High Prince Altair could not be happier. His engagement to his lover, Prince Whelan of the Realm of Waters, is finally official, and though his reign from the Throne of Night is never easy, he has finally become comfortable ruling the Elvish Kingdoms of Avalon.
If only that peace could last…
Assassination attempts and bands of thieves soon plague the realm, and on the horizon an even greater threat looms that will bring challenges unlike anything Avalon has faced in recent memory.
Buried secrets will rise to the surface and their relationship will be tested as Altair and Whelan race to save Avalon while challenging its traditions.
Is the lotus more powerful than the gathering storm? Only time will tell.
Title: The Lotus and the Gathering Storm| Series: Eagle and Heart | Author: W. Dale Jordan | Publisher: Self-published | Pub Date: 1/9/2020 | Pages: 255 | ASIN: B08BYX71PJ | Genre: Fantasy (with mature content) | Language: English | Source: arc provided by author | Unstarred Review
The Lotus and the Gathering Storm Review
W. Dale Jordan’s debut novel, The Lotus and the Gathering Storm, has a problematic beginning followed by a solid middle that builds up to the final page.
The issue with the beginning is the delay in starting the actual story. It reads more like vignettes because there is a lot of sex.
And I do mean a lot of sex.
I read a lot of YA and adult books that keep sex off the page, or may have one or two sex scenes somewhere partway through the book, and the start of this book prompted me to go to look at the book info I’d been sent. The blurb I received had no reference to mature content.
There’s a brief break in the sex for an assassination attempt, and it is resolved with punishment delivered. It really isn’t until we’re a quarter of the way into the book until it feels like the story actually starts, and that is one of the weaknesses of the book. Those who really like a lot of sex may feel like the book starts off strong and fades. Those who read for plot instead of sex may not get past the first section and discover the story.
It is my opinion that the sex is always best when there’s some anticipation for the readers. We know these characters. We’ve seen them cast longing glances at each other for whole chapters. Then, when they finally get down to business, we’re happy for them. Characters we’re invested in are finally together. Sometimes the sex even advances the plot. Frequent sex early on can actually prevent us from getting to know the characters.
The wobbly plot execution in the start is an issue. Readers like a sense of direction, and this is a short book (255 pages per Amazon). There are a few small hints that come through POV jumps into unidentified characters. This was another anchoring problem for me. Some writers shift POV within scenes, and it can be confusing and frustrating when this occurs. In general, 3rd person POV allows readers to follow events from the POV character and know their thoughts. It often gets confused with omniscient POV, however. There are two things driving this issue in fiction, in general. One is a bad explanation of 3rd person limited vs 3rd person omniscient. 3rd person limited should not be defined as limited to one POV perspective solely. This makes people think if they want to include two or more POVs that they’re writing omniscient POV, but they aren’t. The key is, 3rd person limited is limited to one POV at a time.. The other contributing factor is television, where what multiple characters see, or what no characters see at all, can be revealed on screen.
When POV shifts from 3rd limited to omniscient or from character to character within the same scene it can be jarring. It makes it hard to follow the perspective. It also breaks our connection to the initial POV character, and it can make it hard to keep track of who knows what. It can also be a cheat. Sometimes, authors don’t know how to get information on the page, or they think the way to hook readers is to refer to events yet to come. If you want to know more about 3rd person limited vs 3rd person omniscient and how shifting between them can be problematic, read The Golden Rule of Consistency. Yes, there will always be someone who breaks the rules in a way that works, but 99% of the time it’s best to stick to the rules for a reason. Anchoring in the POV helps establish characters and helps readers develop a rapport with them. When the POV jumps regularly, we aren’t anchored and when we aren’t anchored it can be easier for us to abandon the text.
One of the things I really liked about The Lotus and the Gathering Storm is the worldbuilding. Due to the volume of sex early on, it takes a bit before we start to get a clear picture of Avalon and the realms within it, but once we do there are some really interesting ideas here that I enjoyed.
Somewhere along the way, author W. Dale Jordan weaves his magic into the words. Altair and Whelan are both likeable and their lives hang in the balance, and so does Avalon’s future, and I was invested in that outcome. I hoped they would find a way to deal with the threat they were facing.
I must also take a moment to talk about Great Captain Zephyra, who is one of the spiciest characters in the story. She is handled expertly, because we’re supposed to want to like her and trust her, but at the same time we know she carries deep wounds and has reasons to distrust Altair and the elves of Avalon. She has no loyalty to them, and could turn against them. Her character walks the tightrope, at times seeming more like a potential enemy than an ally, and it’s convincing. And the surprise Zephyra has for Altair and Whelan is one of those worldbuilding elements Jordan weaves in expertly to reveal things outside the realm of the POV credibly. I want a whole series with Zephyra taming drakes and battling pirates or sea monsters or something, because she is compelling.
I think that if this story had been restructured and extended a bit, a lot of the key issues I had could have been resolved. Building anticipation is never a bad thing, and that applies to both the plot and sex. The story would have benefited from stronger anchoring in the world and worldbuilding early on, as well as events that alluded to problems on the horizon. It would have been ideal if the couple didn’t actually get together until the first turning point. Although some things that seemed random in the early chapters were eventually revealed to be part of the primary story arc, there’s a lack of balance in the first part of the book, where sex dominates and the story is thin. Initially, I questioned if it had been misclassified as a fantasy novel, because of the content. Ultimately, if the sex had been spread out more and not dominating the first part of the book, it would have read like the fantasy with mature content that it is.
The other issue I had is that the story ends on a cliffhanger. It is possible to write a series and still offer a sense of resolution, and this was possible here. There was a natural stopping point that could have offered a sense of resolution, and the subsequent developments could have marked the start of the next book.
A lot of the issues that are present may be resolved in future offerings as this debut author gains more experience with plot structure and character arcs, and learns to balance content effectively. What I see here is a lot of potential. I received an arc from the author. Although there were a few typos, it was an advanced copy and they have no bearing on my opinion of the story. 3 out of 5 stars.
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