Adrienne Martini Reviews The Origin of Storms by Elizabeth Bear

The Origin of Storms, Elizabeth Bear (Tor 978-0-76538-017-3, $28.99, 384pp, hc) June 2022.

If I were a TV producer who wanted to take on an epic fantasy story à la Game of Thrones or Wheel of Time, I would look no further than Elizabeth Bear’s Lotus Kingdom books. To be honest, I’d much rather see an interpretation of Bear’s work over yet another Euro-based, medieval-esque retread of dudes fighting over who will be king.

The Origin of Storms is a rich and satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, which began with The Stone in the Skull and The Red-Stained Wings. This trilogy is linked to and set in the same universe as Bear’s earlier Eternal Sky books – but these three titles make for a satisfying arc all on their own. If you want more in this world, however, there are three more books worth of epic goodness to pick from.

In the Lotus Kingdom arc, the driving ques­tion is about who will rule this loosely stitched-together amalgam of worlds that inhabit one planet, which makes more sense in context. The worldbuilding is Persian-influenced and deep. This is a place that feels lived in and that has texture.

The same is true for Bear’s characters. De­spite this epic including a cast of dozens, each is three-dimensional and stands on his, her, or their own. Himadra could not be confused with his cousin and rival Mrithuri. Sayeh (per­haps my favorite) is an enduring source of wit and calculation. And then there’s the dragon, who is impossible to confuse with the mere mortals and who is also full of bleak wisdom. “’Life is pain,’ said the dragon. ‘Fortunately, it’s also very interesting.’”

With The Origin of Storms, Bear lands this particular plane – and does it in such a way that questions our genre’s love of empire in fantasy epics while also tangibly demonstrat­ing why readers still respond to them. Now it’s time for the same questions about empires and their rulers to bleed into other forms of pop culture.

Adrienne Martini has been reading or writing about science fiction for decades and has had two non-fiction, non-genre books published by Simon and Schuster. She lives in Upstate New York with one husband, two kids, and one corgi. She also runs a lot.

This review and more like it in the February 2022 issue of Locus.

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