Blood Storm is the second instalment in Rhiannon Hart’s Lharmell series, which follows (Princess) Zeraphina of Amentia and her beloved animal companions, Leap and Griffin, in their ongoing campaign to defeat the Llharmellins and uncover more of Zeraphina’s mysterious past. By the conclusion of the first book, Blood Song, Zeraphina has aligned herself with Prince Amis of Pergamia’s best friend, the darkly enigmatic Rodden Lothskorn, in a victorious quest to defeat the Lharmellin leader. In book two, against the fantastic backdrop of various exotic and often forbidding lands, dark truths and curious yearnings continue to unfold.
Rodden and Zeraphina are bound by a secret that sometimes complicates their perilous mission. Along the way, their physical and mental endurance is tested as they battle for their lives against the Lharmellins and treacherous harmings, while constantly staving off their own deepening hunger – a hunger they must conceal at any cost. Meanwhile, Zeraphina’s unyielding mother, Queen Renata, is determined to see both her daughters married to princes of worthy kingdoms. Back in Pergamia, Zeraphina’s sister, Lilith, has accepted the hand of Prince Amis, and the focus is now shifting to her spirited younger sister who is turning seventeen and being pursued by the utterly loathsome Prince Folsum.
In Blood Storm, Hart’s world building really shines, too. Zeraphina and Rodden journey, via land, sea, and air, across a number of intriguing lands and we are introduced to various cultures and terrains with distinctive features. In Pol (Rodden’s home town) we meet the Jarmin — an exotic, gypsy-like tribe who embrace Zeraphina and Rodden with warmth and humour. Details about Jarmin life include folk tradition, clothing, language, and even craftsmanship, which contribute to interest and realism.
Hart also includes some lovely, innovative scenes where weapons are created for the final battle against the harmings. In a Pol glassblower’s shop, Zeraphina is mesmerised by an artisan and his apprentice as they demonstrate their craft for an audience. (Zeraphina will later discover that they are not just there to enjoy the show). Later in the novel, Rodden practises his chemistry skills (with some comical results) as he attempts to manufacture deadly Yelbar gas from Vitriol (‘the most important alchemical substance’).
Throughout both books, we are treated to scenes featuring Zeraphina working on her archery skills. Blood Storm sees her honing these, along with her equally crucial telepathic talents, including the ability to communicate with the formidable brants — their allies in the skies. The telepathic connection between Rodden and Zeraphina is a clever device Hart uses to successfully create ongoing tension and a sense of kinship and developing affection. And Zeraphine’s proficiency at mind control in the midst of harmings makes for some heart-stopping moments.
One of Blood Storm’s many pleasing themes is that of difference (royal/commoner, human/animal, human/harming). In each case, there’s a lesson to be learned about viewing the world from another standpoint. Through well-constructed interior monologue Hart creates an independent, resourceful, and sensitive character in Zeraphina. It’s very satisfying to see her passion and integrity matched by Rodden, who treats her with respect and kindness.
I particularly enjoyed the way the romance theme was handled: none of the cringe worthy love-at-first-sight stuff of fairytales; no swooning, cookie cutter damsel in distress. Instead, there is credible, simmering tension building between kindred spirits relying on each other in the face of danger (and the tension is further heightened by shocking revelations about Rodden’s past.)
You can easily enjoy Blood Storm without having read Blood Song, but I highly recommend that you get hold of both. The Lharmell series is entertaining, funny, smart, and full of adventure. And with the cliff hanger at the end of Blood Storm, you’ll most definitely want to get your hands on the third book.
Blood Storm– Rhiannon Hart (Lharmell book #2)
Random House, 1st August, 2012, paperback, pp. 364