In a land ruled by prophecy and the whims of gods, a young man finds himself at the heart of a war he barely understands, wielding powers he may never be able to control.
Isak is a white-eye, born bigger, more charismatic, and more powerful than normal men. But with that power comes an unpredictable temper and an inner rage he cannot always hide. Brought up as a wagon-brat, feared and despised by those around him, he dreams of a place in the army and a chance to live his own life. But when the call comes, it isn’t to be a soldier, for the gods have other plans for the intemperate teenager: Isak has been chosen as heir-elect to the brooding Lord Bahl, the white-eye Lord of the Farlan.
The white-eyes were created by the gods to bring order out of chaos, for their magnetic charm and formidable strength makes them natural leaders of men. Lord Bahl is typical of the breed: he inspires and oppresses those around him in equal measure. He can be brusque and impatient, a difficult mentor for a boy every bit as volatile as he is.
But now is the time for the forging of empires. With mounting envy and malice, the men who would themselves be kings watch Isak, chosen by gods as flawed as the humans who serve them, as he is shaped and molded to fulfill the prophecies that circle him like scavenger birds. Divine fury and mortal strife is about to spill over and paint the world with blood.
The Stormcaller is the first book in a powerful new series that combines inspired world-building, epoch-shattering battles, and high emotion to dazzling effect.
About the Author
Tom Lloyd was born in 1979 in Berkshire. After a degree in International Relations he went straight into publishing where he still works. He never received the memo about suitable jobs for writers and consequently has never been a kitchen-hand, hospital porter, pigeon hunter, or secret agent. He lives in South London, isn’t one of those authors who gives a damn about the history of the font used in his books and only believes in forms of exercise that allow him to hit something. Visit him online at http://www.tomlloyd.co.uk
Read an Excerpt
The Stormcaller Book One of the Twilight Reign
By Tom Lloyd
Copyright © 2008
All right reserved.
Chapter One In the dark corners of the night he dreams of the silent palace by the shore: a place where harsh sunlight and leaden shadows are cast over the white marble of its corridors. Without the cries of seabirds or the whistle of wind over flagstones the silence here is profound, broken only by the occasional faint break of a wave on the rocks outside and his own hurried heartbeat.
He finds himself in an immense hexagonal hall, looking down at incomprehensible script carved into the floor. The strange words corkscrew slowly in from a dark doorway to the foot of a spiral staircase, the hall's only other feature. It rises up from the floor, twisting thirty yards up through the air, then somehow fails to quite meet the hall's flat ceiling, stopping less than a yard short.
Prayer or curse, he follows the oblique path of writing around and around until finally he reaches the staircase. Each step has a symbol cut into its centre, runes he has never seen before. After a pause he places his foot squarely on the first and continues in that way, eyes moving always to the next shape, until he reaches the top. The air feels thinner up here. It looks a dizzying drop to the floor below when he leans over the balustrade. Then he squeezes through a hatchway in the ceiling and finds himself staring up from the floor of a cavernous domed shrine.
The palace is a shell, an unfinished work of altarless temples and blank crumbling memorials. In every direction he can see high halls, empty of everything but countless statues carved from the same ancient stone as the walls. Through the vaulted windows, even the waves lapping at the sunblasted beach appear unreal. He has never ventured out to dip his fingers in that ocean or tasted the salt on the air or felt the touch of the sun on his skin.
Drifting down the yard-deep steps of an oval assembly hall, he feels exposed and vulnerable. An old woman once told him that the Gods decide your fate in such a chamber; they argue and debate over your birth until the course of your entire life is set. But there are no compassionate voices to speak for him here, no sound other than that of his bare feet on stone, muted, like the echo of a dead song.
He knows where his path will eventually take him. It's the same place every time, but still he walks through unknown rooms and down hanging walkways, always hoping that the next turning will be the way out. Once more he finds himself in a gigantic chamber, where a stretch of wall fifty yards long has been savagely ripped open. Picking his way over the rubble he enters the forest of statues inside. Monsters and heroes stand in stony readiness, waiting for the day they will be revived for some final cataclysm. A terrace lies through the pillars on the other side of the immense space. After the miles he's walked, another few hundred yards is too far for his legs to carry him. Fear liquefies his muscles and drags him down to hide behind the heel of some brave dead warrior, watching and waiting.
