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Review: Eye of the Storm by Frank Cavallo

I received a free copy for review, and with the neat and ominous cover art, summary, and pretty cool title, I had high hopes for this book. Even though it took me forever to get around to starting it!

I ended up DNFing (did not finish) this one after the first several chapters. I think it will still be helpful to other readers to explain why I put this one down -- in case this sounds like something any of y'all might like.


Image result for eye of the storm frank cavallo'

Eye of the Storm is a portal fantasy about a group of scientists, documentary filmmakers, and mercenaries who set out to film alleged Neanderthals but are transported through a storm of black flame to a terrifying prehistoric world. In this world, there's a struggle as the reins of power change hand against the backdrop of some kind of sorcerous threat. 

There are humans in this world, living alongside dinosaurs and whatnot. Although they don't have technology like we do, they have magic and are significantly past the Flintstones type of "cavemen" you might think of when Neanderthals come to mind.

But what is the story?

That's approximately as far as I got, because this book takes forever to start and can't seem to decide on where it starts. First, there's a chapter that begins with a bunch of scientists watching a PowerPoint presentation. In real life, I don't find PowerPoints particularly riveting. They somehow become even more boring if you have to sit through one secondhand as a reader. 

A recently deceased Neanderthal has been found in modern times, and an entertainment company wants to fund a scientific research expedition and documentary film. They head out into the middle of nowhere to look for more signs of what they believe to be a surviving Neanderthal community. 

Just as you begin to become intrigued, the book jumps forward in time to where they've been searching for weeks with no sign of homo neanderthalensis. Several of the characters in a chopper see a flying dinosaur -- and pursue it into a mysterious hellstorm. They crash on the other side.

A mysterious time and place

We then jump to a different world with a dying king. We have enough clues to assume he's the king of the Neanderthal world, I guess. He has some mysterious instructions for his daughter and advisers, there's some romantic intrigue between some characters, and then the chapter is over with dire threats of a returning evil sorcerer. 

The book makes another leap forward two years in time with the expedition characters who got sucked into the storm. Two years after crash landing, they're spending their last bullets hunting triceratops for food. I don't even know if that's frickin' possible, since those things are huge af, armored af, and travel in large groups for protection. 

OK OK I know it's not possible for humans and dinosaurs to exist at one time, and this is fantasy so I shouldn't care, but the POINT of being a dinosaur nerd reading portal and time travel fantasy is that I get to relish my random nerdy knowledge of dinosaur-type facts!!! MY NINE-YEAR-OLD SELF DEMANDS ACCURACY. :'D

Why I DNF'd

I don't actually mind any of that, not really. What finally made me put this down in frustration was how the story didn't seem to start anywhere. I still know essentially nothing of the characters beyond their basic roles -- scientist, soldier dude, virtuous princess, magical adviser -- and there didn't seem to be much sense to the time skips. It was almost like starting a new book every time the plot skipped. 

I think the book could have started with the death of the king. Or the expedition being sucked into the portal-storm. Or even with them hunting dinosaurs for food. There's too much backstory and exposition -- once you think you know where you are and have a handle on where the story starts, the book's like, "nope, psych" and yanks the narrative rug out from under you. I lost my patience with it after several chapters. 

Overall, I don't recommend it. That's not to say I could do any better! Who knows -- I might return to it sometime if I feel like it. Also, plenty of other people might have no problem at all with it. If you read like I do, though, you'll want to skip the first 30-ish pages.

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