REVIEW: Larkstorm by Dawn Rae Miller
Dear Ms. Miller,
This book got my attention due to the lovely cover. Larkstorm has one of the more striking covers I’ve seen lately, especially in a world of self-publishing that is dominated by stock photography. The sample was intriguing, and I was sold, even though I’m rather tired of dystopians. Larkstorm started out strong, but by the end, I felt like the story had begun to fray at the seams a bit.
Larkstorm is the story of Lark, a girl who is months away from graduation. Lark lives in a rigidly structured dormitory with other students and they are waiting for graduation so they will be assigned mates (as breeding is rigidly controlled) and assigned jobs with the State. Lark has things pretty good, though. She is the daughter of the equivalent of the Vice-President, and she knows who her mate is going to be – sweet, funny, charming Beck. Beck is also her roommate at the school, and he has been in love with Lark forever. She is not sure how she feels about him until the day that Beck is taken away from her, accused of being a Sensitive (a person with powers). Sensitives are evil and untrustworthy and removed from society. Lark is shocked and horrified that Beck could be Sensitive and she doesn’t believe it. She goes on a journey to find him, and her entire world changes.
This book starts out with the focus of Lark and Beck. They are the YA equivalent of a friends-to-lovers storyline in that they’ve grown up together and care for each other, but they’re just now beginning to explore more and realize that how they feel about each other is greater than friendship. I thought their relationship was very sweet and was the glue holding the storyline together. The best scenes were the two of them together, and I liked that Beck is clearly beta to Lark’s alpha. She is running the relationship, and Beck is more than happy for her to be the one to decide things.
Unfortunately for me, Larkstorm does a 180 about halfway through the book, when the truth of Lark’s sheltered reality is revealed to the reader.
This had me scratching my head, as I felt that the entire story changed. It was as if I’d gone to a restaurant, ordered a sandwich, and someone brought me a pizza. Pizza is great, but I asked for a sandwich.
This change in the story also added to my confusion about the setting, even more now that new layers had been added. Is this story dystopian or unreliable narrator, or both? I feel as if it’s both, but the trouble is that the dystopian setting at the beginning was so lightly sketched (Why are they in a structured dorm? Why are Sensitives evil? What is the city like that Lark isn’t familiar with money? Why are they so rigidly controlled yet she is saving money for a vacation? What was the Long Winter and why did the world change the way it did? Why did Canadian cities survive if the world was locked in winter and not warmer climate cities?) that when the entire storyline changed halfway through, I struggled to follow it. Lark has been lied to for her entire life, and the story is told through her eyes. I understand that the reader is supposed to be confused right along with Lark, but we also need to know the ground rules so we can tell what is a correct assumption and what is not. I felt that in Larkstorm, the ground rules were never clearly established.
I think you played with some great concepts in this story – the truth of who Lark is [spoiler effect=”blind”]as basically the ‘chosen one’ of the dark side, destined to destroy everyone. How terrific is that? She’s doomed to be the bad guy. I find that refreshing. [/spoiler] I thought this was a really intriguing concept that, done right, could have been a fascinating, very different sort of story. As it was, however, I felt that it just made Lark erratic. Her personality seemed to shift abruptly with the true knowledge of who she was. This could have been well done to carefully show the reader the changes in her over time, but I felt it was hammered into the story in a very obvious manner.
Overall, the romance in Larkstorm is well-done and heartbreaking, but the story and world left me with too many questions to wholeheartedly recommend. It was entertaining reading, though, and I couldn’t put it down once I picked it up. There are some typos and grammatical goofs that probably need an editor’s eye, but not enough to marr the enjoyment of the story.
I’m more than a bit irritated at the cliffhanger ending, however. Does everything in Young Adult require three books? I would have been thrilled if this was a standalone. My grade started as a very warm B+ but as the story moved on and got murkier, I found it sliding down the scale. I do feel it’s a very strong B- read. Good for a rainy day and a sweet romance full of longing, but lacking in the setting. I’m not sure that I’ll pick up book two when it hits, but I’ll at least skim book 3 to see how the romance ends up.