He sees a large man standing in the centre of the hall, terrible and powerful, as if the greatest of these statues has somehow come to life. He knows the man will die-that enormous strength means nothing to what stalks this place-even before a black-armoured knight appears from nowhere to attack the man. He sees a huge fanged blade tear at the man's flesh, watches it sever the head. Terror smoulders deep in his gut: he knows the blade will one day rip into his own frail body. And then he sees something horrific in the killer's face-the curse he shares. The palace fades. The blood pales. All that remains is the burning light of that gaze.
* * *
Isak lay motionless, tracing the familiar cracks and veins in the roof struts while his legs protested the lack of space in the cramped caravan. These dreams, though infrequent, had haunted his nights for as long as he could remember. Even though he was, in all other things, a stoical youth, they could still reduce him to a cowering child. The visions were so real he sometimes woke retching in dread. Shame crept over him at the thought. He was older now, old enough to be called an adult, and yet his dreams frightened him more than any man could. For a time he remained still, tracing the grain of the wood above to calm his pounding heart.
The clutter and dirt were reassuringly normal, and welcome for once. Finally sitting upright, Isak stretched and massaged the sleep from his long limbs until the tingle of a jolting wooden bed had receded. He tugged his ragged shirt into some semblance of order and pushed long fingers through his black, matted hair. He ignored the worn, filthy shoes that lay discarded in one corner. Looking out through the rear curtains he could see the warm weather continued. A scavenger bird hung limp in the deliciously blue sky, while swallows swooped and rose after the last of the morning's prey. Back home, summer would be long dead, but here it took the Land longer to accept that autumn had arrived. For the moment, insects and beaming flowers still reigned.
Through the fug of the enclosed room came a faint breeze, bringing with it a scent that was as different as the weather. Here the warm smell of clay-rich earth and wild thyme pervaded everything, though the damp resinous odour of home lingered in his mind. The dark loamy soil of the Great Forest to the north bore no resemblance to this sticky red dirt. They still had far to travel; he guessed another week at least would pass before the view started to change, so until then, he'd just enjoy the weather.
Isak poked his head out to where his father, Horman, sat with the reins swinging casually from his hand and one leg braced up over the footplate as usual. Dressed in similarly rough and patched clothes, Isak's father bore little resemblance to his son beyond the dark hair and pale complexion common to all of their tribe. He was smaller, with a scrappy beard that failed to conceal his perpetual scowl; Horman looked aged beyond his physical years, as if spite had drained his youth as well as his joy. Rusty earth stained his breeches and loose shirt. His black eyes flickered at the sound of Isak's movement but narrowed when he saw his son's face. He flicked up his coiled whip, but Isak dodged out of habit and it caught only air. There was nothing he could do to avoid the look of resentment that followed.
"So you decided to stir at last? It must be three hours since dawn. You're here to work, not to spend the night running the wilds. Sometimes I wonder why I keep you around at all." His father hawked and spat into the parched dust of the road, then returned his gaze to the distant horizon.
Isak answered bitterly, "and then you remember that I'm as good as a slave to you. In any case, it's not as if you could manage yourself."
This time the whip was wielded with purpose; Isak's retort was rewarded with an angry welt down his cheek.
"Shut your mouth, unless you want worse. And don't think you're getting any breakfast, not when I had to set the traces myself this morning. You didn't even catch anything last night-you're even more useless than the rest of your damn kind." Horman sighed. "Merciful Nartis, save us from white-eyes. No doubt Carel's fool enough to feed you, so get out of my sight or you'll get more of this." He twitched his whip and returned his attention to the road.
