognize any big differences between the two characters there, aside from the people they care about the most--it was more about the story and the betrayals than the characters. For the most part, I found the adults more interesting than the child-protagonists (who I felt more or less acted like adults anyway, though that very well could be a symptom of an adult literally and figuratively writing the series--more on that later). To me, Tyler, a complete prankster by nature, is the only one who really seemed like a child to me. Of course, I read this soon after just getting off teaching Vacation Bible School to a class of ALL 5th and 6th grade boys, so my expectations of children may be skewed to the low side.
One very interesting thing about the characters is that the Marked are not universally evil and the Markless are not universally good. In fact, overall I'd say the Marked characters were the more likable ones. I'm not sure if that's accurate or not for the end times (or if things will change in book 4), but I definitely thought it made the story more interesting and relatable.
Writing/editing: 8 out of 10. I only saw one typo for sure (apostrophe error). There were some stylistic choices I wouldn't have made (at one point, there are three scene breaks in as many sentences!). I think if there would have been more effort to stay in fewer characters' points of view, maybe the characterization would have seemed a bit stronger. But I thought it still read pretty well. The first meeting with Cylis was delightfully creepy.
Plausibility/believability: 3 out of 5. I "bought" most of the world from the getgo, and the twists nearer to the end were interesting. I'm not sure I believed/agreed with Mr. Angler actually being the author of these books that are written presumably a hundred or more years in the future, but we're somehow reading now. I thought that idea worked charmingly on Angler's website, but when characters in the book itself are reading a published book about their own exploits that presumably happened not long ago...given how long it takes to get a book published nowadays...I thought it was a bit forced. It might have a great payoff eventually, granted, but seeing it in isolation in the book, I thought it was a bit gimicky.
That said, this apocalyptic tale is targeted to a middle grade audience (!), and I get the feeling that the "author being a character" conceit appeals to the target audience, who may not have seen a third-person narrator address the audience in any way before.
Positive: 3 out of 5. Like I said earlier, despite the promises that it's a big deal to be Unmarked, in this book, life is going relatively well for the Unmarked, considering it's the end of the world and all. I get the feeling that the next book is going to be darker. This does end with escalating things going wrong, so not really a happy ending, but not nearly as hopeless as some books I've read, which is surprising.
Gut reaction: 3 out of 5. I really enjoyed the beginning several chapters but I found myself somehow less interested as the story progressed...I guess I expected to care more about the characters themselves, but I felt pretty much the same about all of them at the end as I did just a few pages in. Again, that could be a symptom of starting at book 3.
Bonus points: 5 out of 5.
Recommended for: Fans of dystopian young adult novels...I think. I'd definitely recommend reading the first couple books first, though.
Total Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Here are the other tour participants!
Emma or Audrey Engel
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
*In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book.