Review: Storm Grey by Sarah Jane Avory

Goodreads Blurb:
Briley the witch and Smokey are back!
Beware of the grey…
A storm is coming, threatening to bring death and destruction to the village of Maepole. Ghroda the forest spirit knows it, and young witch Briley has witnessed its terrifying effects during a vision.
Fraught with worry and unable to convince the villagers, only her talking cat Smokey and the new man in her life Jorin believes her.
But for whatever reason, Ghroda is not concerned about the storm, gives Briley a stark warning:
Beware of the grey… it comes for you…
At first Briley is confused and bewildered.
Until a group of strange warriors from the far north arrive at the village, all heavily armed, all dressed in grey…

The Briley Witch Chronicles series is up to book 6, I think.  I liked the first well enough to give this second one a try. I liked this one too. Smokey the cat is a hoot, I always enjoy a good coming-of-age journey, and it’s an intriguing premise/world.  The writing is designed to be accessible to younger YA readers, well  under the complexity of what I’ve been absorbing lately, so it zipped by incredibly fast. I probably would’ve finished it in a couple of hours if not for a number of issues that jarred me out of the narrative.

I hit a certain threshold of “I’m loving this, but…”  so it goes to a 2.5 on my personal scale and a 3 for Goodreads and Amazon.

But many of my issues are matters of personal preference. The presentation is heavy on exposition and low on explanation; mileage varies a lot on that point alone.

I craved more depth on the background of almost everything. I’m an immersion reader. I love being dumped into an existing setting, but I prefer to know why and how that setting works, not just what it is. I kept being bobbed back to the surfaces of the story’s whats. Things and people were the way they were, with no reasons or history detail sprinkled in to explain them. Why were particular people are trusted or not? Because. Why people are allowed privileges and others are not? Because. Why is the tech level is where it is, and exactly how did systems (economic, social etc)  develop? No idea. That’s where I would’ve loved more exposition. The world is clearly rich, but I felt stuck on the outside of the bubble.

And I know the protagonist is a teen and impulsive, but I got some reader whiplash from her lightning-fast mood changes and continual acting out with the barest of justifications.  I’m not a stickler for the “don’t tell, always show” principle, because after all, it’s called storytelling. BUT. I kept being thrown by people behaving in certain ways, because I was told they believed one thing but they then acted against those beliefs. Other people really like getting full rundowns on characters’ emotional states at all times.

Bottom line: I would say,  trust your first reaction to the Look Inside. It’s a really good story with some excellent twists & turns, plus extra bonus points for some great snappy dialogue. Other elements fall hard into the Your Mileage May Vary category, but the indicators of what those are is pretty clear right from the first chapter.



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