Publication: June 13th 2017 by Tor Teen Pages: 380 Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository In a land ruled and shaped by violent magical storms, power lies with those who control them. Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora’s been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people. To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters. Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage. She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough. Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.
“You are lightning made flesh. Colder than falling snow. Unstoppable as the desert sands riding the wind. You are Stormling, Aurora Pavan. Believe it.”
It was 2am. I lay in bed, heart pounding. I’d just finished reading Cora Carmack’s young adult fantasy, Roar. I hadn’t known what to expect when I picked up this book. Although I’d heard of Carmack, I’d never gotten around to reading any of her books. Whatever I had expected, it most certainly wasn’t this.
After taking a few moments to let everything sink in, I flicked to the acknowledgment page, only to discover that it had been a dream of Cora’s to write a young adult fantasy novel — and that this was her first. Having not known much about the author before reading this book, I was really surprised that this was the first book she’d published in this genre — and very much impressed with how clearly talented a writer she must be to delve into a new genre and produce an absolute gem.
Roar is one of the best books I’ve read in the young adult fantasy genre in quite a while, and I don’t say that lightly. Let me tell you exactly what made this such an exciting read.
Roar tells the story of Aurora Pavan, heir to the throne of Pavan — a kingdom which her family has protected for decades with their powerful Stormling magic. Although cunning, intelligent and brave, Aurora possesses none of the magic needed for her to protect her future kingdom. To hide this dangerous secret, her mother arranges a marriage with Prince Cassius of Locke — one of the most powerful Stormlings of their time.
Although initially swept away by this dark and charming Prince, Aurora soon discovers that he is not all that he seems. Refusing to be forced into marriage with someone who lusts only after her title, Aurora makes to escape from her kingdom and the pressures placed upon her, and soon happens upon a group of people whose secrets will upturn everything she has ever known.
One of my pet peeves when reading YA fantasy is poor world-building. It’s a massive problem in this genre — where writers seem to put so much focus on how special and unique their protagonist is, and how dreamy their love interests are, that there’s little time left for the sort of world-building that is essential for a really immersive fantasy experience. Fortunately, this was not the case in Cora Carmack’s Roar. In fact, the world-building was one of my favourite things about this novel.
There was so much to the world in this novel, and yet the way in which Carmack feeds the reader details prevented me from ever feeling overwhelmed or bored by the details. A particular favourite feature was the extracts from historical texts that were featured at the beginning of each chapter — poetry, pages from journals, legal documents — all created for the mere purpose of fleshing this already captivating world out even more, and in such a beautiful and creative manner. The magic was infinitely interesting to read about, too — and only became more so towards the novel’s conclusion, although I can’t touch much on that without spoiling things, so you’ll need to take my word for it!
Another huge positive for me was the cast of characters in Roar. Aurora is definitely up there with my favourite YA protagonists of all time. And the rest of the characters! I haven’t fallen in love with such a huge group since reading Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows — and that book is up there with my all-time favourites, so that’s really saying something. However, it wasn’t simply the group of misfits that the story centers around that I fell in love with. I also fell for characters like Aurora’s ex-best friend, Nova, her guards, her mother, and even the novel’s villains — Cassius (oh, Cassius), and someone else that I can’t mention because spoilers… (I guess you’ll just need to read this amazing book to find out. How unfortunate…)
Carmack paid such attention to every single character in Roar, giving them positive qualities and flaws, and making each and every one of them feel entirely human. I related to pretty much everyone in some way, and I can’t wait to see where these characters end up in the next novel. (Although I’m also afraid, because falling in love with fictional characters is very dangerous and often heartbreaking, and I’d never wish it upon anyone.)
A final positive that I’d like to touch on is the romance. My reading taste is certainly indicative of it but, if you don’t know: I am a self-confessed hopeless romantic. For a long time, I wouldn’t read books that didn’t have, at the very least, a romantic subplot. I have branched out now, but I still prefer some romance in my novels to spice things up a bit — provided that it is well-written.
And, oh boy, is the romance in Roar very, very well-written. Since finishing this novel, I have discovered that Cora’s main genre is contemporary romance, and you can definitely tell through the skillful way in which she weaves the romance between Aurora and Locke into this story. A far cry from the insta-love that so often litters this genre, the romance that blooms between these two characters is slow and passionate and real. I believed every single thing that Locke and Aurora felt for each other, and I especially liked how respectful Locke was of Aurora — fighting her when it was needed, but ultimately supporting her and allowing her to be the person that she needed to be. I could actually ramble on about this romance for a long time but, since this review is already pretty long… I’ll just re-iterate: I loved, loved, loved the relationship between these two, and I’m very much looking forward to reading more of it in the follow-up to this novel.
If I had to point out anything negative about Roar, it would probably be the presence of tropes that are so, so overused in this genre that I’m tired to death of reading them. I feel like it would be unfair to have ripped the last book I read to pieces for doing so (not literally, of course), but not even mention their presence in this novel — because they are most definitely there. However, it’s hard to consider this a negative when Cora has used these tropes in such an original way that they have almost zero negative impact on the reader’s enjoyment of the story. Yes, the formula feels familiar — but the way in which it is executed does not. The story is a strong one and stands entirely by itself, using the tropes to its advantage, rather than being dictated by them entirely.
Overall, I absolutely adored Roar. It’s an incredibly well-written and detailed young adult fantasy debut, and I can’t wait to see where Cora takes this series.
If you have it sitting on your bookshelf, and you’re umm-ing and ahh-ing about taking the plunge, then I’d say JUST GO FOR IT.There’s a very high chance that you will be more than pleasantly surprised as you are swept into a beautifully constructed world filled with realistic and lovable characters, and a plot that will keep you turning pages until the early hours of the morning.
Now, if anyone needs me, I’ll be desperately trying to find a way to speed up time so that I can have the sequel in my hands immediately…
Sometimes she was Aurora. Confident. Clever. Cultured. Sometimes she was Rora. Afraid. Alone. Ashamed. And more and more, she was Roar — bold, brash, and increasingly baffled by the situation in which she found herself.