Isak vaulted the rail and leapt effortlessly on to the dusty ground. It was only as he trotted past similar wagons, ignoring the stares of their occupants, that he realised the pace of the whole train had been increased. They were two weeks behind deadline. Obviously the wagon-master preferred to punish the horses for his own drunken stupidity.
A long-dead river had carved this mighty path through the Land, stirring life for miles around, but that had been in another age. Now the summer heat baked everything to the same dusty brown and it took an effort to find the hidden beauty of this place: the strange nocturnal creatures, the scented mosses concealed under rocks, the camouflaged plants bursting with colour underneath. All Isak's father saw was the desiccated channel they drove down. It was too much effort to drag his damaged leg up the bank so the only things to break his horizon were the twin mountains to the south.
Isak ran over to one of the lead caravans and leapt up on to the driving seat with the carelessness of familiarity. The driver, like Isak himself, was a man apart from the rest of this inbred community. Carel made no comment other than to smile wearily at Isak's arrival. His crinkled face belied his strength and age-Carel was close in years to Isak's father, but where bile had aged one, experience had marked the other.
His black hair, now heavily seamed with white, was long, plaited three times, and tied back with copper wire, which declared to the world that he was a mercenary-but the white embroidery on his collar and the white leather threaded through the plaits set him above being a mere sword for hire. Carel-Sergeant Betyn Carelfolden-was a Ghost, a legend within their small group. He had retired from the Palace Guard of Lord Bahl, the Lord of the Farlan, a handful of summers after Isak's birth. Membership of that élite regiment guaranteed a position in society that could not be bought. Everyone respected the Ghosts of Tirah.
"Horman not in the best of moods today, then? Here, take the reins, I could do with a break."
Isak took the reins from Carel's hand and watched as the man stretched, then fumbled for his pipe. The horse, unimpressed, snorted scorn at its new handler.
Carel was the only person in the wagon train to treat Isak as if he were normal. Being born to parents who had been servants on a suzerain's estate, coupled with years of hard soldiering, had taught the mercenary to look beyond appearance, something for which Isak was always grateful.
"He's never in the best of moods," Isak grumbled. "Yesterday he pushed a knife right into my hand, just for touching that green ring of mother's." He held up his hand, displaying the ugly, dark-red scab.
"Well then, you deserved it." Carel wasn't going to let his fondness for the boy stand in the way of a lesson. "You know perfectly well what that ring means to him. Just leave her things alone. It's all he has left. At least you heal much faster than the rest of us. Be grateful for that."
"He has more of her than I do. All I have is the blame for her death." Isak sighed.
"And such is life," replied the mercenary without a trace of sympathy. He was Isak's friend, but that didn't mean Isak got special treatment. "You are what you are-that in itself is enough for most, and more for Horman. He really loved your mother. Why antagonise him?"
There was no reply. Isak just sat there looking sullen, unable to admit defeat.
"Fine, enough talk of your father. Are you looking forward to joining the Palace Guard? After Silvernight you can take the trials without your father's permission."
"What's the point?" Isak ran a fingernail along a groove in the wood. "I'll never be a Ghost-why would they want someone like me?"
"You won't be an outcast all your life, I promise you that. Do you think I would bother to waste my time teaching you to fight despite what that lot think?" Carel jabbed a thumb back at the wagons following. "These people aren't like most Farlan. You might never be popular, but the tribe has a use for you, sure enough. I've fought side-by-side with your kind, and there's far worse than your childish temper in the ranks of the Ghosts-men who'd have been hanged years back if they weren't so happy to be in the front line. You're all a dangerous lot, but you've more of a mind than most and the Swordmasters will see that. Just remember me when you become General Isak."
The veteran smiled and Isak smiled back. Carel didn't suffer fools or time wasters. There had to be something to his words, or all the hours of drilling and sparring would have been for nothing. Isak knew he could best Carel with a weapon-even a weighted training stick against a sword-but that wasn't the problem. All white-eyes were preternaturally fast, and strong, but it was this very power that scared normal people. Isak had had that demonstrated to him almost every day of his life.
