John Beachem began his writing career as a critic for movies but demonstrates his budding talent as a fantasy author with his first novel, Storms of Vengeance. He has a refreshing new voice for fantasy and has written a thoroughly enjoyable and intriguing story.
Typical of almost any fantasy story, the power in charge at the opening is good. This power/character faces the bad guys, fights them off, and wins the day. In Storms of Vengeance, questions arise from the beginning that cause difficulty separating the good guys from the enemy. Cities are run by martial law. Farmers are being run off their land. Magic wielders are believed to be demon possessed, even though the cities themselves were built with magic. Elves are seen as animals - vicious and non-sentient. One begins to see this is not the beginning but rather the end of a long spiral of degradation in the Empire.
The Empire controls the known world. Order and routine are maintained in all aspects of life, ideally to keep the people safe. All cities are securely bolted at night, with curfews scrupulously kept by the city guards. Nothing unnatural, such as magic, is allowed. Into this structure of life is thrown the epitome of chaos: a murder committed in a way that reeks of treachery and the much-hated magic. As the reader follows the officials while they attempt to solve the crime, one realizes life in such a structured and safe environment may not be all the propaganda makes it out to be.
Weaving threads of mystery and fantasy, John Beachem's multilayered story will satisfy all types of readers. His characters are complex and real, demonstrating both strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has a past, and as in real life, the characters often show the world only the face they choose to wear and not their thoughts or motivations. Beachem obviously has talents in setting up mystery scenarios, as his crime-solving scenes are brilliant. His dialogue is well-done, and the action scenes are excellent. He pushes the boundaries of the fantasy genre by not using typical archetypes - trolls are slightly sentient and self-healing; magic is hated, as pointed out above, and seems to not exist or be understood for the Empire anymore; elves are not all-knowing, ethereal beings but bloodthirsty tree-dwelling creatures.
I enjoyed every moment of this book. Beachem successfully carries several threads in the story, bringing in background when needed but leaving the reader guessing at times. The only fault I can find, such as it is, is that he doesn’t answer all the questions by the end of the book. As with any good trilogy, the first book ends with loose threads, paving the way for the next installment in the story. I shall be miserable until he publishes it.