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Primal Storm (Book 2 of the Grenshall Manor Chronicles)
By R.A Smith
Published by Xychler Publishing

This sequel sees the aftermath to last year’s Oblivion Storm and our heroes Mary, Jennifer and Kara are adjusting to their new lives. Mary has taken full possession of Grenshall manor and has spent most of her time learning about her new found abilities over ghosts and nursing the almost fatally wounded Jennifer. Kara has been finding her skills as a paranormal expert becoming more in demand.

Then, Jennifer, feeling trapped by her status as an invalid and needing to stretch her legs, sneaks out to exercise and stumbles onto a very well organised robbery of the British museum run by a crack team of supernaturals. Her intervention in this and her resemblance to a figure in a work of art known as ‘The Face of War’ leads her into a conspiracy of secret societies, supernatural artefacts and a confrontation with her own past and true nature.

Unlike Oblivion Storm, which focussed on Mary and her connection to the realms of shadow, Primal Storm is almost entirely Jennifer’s show. As such it is a very different story that veers away from the spooky events occurring between an atmospheric Victorian London and the modern day and into an action orientated plot. Several scenes come across as more like an X Men movie than a paranormal horror as Jennifer Winter tears into her enemies Wolverine style. Likewise, the flashbacks are not to Victorian London but to Jennifer’s childhood where a history of abuse and accusations of murder lead her to becoming the woman she is and explain her connection to the mysterious and vibrant Primal realm. Meanwhile, Mary and Kara travel Europe on a mission to rescue Jennifer and encountering a variety of characters on the way including the very same supernaturals that Jennifer is involved with and someone with the very same abilities Mary has.

The loss of spooky atmosphere could have been a weakness here but it is more than made up for by the change of pace, including the dark and violent nature of Jennifer’s past. The flashback scenes are brutal and honest and reveal a woman who has risen from extreme adversity into her eventual greatness. However, one weakness that is apparent is Smith’s presentation of some characters. While all the female characters come across as strong, three dimensional creations his male characters seem to lack depth. Having said that, at least one of them showed a lot of promise and if he is to return for book 3 it can be hoped that there will be a chance to develop him some more. This would be a good thing as it is nice to see a character of colour represented in a non clichéd way.

Overall Primal Storm is an enjoyable read. It holds onto enough elements of Oblivion Storm to make it a familiar setting but then takes off into new directions that explore and expand on that setting a great deal. According to Smith himself, the plan for book three (as yet unnamed but I am guessing the word Storm will be in there somewhere) is to focus on Kara – the one non-supernatural member of our trio of heroes. I for one am intrigued to see how she develops in this final instalment. If her back story is anywhere as interesting as Jennifer’s we are in for one hell of a finale.