Someone who'd been part of Musa back in the day was asking around for reviewers for this new release, Stormdancer by Joshua Pantalleresco. It's narrative poetry, a science fictional story told all in verse. That sounded unique enough to pique my interest, so I said sure.
At the outset, let me say that I haven't read a lot of long poetry of this sort, except for older works that I read back in college. I love poetry, but I tend to prefer the shorter varieties, and works that emphasis rhythm and sound and elusive meanings more than straightforward narrative. So this was something new for me, a chance to dip into a different storytelling style.
Stormdancer begins with one narrator telling about something new that has begun and the small group of people he feels some sort of protective sense for: "this isn't just my story anymore / walking back to my own, I grow nervous / will they like the world I created?"
After two brief sections with him that ends with his disappearance, the poem switches to a new narrator. Kristen is one of that small group he'd gathered, and she now tells her story of chasing after the original narrator, trying to find where he's gone and rescue him if need be.
The journey, and the world itself, is full of mystery. There are science-fictional details in the background, while the more immediate details have a stronger fantasy feel. Bipedal dragons rule this world and keep most humans in complacent slavery. The original narrator, apparently, had set this group of three free from the dragons, so they are newly aware of things they never noticed before and see their own world with a mixture of fear and naiveté.
And so this is ultimately a story of coming of age. Kristen learns her own strength, now that she can't rely only on her liberator. The group learns how to take charge and how to work together, with the first narrator's absence always weighing on their actions. Each of them has strengths and abilities that no one guessed when the story first began.
The story reads quickly and smoothly. As poetry, it doesn't have a lot of the pyrotechnics I most enjoy...and yet it creates its own strengths through its free verse rhythm. The narrators, especially Kristen once she's our focus, evoke the sense of wonder and fear and desperation that they feel in this new-to-them world. It is a poetry, I suspect, that even readers who usually dislike poetry would enjoy. The line breaks and quick action only serve to propel the story along, not slow a disliking-poetry reader down.
If there's a complaint I have, I think it comes down to the fact that this is a sequel to an earlier work, The Watcher. Teasing out the clues in this work, I assume that work involved the initial narrator here breaking this group free from the dragons and setting them up for this new life. That history hangs over this story, leaving some of the details vague and some unexplained. I personally don't mind not knowing every such detail and enjoyed the chance to figure out what their background is. Even so, I think this could have done a better jump introducing readers to the people and the world, giving us a stronger image of what's going on and what's at stake.
All told, this is a strong story of a desperate search for a missing figure of authority, with all the layers of Jungian depth that implies. Of people stepping out from both the stern control of the dragons and the parental control of the Watcher to their own strengths and abilities. As long-form poetry, I appreciate its attempt to do something less common, to create its world and its narrator's internal conflicts through a fluid and rhythmic poetry.
The Storm is here...
Days after the events featured in The Watcher, the Watcher is taken hostage by a dragon, leaving Kristen, Will and Nicki alone in a strange new world. With no choice but to try and rescue their friend, Kristen and the others must travel through ancient cities, forgotten burial grounds, and eventually into the heart of the great storm.
Faced with the unknown, will they be able to traverse the storms that stand before them as well as ones within their own hearts?
Title: Stormdancer (Sequel to The Watcher)
Author Name: Joshua Pantalleresco
Genre(s): Poetry, Sci-Fi, Dystopian
Tags: Poetry, Epic, Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic, science-fiction, dragons
Length: Approx. 104 pages
Release Date: October 1, 2015
Publisher: Mirror World Publishing (http://www.mirrorworldpublishing.com/)
Appropriate for all ages from Young Adult to Adult.
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Read an Excerpt:
disappearing into the night
leaving us all alone
we tried to follow him
but were unsure of the trees and trails
we went slowly
we knew something had happened
when we found his blades in the forest
blackened and alone
he had come
like a force of nature
wrecking our lives
in the name of freedom
freedom from what?
the hollow embers and ashes we found
I didn't build them
those ruins were his story
yeah, I was happy
is there something wrong with that?
my parents loved me
I didn't care about anything else
the dragons were bastards
but I understood the game
the moves that could be made
with one flick of a blade
he changed all that
shattered the illusion with a roar of rebellion
now my life is here
in this forest
now he had vanished into the night
leaving me abandoned
leaving everything in shambles!
Mirror World Publishing
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