Review: Stormblood (The Common #1) by Jeremy Szal

Rating: 9.0/10

Synopsis

Vakov Fukasawa used to be a Reaper, a biosoldier fighting for the intergalactic governing body of Harmony against a brutal invading empire. Now, he fights against the stormtech: the DNA of an extinct alien race Harmony injected into him, altering his body chemistry and making him permanently addicted to adrenaline and aggression. It made him the perfect soldier, but it also opened a new drug market that has millions hopelessly addicted to their own body chemistry.

But when Harmony tells him that his former ally Reapers are being murdered, Vakov is appalled to discover his estranged brother is likely involved in the killings. They haven’t spoken in years, but Vakov can’t let his brother down, and investigates. But the deeper he goes, the more addicted to stormtech he becomes, and Vakov discovers that the war might not be over after all. It’ll take everything he has to unearth this terrible secret, although doing so might mean betraying his brother. If his own body doesn’t betray him first.

A vibrant and talented new voice in SFF: alien technology, addictive upgrades, a soldier determined to protect his family, and a thief who is prepared to burn the world down . . .

Review

Stormblood is a rip-roaring military sci-fi debut sure to please fans of Richard Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs trilogy, BioWare’s Mass Effect franchise, and a touch Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series. It reads like a bat out of hell, never taking a moment to lay off the accelerator, but also brings an emotionally charged gut punch that’ll have you deeply invested in the story. Highly recommended.

I had seen some tidbits here and there from Szal on various social media forums talking about Stormblood, but I never truly got a sense what sort of ride I was in for. He posted a synopsis which gave a Blade Runner 2049/The Dark Knight noir mixture with a slap of Mass Effect 2, which had me salivating if I can be completely honest. But again, not even close to what I experienced going through this novel. From page 1, this book sinks its alien DNA enriched hooks in and proceeds to sling you around like a bull in the PBR league.

Jeremy has created a massive world full of rich environments that are detailed to a fault; every step Vakov takes introduces the reader to a brand-new experience, which is something I can say doesn’t happen often in reads. There is so much going on in the foreground and background, but you never find yourself overstimulated. You can easily picture the surroundings of each scene, the food and drink being consumed, the way the stormtech races through the bodies of the Reapers, and the massive amount of detail that goes into each and every fight scene. This reads like a big budget film and it PURE entertainment.

Having said all of that, this book isn’t just fast-paced cyberpunky goodness. It is also the story of two brothers who are on opposite sides of war; not the one being fought against an off-world enemy, but one against the very thing Vakov holds within himself: stormtech. It is the story of an older brother who went to fight in the war, leaving his younger brother behind, and coming back to find the world he left will never be the same. It is about how you deal with past regrets, and the endurance it takes to see hardships through. It is about brotherhood and sacrifice.

Lastly, I have to give props to Colin Mace. My heavens, this man can do no wrong when it comes to audiobook narration. He truly brought this story to life in ways I never could’ve imagined, and he will continue to be one of my favorite audiobook narrators for years to come.

If my review has prompted your interest in learning more about Stormblood (The Common #1), below is an exclusive reading of Chapter 1 from the author himself, Jeremy Szal:

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