Book Review: STORMBLOOD by Jeremy Szal

(Title: Stormblood / Author: Jeremy Szal / Publisher: Gollancz / Publication Date: June 4, 2020 / Pages: 544)

Book Blurb: 
Vakov Fukasawa used to be a Reaper, a biosoldier fighting for the intergalactic governing body of Harmony against a brutal invading empire.  Now, he fights against the stormtech: the DNA of an extinct alien race Harmony injected into him, altering his body chemistry and making him permanently addicted to adrenaline and aggression.  It made him the perfect soldier, but it also opened a new drug market that has millions hopelessly addicted to their own body chemistry.

But when Harmony tells him that his former ally Reapers are being murdered, Vakov is appalled to discover his estranged brother is likely involved in the killings.  They haven't spoken in years, but Vakov can't let his brother down, and investigates.  But the deeper he goes, the more addicted to stormtech he becomes, and Vakov discovers that the war might not be over after all.  It'll take everything he has to unearth this terrible secret, although doing so might mean betraying his brother.  If his own body doesn't betray him first.

My Review:
There are certain books that are difficult to review because they were so good and there was so much going on that you want to be able to do all of it justice.  Problem is, most times you can't, but I will try very hard to see if I can do just that.

STORMBLOOD by Jeremy Szal is also a tough book to categorize.  Part space opera, part SF noir, part military SF, and all action-packed goodness, making this a one of a kind reading experience that leaves you breathless and utterly exhausted by the end.  I really had a fun time with it and there are so many elements that hit the correct chords for me that I'll go over just a few of them.

First, the technology is just off the charts impressive in scope.  Jeremy Szal has done his homework when it comes to creating an original and mind-blowing tech that is unlike anything I've read before.  The concept that the DNA of an extinct alien species (stormtech) can be fused with that of humans to create super soldiers who feed off of violence and adrenaline is just fantastic.  This alien DNA also makes them almost impervious to injury and provides strength beyond measure.  And then going beyond that and showing how after the war many of these "Reapers" are now addicted to stormtech so deeply that they need to be treated at special clinics is something that evokes similar issues happening in our world today.  And the armor, oh the ARMOR!  Just the descriptions of the armor that Vakov has at his disposal is something that Tony Stark would be proud of.

The next thing that really makes STORMBLOOD a cut above many other books is the absolute breakneck action that does not let up for a singe chapter.  There was not a moment that I ever felt comfortable or that things calmed down and allowed me to catch my breath.  It felt like the best action movie I'd ever seen playing out in my mind every time I picked up the book.  I can't emphasize enough how crazy the action sequences are and how they made me nervous, anxious, and downright frightened for the characters at times.  Vakov in particular gets a ton of shit thrown at him.  I've rarely seen a character take so much punishment, both physical and psychological.  He is driven by both his unconditional loyalty and love for his brother and his duty to uncover who may be killing his fellow Reaper friends.   The question of what the motivation is behind it all is a constant mystery throughout.

Finally, I have to mention the characters now that I've touched on Vakov and his brother Artyom.  This is a story that is rooted in brotherhood, whether it be the bond between Vakov and his biological brother or the one with his former Reaper squad.  Vakov knows that his relationship with Artyom may be fractured beyond repair, yet he continually puts himself in life-threatening situations regardless because he just can't believe that all is lost and beyond fixing.  The dynamic between the two for much of the book is one where Artyom wants nothing to do with Vakov.  So it is emotional and powerful to watch as Vakov risks everything for a brother who for all intents and purposes has written him out of his life.  And the inner turmoil that Vakov goes through at even the mere thought that his brother could be assisting those behind the Reaper killings is just heartbreaking.  You constantly want to find out if it can possibly be true while desperately hoping that it is not.  And that tension really raises the story to another level entirely.

There are very few books that will engage you the way that STORMBLOOD does.  It's rare to come across a book that has so much intense action and yet also touches you on a personal and emotional level at the same time.  It's really the best of both worlds as a reader and this book hits you with everything it has from beginning to end.  There is simply no brake pedal, it's foot to the floor the entire time.  I'm in awe of the job that Jeremy Szal has done with this debut novel.  Nobody should be able to pump out a first book like this.  Yet Jeremy has done it and luckily, we the readers are the beneficiaries.

Rating: 9.5/10

Comments

  1. Gotta love a book that is an emotional ride in every way. Great review Nick, touches on all the points I loved about it (THE. AWESOME. ARMORS, right?!). Glad to see you enjoyed this one!

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    1. Thanks Arina! I enjoyed your review a lot too. We were Stormblood buddies today. Lol

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    2. That was on me for not posting on my deadline, but hey, happy we got to share! And thank you, it's always hard to do a good book justice.

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  2. Super job on the review, I can attest that you are not exaggerating. It's a doozy.

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    1. Thanks Ollie! I'm glad you enjoyed the book and also my review of it.

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