“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. And sometimes she was none of them, lost and adrift somewhere in between, like the wildlands between Stormling cities.”
This novel tells the story of Aurora (aka Roar), the teenage heir to the throne of a nation called Pavan. Her land is wrought by powerful storms, and it will soon be her role as queen to protect her people from their fury. The problem is, Aurora has none of the innate storm wielding magic her family is famed for. Thus, her mother concocts a scheme to marry Roar off to Cassius, a powerful foreign prince, so that he may protect Pavan in her steed. Aurora soon realizes that Cassius is not all that he seems to be, so she flees the palace and embarks on a quest to gain power for herself. After meeting the mysterious Locke, she falls in with a band of rogue storm hunters who may just be the key to unlocking her magic.
The idea of a runaway princess seeking to save her kingdom isn’t particularly original, but personally, the concept of storm magic was very new to me, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about it. Basically, the idea is that there are deadly storms in Pavan that can only be controlled by Stormlings; people who have magical abilities. However, the whole storm magic idea is a lot more complicated than that. There are black markets dealing in storm magic artifacts, different types of storms, various gifts and affinities . . . Carmack’s entire world revolves around the magic in storms. I’m not doing a great job of explaining it, as I was a bit confused by some of the intricacies, but trust me, it was a great concept and very fun to learn about.
Aurora is a very multifaceted character, who I found easy to like. She’s feisty, bold, and willing to take risks. However, she has also experienced a lifetime of insecurity due to her lack of magic, so she can also be timid and uncertain at times. Basically, there are a lot of contradictions in Aurora’s personality. Some may find this confusing, but I found it made for a well rounded and nuanced character. Aurora is definitely still growing and changing, and I can’t wait to see where her hardening resolve and increasing confidence take her in the next book.
Despite Cassius being introduced as an important character early in the book, we actually learn very little about him. We know he is handsome, ambitious, and ruthless in his pursuit of Pavan’s throne… but we also see hints of remorse and compassion. I’m predicting (well, hoping) that Cassius isn’t as villainous as Aurora believes him to be. Some reviews I’ve read have compared Cassius to The Darkling from Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he may actually turn out to be more of a Rhysand; a character who we initially believe to be a villain, who eventually turns out to be the story’s true hero.
Locke is Aurora’s love interest and mentor. He’s an adventurous storm hunter with a troubled past, and tends to be a bit of a lone wolf. He’s also TERRIBLE. If Cassius is a potential Rhysand, then Locke is a definite Tamlin. He’s possessive, arrogant, and even a little creepy. His initial interest in Aurora stems from the fact she reminds him of his dead sister… then, twenty pages later, he’s drooling over her?!? Like I said, the dude’s a creeper. I’ve seen a few bad reviews for Roar, and most of them focus on the problematic relationship between Locke and Roar. Here’s an example of his controlling nature emerging after their first kiss:
“I’m the first to touch this mouth? To taste it?”… She nodded, her tongue darting out to soothe the skin he had tugged between his teeth. “That means it’s mine. My territory. And I’m prepared to protect it, every hour of the day if I must.”
His “territory”?! Ugh, just no. She’s a person, not a piece of land to be conquered and won. As I genuinely liked Aurora, I’m hoping she realizes she can do better and ditches him somewhere around five pages into the sequel!
Roar is Cormack’s first foray into the world of YA fantasy, her earlier works being adult romances, and I think this shows in her writing. I don’t mean that in a negative way, I just feel that her writing is at its best in scenes with a lot of banter or romance. Though I hated Locke, the parts of the book I found most exciting where those that focused on Aurora’s growing feelings for him and the build up to their relationship. Though the book’s action sequences were also very fun and entertaining, I didn’t find them to be as electric or dynamic as the romance scenes.
Despite my complaints about Locke, I absolutely adored this book! I loved Aurora as a heroine and I enjoyed seeing her grow. The whole concept of storm magic was both fun and compelling, and I’m intrigued by the world Carmack has created. Ultimately, Roar was extremely entertaining and perfect for a bit of escapism.