Carel insisted there were others like him in the Guard, but no one ever saw them. If it were true, clearly they were not trusted with keeping the peace on Tirah's streets; they were used only in the slaughter of battle.
"I suppose you're right," Isak admitted. "I just daren't allow myself to hope. But I'll take any chance to get away from this lot, even if I have to break Father in two to do it."
This disrespect earned him a clip round the ear, one that would have been painful to anyone else, but Isak bore it without flinching. Every child in the train had felt the back of Carel's hand at one time or another, but it made no difference: they all loved him-and his stories. But no one else in the train understood Carel's obvious affection for the wild white-eye, and all Carel would say was that in Isak he recognised the angry young man he himself had been.
The wagoners were a community held together by blood ties as much as poverty. Most of the year was spent on the road and even in Farlan territory they kept to themselves. The caravan was the only home Isak had ever known, but it was not where he was welcome; only in the wild places did he find some comfort of belonging. The presence of others always reminded him that he was blessed and cursed in equal measure-and that men feared both. White-eyes were born to be protectors of the Seven Tribes, but jealousy and fear had demonised his kind and now many saw them as symbols of the Land's polluted soul.
Carel grimaced at the boy. "You're as sulky and bad-tempered as your father. I think you've inherited more than you lot normally do."
"Perhaps he's just particularly unpleasant," retorted Isak sourly.
"Perhaps so, but he's not too bad a man to others. Your problem is that you have the look of your mother. He sees her in your face, and that brings out the worst in him. If you didn't get at him so, you might not have to spend your life trying to stop yourself fighting back."
Isak turned his head sharply to meet the mercenary's knowing expression. As he looked into those dark eyes he saw the twinkle of humour that had brightened his childhood and relaxed. Carel might be the only one who could see his internal struggle, but he was also the only one who understood it.
"White-eyes are pretty much the same, whatever the tribe," he continued, tapping out his pipe on the rail beside him. The curl of a smile hung on his lips as he fixed a fond gaze on the youth. "You remember I told you about Sergeant Kulet? Now that one was a bastard, the worst white-eye I've ever met. Man killed his entire family when he was sixteen-well, 'cept his mother of course, but we can't blame any of you white-eyes for the size you were as a baby. The ones to blame are the Gods, and most folk aren't that stupid.
"Anyway, the Swordmaster wasn't allowed to execute Kulet. The high priest of Nartis stepped in and said a birthmark on his face showed Kulet'd been touched by Nartis." Carel gave a snort of scorn. "Touched by a daemon more like, if you ask me, but that birthmark was as blue as a temple door, no doubt about it. We kept him just drunk enough to spend most of the day telling jokes-the bugger could make me laugh even more than your foolery can-otherwise he'd get bored and start a fight in the barracks. But when you saw him on the battlefield-well, merciful Death! If you had Kulet next to you, you were glad. He fought like a man possessed, never gave ground, never left the man next to him vulnerable. You knew you were safe in his lee."
Carel took a long pull on his pipe, then tapped Isak on the head with it. "Smile; you're one of the blessed. You're all violent, insolent, brooding, and heartless. You make the best soldiers because you're twice as strong and half as caring. Don't take that wrong, you're like a son to me, but I've known many. Behind the eyes you've all got something barely under control. P'raps it's worse for you-your father never was good at taking orders either-but no white-eye was ever as meek as a lamb. Obey your father till the spring and then you're free, I promise. Just keep your temper until then."
"I hardly feel like I'm blessed."
"Ah boy, the Land is harsh. It's a cruel place and it needs white-eyes to tame it. The Gods knew that when they made the first of you to be born. The last of the Farlan line was their model, and scripture tells he was no court jester." Carel clapped a hand on Isak's shoulder and tugged him round to look him in the eye. There was an almost wistful tone to his voice when he spoke again. "Our Gods might be great and powerful, but they've never needed to be subtle."
