Skip to main content

“…Blessed is she who never discovers her talent. -The Redemption”

The Storm Beneath the World by Michael R Fletcher is a unique new fantasy series by a man who is often referred to as the Indie Joe Abercrombie. Fletcher is actually a hybrid author with his Manifest Delusions series being trad published while most of his other works are self published. Despite being both a Grimdark and Indie Fantasy reader for the better part of ten years now I had never before read a Fletcher novel. I can’t exactly pinpoint why this is the case but I do have to admit I’ve never particularly loved the style choice of his book covers. I’ll fully admit that this is a ridiculous reason not to have read one of his books before but I’ve never claimed to be entirely reasonable either…

The Storm Beneath the World was quite the trip and definitely unique. The sentient beings in this world are giant insects called the Ashkaro whose society is matriarchal and has a rigid caste system. Those with bright carapaces sit at the top of the pyramid and those with dull carapaces are at the bottom. Females are faster and more deadly than males, who were the worker drones before the Ashkaro achieved sentience. Females live twice as long and they definitely run the show.

A religion called The Redemption polices the population both for subversive thought and speech, as well as watching for any magical ability. Research or speech that doesn’t fit the official teachings of the Redemption is a good way to be killed or banished.

Magical abilities called “Talents” are dangerous and inevitably lead to a descent into madness and eventually death. Talents can be absolutely anything at all. One PoV character has a talent for persuasion and anything he tells someone to do becomes a compulsion. Using one’s Talent gives the Ashkaro an almost orgasmic level of pleasure and causes them to neglect themselves. Eventually Talented will die from that neglect. Those whose Talents aren’t dangerous will be banished and those with dangerous Talents are often killed.

The Ashkaro live on giant floating islands travelling the eternal River of Days. If an island floats too high then the Ashkaro run out of oxygen and if they float too low the Ashkaro would be burned in the hellish firestorm below.

These moving floating islands are at the heart of the plot of The Storm Beneath the World. Two of the major islands begin moving closer to each other. This will inevitably lead to a war between the societies living on the two islands. In this case one of the islands is progressive and allows males some semblance of equality. The other island follows an older way of life that strictly enforces the  old ways and belief systems.

With this looming conflict one of the queendoms decides that instead of banishing or killing the youth who begin displaying dangerous talents they must use them to protect their island. The youths will come from both high and low castes and must navigate the prejudice and danger that learning to use their powers will subject them to.

While I have never read any of Fletcher’s other books after reading The Storm Beneath the World I will rectify that soon. The writing was simply amazing and I was into that Movie in my Mind almost immediately. I was worried that it would take me some time to understand this unique insect based world but Fletcher’s skill is such that I had absolutely no issues at all. Fletcher was able to somehow use the perfect amount of description to help me understand what was going on but not so much that the story got bogged down.

I was especially fond of the quotes and short clips, that were supposed to be from writings within the world, at the beginning of each chapter that helped with world building. I love the magical school as a trope and it was used to great effect in this book. Our characters were supposed to be preparing to fight their enemies but also had to deal with prejudices within their own societies as well.

Below you can see my full review on my YouTube Channel.

The Storm Beneath the World
The Storm Beneath the World
The Storm Beneath the World
The Storm Beneath the World
The Storm Beneath the World
The Storm Beneath the World
The Storm Beneath the World
The Storm Beneath the World
Cameron Scaggs

Purveyor of the Nerd Book Review YouTube Channel. Lover of Indie Fantasy.

Leave a Reply