The Finding Sky series by Joss Stirling was something I stumbled upon by accident, so when I got her new book, Storm and Stone, through the post, I was pretty happy.
I delved into Storm and Stone expecting more of what I'd found in the Finding Sky series - some danger, a little bit of angst, a whole lot of romance and a happy ending.
Instead, I got quite a lot of angst, and a crime story nestled in between a tale of growing up and surviving secondary school. In Storm and Stone Stirling has taken a typical tale of growing up - complete with Mean Girls - and stuck in a healthy dose of mystery.
American student Raven Stone starts off the new term at her English boarding school with a missing roommate and an encounter with the bitchiest girl around, who is set on making life for Raven as difficult as possible. With few friends, Raven finds herself striking up conversation with the new boys, Kieran Storm and his friend Joe Masters. But the new guys aren't what they seem, and neither are some of the students she goes to school with, who have weirdly morphed into Stepford kids.
As mentioned, Storm and Stone is primarily a novel about growing up. Raven faces bullies (really, really mean bullies) and family problems. She experiences the wonderful feeling of having a crush on someone who seems to have no interest in you (note the sarcasm) and is constantly trying to figure out why she doesn't fit in. There's at least something that Raven goes through that every female can relate to and has gone through at some point in their life.
While Raven tries to navigate life, she's also thrust into a mystery which seems almost impossible to unravel. All around her, students are disappearing and then coming back, devoid of their original personalities and more inclined to turn on the not-so-perfect, very human Raven. Although this might seem unrealistic, Stirling makes this plot point seem realistic by having Raven's friend Gina turn into one of these shells, causing her to completely ignore Raven. While most of us have probably never had brainwashed friends, I can definitely think of instances in my life where one day you were best friends with someone, and the next day they completely ignored you. Throwing Gina into the mix makes the mystery surrounding Raven much more believable.
I must throw in a mention of Kieran, Raven's love interest. There's no insta-love between the pair, thank goodness, but there is the more realistic insta-attraction. That's followed by the fact that Kieran is a very flawed human when it comes to emotions and communicating with people, even if he is super clever and a young James Bond of sorts. It's great to see a love interest with so many faults, and to have a love interest called up on those faults by the author, instead of having them ignored (coughEdwardfromTwilightcough).
Storm and Stone is a dark read at times. One section where Raven is attacked is particularly brutal, and seems like it's going to end very, very badly. Stirling isn't afraid to address tough issues like bullying, although some of her bullies don't get the comeuppance they deserve, even though they bullied her long before the events of the book took place. The central mystery is also a little weak, only because I felt the villains were a little one-sided and we didn't see enough of them for them to justify what they were doing. Since the focus of the book was Raven though, I understand why this was, as she also didn't see much of the criminals.
Overall though, Storm and Stone is a solid read, especially if you're looking to read some genre YA. With its mix of crime and mystery, Storm and Stone is a great alternative to all the YA dystopia out there.
How I got this book: From Oxford University Press for review
•Storm and Stone is released on February 6 2014.