Excerpted from The Stormcaller Book One of the Twilight Reign by Tom Lloyd Copyright © 2008 by Tom Lloyd. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Lloyd was a little slow to grab me, so if you feel that it is not for you give it a chapter or two more and you will most like be pleased... once Tom's full cast of fabulous characters are introduced his story takes a definite turn for the exiting... it kind of does not slow down once it gets started. I really love his attitude towards the meme's of the genre... I think he loves them so he does not rest on them alone. Love him as much as Steven Erikson and well that is high praise in my books.
This was such a fabulous book and I found myself so absorbed in it that I hardly managed to put it down. Lloyed is an eloquent story teller who created a dark, vivid and enthralling world with fascinating creatures(known and unknown) in it, which made it an interesting read. The book exceeded my expectations by far and I am not dissapointed. I very much liked the idea of the "white eyes" which are a stronger, bigger and more violent version of the " ordinary humans " who were created by the gods to rule the lands and the people. The characters are detailed and well developed and the story benefits from a bunch of characters with strong personalities. The main character the " white eye" Isak is a fascinating personality with a lot of flaws and fears. It was refreshing to have a hero who has fears, suffers from uncertanties and has a violent temper which he finds at times difficult to control, compared to a lot of "shining - we know it all" heros. Isak's complex nature made him a very intriguing and charismatic character. The action in the book was well paced, politics were complex but not overpowering the story and easy to follow, the magic was interesting.Tom Lloyed managed to create a vivid world with great characters, a rich history with a sense of descriptive details and originality although he reused some of the common concepts such as elves and dragons. I very much enjoyed this book and look forward to read the other installments in this series.
A barely passable fantasy novel about an orphan who becomes a demi-god in standard teen fantasy mode. The biggest problem with the book seems to be the length as there are sections that are excellent with plenty of character and imagination but its having to read the leaden prose that links them that brings down the whole experience.Also does a fantastically bad job of catching individual voices. All the characters talk in a near identical, stilted fashion.
This was a very good book, but it gets extremely confusing at times. The author is constantly introducing new characters and side stories, and he tries to build the entire book's history all at once. It can get hard to follow, especially with so many names, but if you can keep up, it's a very intriguing and detailed novel.
I understand this is Mr. Lloyds first book, thus the 3 star rating. I found the basic story very good but I became confused with so many characters being introduced THROUGHOUT the book. I also found after the first 200 pages, it really got to the meat of his tale. The story has an abundance of "word-merchanting" detail which to some extent is helpful but a bit overboard.. All in all I would reccomend this for reading and would be interested in the sequel, but I'll be careful to read any excerpts to see if he can flow more evenly with the story and not jump around and leave me hanging.
No text was provided for this review.
White eyed are elitists as they are the chosen ones of the Gods. They are always physically and intelligently superior to the inferior non-white eyes and on top of those advantages can use magic too. Besides obvious envy from the nonentitites, their quick rage has left the ¿nons¿ fearing the white eyed.----------- Isak is a white eye who killed his ¿non¿ mother in childbirth his father loathes his wagonbrat offspring who he is unable to discipline as they travel as peasants in a caravan. When the lad turns sixteen he is selected as an heir to white-eyed Lord Bahl of the powerful realm of Farlan. Like his mentor and all white-eyed, Isak can be brutally nasty and impatient yet also inspiring all within nanoseconds. The God of Storms presents Isak with the armour and sword of a legendary elven king who was the last monarch of all the land a prophesy that insists the wearer will be a great ruler. Meanwhile vampires are roaming the land attacking humans and the elves want their armour back. War is imminent, but Isak feels unworthy to lead the human counter attack especially against the vicious elven horde.-------------- Book one of the Twilight Reign is an exciting fantasy thriller with the similar problems that most opening acts of a genre saga struggle with: introducing the cast and their pecular traits. In this case, the uniquenss of the wagonbrat suddenly transported into a world of affluence is deftly handled as the reader sees what Isak observes: bewilderment, confusion and strangeness like a fish out of the sea. Building from that premise, Tom Lloyd provides a deep first tale as THE STORMCALLER introduces fans to a unique refreshing world through a stunned teen who goes from unwanted to wanted in a blink.-------------- Harriet Klausner