So I have to say, Roar was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I received it in the June Fairyloot box, and was immediately drawn in by the premise – magical storms? Y E S. However, there were some parts of Roar that I wasn’t the biggest fan of. I’ll be splitting my review pretty much into two sections to cover this – the fantasy elements, and the romance.
First off, a bit about the book. As I mentioned, Roar is set in Caelira, a world plagued by powerful, magical storms. Each city is ruled by a Stormling family, who have the power to control and diminish the storms when they attack. Aurora/Rora/Roar is the last heir of the reigning Stormling family in Pavan, and is shortly expected to take the throne. However, Roar has never shown any affinity for storm magic – a secret that her and her mother have desperately been trying to hide from the people of Pavan. Roar’s mother plans an arranged marriage between Roar and the second heir of the Locke’s (another powerful Stormling family) but when Roar is dissuaded from marrying him, she comes across a secret that has been kept from her – it’s possible to obtain storm magic as well as inherit it. All she needs to do is face down a storm and steal its heart.
*disclaimer: there will be very slight possible spoilers in this review – I’ve marked where they are if you want to skip over them!*
The fantasy world within Roar was definitely unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I’m fascinated by storms, so a world filled with magical storms that have personalities, temperaments and even hearts immediately drew me in. Although there was a lot of information given about the storms, how they worked and how they were stopped, there definitely wasn’t too much info dumping but at the same time, enough information was given for me to understand the inner workings of Caelira and its storms. Often with books like this, which include extensive and new magical elements, I find myself flipping back and forth to double check facts, indexes etc, but I didn’t need to do this with Roar. There was also another aspect to the magical storms, which is revealed towards the end of the book, that I definitely didn’t see coming and made the fantasy aspects of this book even more multi-layered. However, I won’t go into it any further as it’s quite a big spoiler!
Roar Pavan certainly seems like a ‘typical YA protagonist’ on the outside – to start off with, she’s a princess, not to mention the facts that she’s beautiful and is at least supposed to have some sort of powerful magic that only the ruling classes are believed to be able to inherit. However, Roar’s depth and character development ran much deeper than her outward appearance and the initial tropes attached to her character. I could certainly see her confidence growing as the book went on, she was constantly willing to learn to improve herself and her skills, and she always took others opinions into consideration. Somewhere towards the beginning of the book, Roar is told about the way the military mistreats the regular working classes of the city (and those who don’t have citizenship). Roar then thinks that, although she always found her mother’s soldiers to be kind, she should not overlook what people from other backgrounds had to say about them as they would obviously treat her better since she’s their princess. The erasure of the experiences of those who aren’t royalty or aristocracy isn’t something that’s often dealt with in fantasy YA (although it almost always happens) so although this was only a small paragraph, it’s something that actually really stood out to me about both Roar’s character and the author’s writing.
Roar is filled with secondary characters, but two who really stood out to me were Nova and Jinx. Nova works in the palace and was once close to Roar, before Roar was forced to push her away so she didn’t find out about her lack of storm magic. She later becomes quite a prominent character in the book and I found her really interesting, and would love to learn more about her back story! Jinx is one of the storm hunters who Roar meets, and as daft as it sounds, she’s just so nice, and so interesting! In a world filled with storm magic, Jinx is a witch who specialises in earth magic, and it was really interesting to read how her magic could affect storms.
Now, here’s the one aspect of the entire book that I just couldn’t get on with. So, although there’s no love triangle, there are two love interests in this book – Cassius Locke (the aforementioned Stormling prince) and a stormhunter who goes by Locke (I know, confusing, right? Locke is from Locke, and so was given that name as a nickname. anyway). Cassius is immediately portrayed as abusive and manipulative, and Roar sees right through him. Luckily, he’s not around for long. However, although Locke is portrayed as the better option for Roar, he still has very abusive traits. Multiple times he attempts to touch Roar or pull her towards him, and whilst she does put her foot down and either tell him no or hit him, he doesn’t let this deter him. The guy seriously needs to take a hint and go and learn more about the meaning of the word consent. Ok, he may love Roar (I’m not sure how since I’m fairly sure their time together spans a few weeks at most, but that’s the least of this romance’s problems) but still, let the girl make her own mind up, don’t manhandle her! For example, one of the instances I’m talking about happens the first time that they kiss (or should I say, the first time Roar agrees to kiss Locke). Roar admits that she’s never been kissed by anyone before, and Locke then proclaims that he therefore owns her lips. Just, what? No part of any woman is your property, mate. Calm down.
Anyway (SLIGHT SPOILER), Roar does fall for Locke after a period of time, however, this is something else that troubles me. They certainly have bonding time throughout the book during which she could’ve fell in love with him, but what worries me is how the way Locke treated her plays into them getting together. Did she actually fall for him after spending a lot of time with him, or did she just think she may as well get it over with to lessen his advances? I do genuinely think the author intended for them to have a slow burning period of falling for each other, but I know others may read more into the beginning of their relationship and be concerned by what people could take away from that.
Overall, it’s my humble opinion that both love interests were unnecessary. I think that the fantasy, Roar herself, and the other secondary characters were really strong, but the romance(s) let this book down. Locke would’ve been perfect just being Roar’s instructor and friend (and who knows, maybe if the two of them had been slower and got together in the sequel, I would’ve been happier about it). In some ways, I feel as though this book had such a huge emphasis on romance because it’s the genre that most of Cora Carmack’s other books fall under – this is her first YA fantasy (and frankly, for a debut in a different genre, it’s brilliant!). I’m not saying this as a negative point, but perhaps the sequel will rely less on it. I do also want to point out that (again, slight spoiler) at the end of the book, Roar does choose to go back to Pavan in order to help her mother and her people, when she could’ve chosen to turn her back on her home and carry on travelling with Locke and his crew. So, at least, the romance didn’t come over Roar’s character in this aspect.
I feel as though this review may sound quite critical and negative, but honestly, I really enjoyed this book and if it wasn’t for the romance, I definitely would have given it five stars and I’m still very much looking forward to reading the sequel! I will say though that you should be careful if you’ve experienced abusive relationships in the past.
Love Becky @