Author: Valerie Storm
Kari, a young wolf demon, learns her parents’ isolation is justified when they’re killed by humans from the village near their mountain home – humans who found them because of Kari’s carelessness. With her dying breath, Kari’s mother orders her to shift into human form so that the humans might spare her. Kari allows herself to be rescued from the snowy woods, vowing to seek revenge one day.
As she grows older and stronger, Kari befriends Kiki, a village outcast who accepts Kari for who she is and what she’s vowed to do. The girls plan to see the world together once Kari can fulfill her need for vengeance … but destiny has another plan in mind.
Rating: Relateable characters and character development; Adventurous, Very sad
The First Review:
I received a free ebook of Birth of the Storm as part of the Escapist Book Tours. This has not affected my review or rating.
From the prologue, I was drawn into the book. I related to and liked Kari right away. I enjoyed a wolf protagonist, and her wolf attributes and behavior are constantly referenced, making her super cute and easy to visualize. Kari is just as endearing as you would expect a wolf pup to be, and with an inherent playfulness, courage, and kindness, and I don’t find that the way she grows to command respect is in any conflict with that. I got a really clear image of Kari and I just liked her so much. However, there were a few moments when Kari did or thought something, and it was not that it was out of character for Kari to do it, but that the compelling sense of “this is the Kari thing to do, this is how Kari feels,” dropped out. Also, as the book drew to a conclusion, there were conversations or thoughts that I think should have been shown to keep immersion and relateability to Kari better. There was even a point where I thought, “how come Kari doesn’t think about this, why doesn’t she consider and explore this,” and it turns out she did, but we find out later because that is skipped over, and it was somewhat jarring.
I also really liked Kari’s friend, Kiki. Their friendship was so bright and vivid, and Kiki’s personality shone through almost as much as Kari’s.
This book has touches of light, as well as a very deep darkness. The humans who ‘adopt’ Kari turn out to be the two who killed her parents, Joseph, a man who never likes Kari, and Anne, a woman who has desperately wanted a child of her own and loves Kari. The balance between that situation and Kari’s determination to take revenge makes for a dark, uncomfortable background. And the darkness in the book doesn’t stop at that. The book is really sad, and a lot of bad things happen to the people around Kari, whether or not they’re people Kari intends for bad things to happen to (which isn’t that many, really).
Some of the sadness and the darkness is related to themes of revenge, of trust, of ignorance and hate and independence and loss and other issues that it is perhaps good to consider, or to at least be aware of, as part of real life. At least for some people. For example, while it was dark and uncomfortable and my feelings are mixed, Kari’s loyalty to her parents and the way she feels about them is understandable and I liked it. However, the book does get very sad, and the way that some things are dealt with, especially later in the book, I can’t decide or know how I feel about it until the rest of the series is finished/I read the rest of the series/I know how things fall out/are resolved/get developed further. I can’t tell yet if the underlying theme is despairing, or if this is a story about hope (or what I call hope, which is a lot more confident than the way the word is normally used in English).
Stylistically and in terms of the story-telling, there was a lot I really enjoyed about this book. It’s a character novel. There are hints that it might (or might not) be a chosen one story, but it doesn’t feel like an epic chosen one story, at least not yet. It feels like it’s about Kari, her feelings, friendships, choices, and journey. Who she is and who she wants to be, or her confusion about these things. There are times when it feels very slice of life. Learning history, dealing with bullies, escaping into the woods to do things with Kikki, getting away from celebrations. The story is free about jumping time, narrating the passage of seasons, and just showing us Kari’s life.
I’m going to go into a bit more detail about some of the things in Kari’s life, but since the Continued Review is going to be full of spoilers, I won’t taunt people by having them scroll past it. If you’re interested in that, scroll to the bottom of the post. It will be there.
I asked Valerie a question about Kari. Here’s her response (and my question):
Kari is a really cute wolf-creature. What gave you the idea to write a wolf-demon shifter, and how was it like to write Kari? Not just relating to her physical aspects – her personality as well.
I love when people call Kari “cute,” because I have never been able to think of her that way! To start, I watched a lot of anime growing up, particularly Inuyasha, and I always loved wolves. Younger me kind of molded the two ideas: Kari was my version of Inuyasha, complete with tragic backstory and great villain nemeses, but she was wolf-blooded rather than dog. To that end, Kari was naturally grumpy, a little hateful and distrusting. I don’t remember WHERE the shape shifting came from, but I knew I wanted it. I wanted this wolf girl to be able to become a freaking wolf! The lightning aspect follows suit there, too: I just love electricity as an element and always have. If I was going to make my own character, she was going to do everything I wanted and couldn’t.
