Thursday, August 18, 2011
Storm by Kim Pritekel
Publisher: P.D. Publishing
Merryn and Cara are two women on the run – on the run from the Black Death and from the brutal forces of King Edward III of England. Merryn is used to fighting for survival, whether as an orphan at the mercy of the nuns or as a thief on the road. Cara's existence was happier until the plague arrived. She lived quietly in a village with her mother and sister where her reputation as a healer was beginning to grow. Now, as the disease wipes out significant portions of the population, the women find themselves trying to survive on the road against roaming bandits, soldiers from the king who are scouring the countryside looking for new servants to replace the ones who have died or fled, and the constant threat of becoming ill themselves.
Although Merryn is reluctant to take Cara with her at first, they quickly become dependent on each other. Society begins to break apart under the stresses of the time and tragedy separates Merryn from Cara. Merryn goes on to become a great warrior and leader of a mighty empire, but there is always a sadness in her that no one can reach until one day she is wounded in battle and someone comes into her life that may have a chance to heal all of her wounds.
Kim Pritekel knows how to tell a good story. Her characters are fully developed and believable. Cara is especially well drawn as a woman who has a gift that causes her to walk a fine line. She lives in a time where her natural talent for healing could have her branded as a witch by the Roman Catholic Church and she knows the danger that surrounds her, where she could be honored in one village and stoned in the next.
Merryn represents the abject poverty of the majority of the English people of the 14th century who found themselves scratching out the merest of existences while the landed nobility lived in undeserved luxury. By setting the book in this period, Pritekel takes advantage of the dramatic changes caused by the bubonic plague and she shows the evidence of her research in her knowledge of the customs of the time.
The social revolution that Merryn leads did in fact try to occur, but it failed, and that is the only true negative of the book. Pritekel alters real history. She sets her story in the reign of an actual king and gives him a fate that never occurred so that she can turn this into a Conqueror story. Events that never happened are manufactured. The true period is so rich in events and details that she could have written about that manufacturing events wasn't necessary, or she could have set it in an imaginary place without creating these distracting plot points. The inaccuracies in history probably will not bother the average reader however and certainly are not serious enough to keep anyone from reading what is otherwise a very good book. Read Storm and suspend reality for a while.