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Riders of the Storm
Stratification #2
by Julie E. Czerneda
Daw, $8.99, 480pp
Published: July 2009

Aryl Sarc, along with many friends and relatives, was exiled from their home in the last story.  Click here for a review of Reap the Wild Wind.  Their adepts who order their society, forced them out because they all exhibited use of a forbidden skill or talent.  The world as they know it holds three separate races:  the Oud, the Tikitik, and the Aryl’s people the Om’ray.  The three races live in peace due to an Agreement reached generations earlier.  One of the accords is a directive that nothing changes – the adepts interpret that to mean that evolving talents within the population must be culled.  But many things are changing; to the discomfort and confusion of the Om’ray.  Aryl’s little band is traveling to an unknown destination with no guidance or understanding of their world.  Many of the Om’ray clans are being assaulted by changes forced on them by the Oud or the Tikitik – changes that shouldn’t be allowed by the Agreement.  And when Aryl and her clan find an abandoned Om’ray village, the questions really start to pile up.  Why does no one remember the Sona clan since their demise occurred very recently?  The village was obviously destroyed by the Oud but now the Oud recognize Aryl as Speaker for the new Sona clan.

In the previous book, Aryl and her friend Enris made the acquaintance of a Human named Marcus Bowman.  Bowman was on their planet from The Trade Pact to do archaeological digs with the Oud; looking for evidence of an ancient race called the Hoveny.  Aryl encounters him again in the Sona valley where he and Oud are investigating ruins.  Unsure how her clan would react to an outworlder – when most of them don’t believe anything exists beyond their world – she insists he keep hidden from the valley’s new residents.  But Marcus’ observations and explanations open a world to Aryl that she never suspected.  She begins to question those tenets in which she’s always believed and wonders what else has been hidden from the Om’ray. 

In the meantime, Enris has left the Sona clan and continued his Passage to other Om’ray clans.  What he discovers appears to be an effort to keep the clans well separated so that technology and knowledge isn’t shared.  His discoveries plus Aryl’s secret experiments in using the M’hir are really preparations for a need they don’t know they’ll have.

The mysteries start multiplying near the end of this story.  I’m wild to know more about what the Oud and Tikitik really are and why and how they have manipulated the Om’ray.  The worldbuilding is superb and I love the characters.  The plot is awfully convoluted but it tracks well.  I continue to thoroughly enjoy this series and am looking forward to the next story. ~~ Catherine Book

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