Writing Kari has been a huge journey for her and myself. We’ve both grown up and changed a lot; in the beginning, Kari was deep in the roots of her early inspirations. She hated so many people, and with the wolf aspect going on, she would cling to very select individuals. I think young me (ages 10-13) took on the “lone wolf” persona very strongly, so Kari did too. I drew from many inspirations (mostly a lot of anime protagonists, for instance) and created a surly, stubborn girl who REALLY deep down wanted to help the world but didn’t know how. And also, the world kept rejecting her, because drama is so much fun.
Over the years, Kari became something I leaned on when the real world was hard. When I faced loss, bouts of depression, or loneliness, Kari went through the bumps with me. She shared the experiences in the stories I told for her. This made her life (especially in the early bits) tragic, but it was real and true for me. The pain made Kari stronger…and after a while, I saw that it made me stronger, too. I have always hoped her personality shows that, especially in Birth of the Storm where she must adjust and adapt to so much hardship so quickly.
Even compared to early drafts of Birth of the Storm, Kari is almost unrecognizable at times. She cares more easily and wants more from life than making others bleed. She became more human in the sense that she wants friendship, love, a home. Power and strength are important, and Kari knows that, but she has grown to understand there are more valuable things.
During my young adult years, I used Kari as a way to figure myself out. The core of my personality was “I want to make others happy…but people hurt me too much.” Even though I held viciously to that core, I became very bitter at times. With Kari, her story, through her personality, I explored that. Maybe I even saw where the path would take me if I kept going. How heartbreaking life could be if I didn’t make a change.
I guess this is a long way to say: writing Kari was learning who I am as a person through fantastical means. At first she was a whimsy, a dream character that was all mine. Then she was better, more, she was me if I could live the dramatic fantasy life I romanticized in my head. Writing Kari, from her wolfish ears to her stubborn, just-wanting-to-be-loved heart, has been a journey of self-discovery. She is me, and I am her. We laugh together, hurt together, make strong bonds together. Even though she isn’t real in any physical sense, Kari the wolf-demon lives in my soul.
And sometimes, she speaks for herself.
Thanks for sharing that with us! It is really raw, and also speaks to why I loved Kari so much.
Prize: An eBook or Paperback Copy of Birth of the Storm! (US Only)
Starts: July 11, 2022 at 12:00am EST
Ends: July 17, 2022 at 11:59pm EST
And now, let’s get to meet the author, Valerie Storm! (After that, you can read the Continued Review. Or just scroll down now. Whichever interests you more.)
alerie Storm was raised in Tucson, Arizona. Growing up, she fell in love with everything fantasy. When she wasn’t playing video games, she was writing. By age ten, she began to write her own stories as a way to escape reality. When these stories became a full-length series, she considered the path to sharing with other children & children-at/heart looking for a place to call home.
And now, if you want all the spoilers …
The Continued Review:
This one isn’t going to be that long, since there’s just three or four things, basically, that I want to mention.
The first relates to Kari’s revenge. Joseph detests Kari, probably suspects her of being a demon, possibly begrudged his wife’s attention to her, and tries to uncover her. Kari’s desire to kill Joseph is completely unmixed. But with Anne, it is a different matter. Anne does a lot to try love Kari, and Kari begins to wonder if she should kill Anne. If it is right to kill Anne. In the end, right after she kills Joseph, she hesitates and makes a decision. She asks Anne a question: would Anne have taken her in and loved her as her child if she had known what Kari was?
Anne dodges the question, saying simply that she would not been allowed to. I have the feeling if she’d said, “Yes, of course!” or “I would have tried, but we probably would have both been killed,” or something like that, Kari would not have killed her. But she dodges the question, indicating a real flaw in her love for Kari, and Kari kills her.
Judge for yourself, but I think this shows character and thought.
Secondly, but shortly, one of the things that made the book really sad was Kiki’s death. It was really sudden and devastating. Later, she makes another friend, Vivianne, who also dies.
Thirdly, probably the thing that was absolutely most horrible to me was what happens between Kari and the young prince, Ari, who falls in love with her and with whom she is starting to fall in love. The villain, Riniko, convinces Ari that it was Kari who burned his village and hurt and killed his people, and when Kari comes to try to put things right, he doesn’t listen to her and kills her.
And, fourth, after Kiki’s death, she apparently gets trapped by these shadows and convinced that Kari killed and betrayed her. That’s another thing that makes the book quite dark – and I honestly don’t know why freeing Kiki doesn’t become an obsession with Kari during the time that she’s in the village with Ari. It seems like she intends to, but mostly she enjoys life and does things and builds relationships and a life. I expected more of an obsession with solving Kiki’s problem.