Out of all of the reviews I have done so far this year, I have never been so conflicted when coming up with a rating as I was after finishing Eye of the Storm, a dark fantasy, science fiction novel by Frank Cavallo. While I found almost everything about the novel to be incredibly unique, I found Eye of the Storm to be somewhat frustrating and even a bit confusing at times. Although a number of things are wrapped up in the end, and all good stories have questions that remain unanswered, I found myself wanting more after I finished Eye of the Storm, and, as such, I have constantly been battling back and forth between two and three stars in terms of rating. There were so many things that I thoroughly enjoyed about Eye of the Storm, but there were also a few shortcomings.
*Special thanks to Ravenswood Publishing for allowing us to review Frank Cavallo’s Eye of the Storm.
This review contains quotes and spoilers from the book
From the beginning, Cavallo establishes an extremely detailed world and promises a unique and unheard of adventure. Lead by anthropologist Dr. Anna Fayne and former Navy SEAL turned reality television star, Eric Slade, an expedition is to take place in order to uncover traces of Neanderthals. The expedition, which turns out to be a fruitless journey for quite some, time takes a drastic turn as a mysterious black cloud of flame sucks the group of anthropologists into another world. One that is incredibly dangerous and full of extinct and fantastical creatures.
From various species of dinosaur to amphibian creatures, and even different types of Neanderthal, Cavallo establishes an incredibly varied foreign world that is both a wonder and a form of hell to the astonished group of scientists. Searching for answers to the mysterious time travel scenario, the explorers search the islands for two years, only to face death due to a lack of food and supplies, leaving only Anna and Slade, who find themselves captured and taken to a slave market.
Although I will admit that I was initially interested in the mysterious black flame portal, I already felt as though there were too many fantastical elements in the story. While Cavallo’s writing skills are great and there is an incredible amount of detail given in regard to descriptions of the characters, their personalities, and their clothing, I felt as though some aspects were lacking in the detail department, particularly where the dinosaurs are concerned. Everyone knows about dinosaurs, but when it comes to specific types of dinosaurs, I honestly wouldn’t know the difference between the lesser known species. Almost every time a dinosaur was mentioned I found that I couldn’t envision it clearly. On the other hand, there were a few small touches regarding some of the details given to the Neanderthals that I could clearly picture them. In particular, I loved how Cavallo casually threw in the proper pronunciation of the word Neanderthal.
As we move through the first part of the book, things begin to change. Not only is the book separated into different parts, but almost every other chapter features a different third person perspective. In the beginning, Cavallo introduces the reader to two different worlds within the new kingdom, one that is inhabited by Anna and Slade as they fight for survival in the wilderness, and another that introduces and follows the royal family and kingdom of Tulkoras. After Anna and Slade are captured, the two worlds slowly begin to converge before breaking off once more.
Very quickly the reader is introduced to a number of different characters and place names, the most important of which are: King Chernos, (Queen) Threya, Kerr, Azreth, and Tarquin, along with Anna and Slade. Shortly after Anna and Slade are captured, they are rescued by Kerr, a disease ridden servant to the King of Tulkoras, due to the fact that he is one of the few in the land that recognizes English. Initially bought in order to fulfill traditional sacrificial rights regarding a transfer of power, as the King is on his deathbed and Threya is soon to be crowned Queen, the two outsiders manage to avoid death in different ways.
Without revealing too much, Slade, in a twist of fate, ends up becoming the protector of the Queen just before he is to be sacrificed due to his skills as a warrior. Anna, on the other hand, manages to escape death by achieving immortality (in a sense). How? In short, Anna is sent by Kerr to Tarquin while she struggles to survive after a battle that ensues before they even arrive in Tulkoras. Tarquin, known as a dark sorcerer, reveals that he has the power to control the black flame that held a role in bringing them to the unknown and dangerous world. Using the mysterious power, Tarquin preforms complex magic to restore Anna to life, or rather, to make her a part of his undead army.
Bits and pieces of Tarquin’s past and ability to speak English are revealed as the reader learns more about the history of Tulkoras. A group of technologically advanced founders were able to learn about and control the black flame and its counterpart, the eye of the storm, to create different dimensions in portals and time, which is how so many different species ended up in the vast, unfamiliar world. Although Tarquin controls the power of the black flame, the eye of the storm and the items necessary to summon it, are controlled by the people of Tulkoras. Hence, the inevitable battle for the eye of the storm as a complex plot of treachery and betrayal is slowly unveiled.
The eye is no place for a living thing. It exists between dimensions, moving in and out of a billion times and places every instant. To stand within it is to lose yourself to eternity, a little at a time.
— excerpt from Frank Cavallo’s Eye of the Storm
Although Cavallo creates an incredibly complex and unique world that is full of fascinating objects and theories, including the ideas behind the founders, advancements in technology, and the eye of the storm itself, there are a few things that feel a little unnecessary throughout the course of the novel. The long journey to gain the power of the eye of the storm, in the end, feels as though it is for nothing, at least from my perspective, as its power is never used in the originally intended manner due to unforeseen circumstances.
In the end, however, Eye of the Storm was a strangely satisfying read. Full of detailed imagery and an adventurous sci-fi journey, there are so many portions of the novel that Cavallo brings to life. From the detailed descriptions of the black flame and the eye of the storm to an unexpected cyborg reveal, Eye of the Storm is a delightfully unique science fiction novel that has its fair share of ups and downs.