This is not the first Delilah S. Dawson book I’ve read; I have read one other, a more adult oriented book (The Peculiar Pets of Miss Pleasure) and I found Dawson very engaging, unerring in description (we get everything, how things look, feel, smell), delivering lifelike, sympathetic characters, lively dialogue and in that case, a plot that enticed. Servants of the Storm is different – but mainly in the target audience, YA, and that the plot is like a tree chipper, it drags you in right off the bat. (BTW, yes I read YA. I look a good book, whatever the genre.) There are a few times where the McGuffin aspect driving the protagonist wears a bit thin as there really is one primary goal for the whole book. But the side dishes to this meal are superb and on the whole it works fine.
The dialogue is snappy and age appropriate, and Dawson keeps the focus tight, with three main characters driving the storyline. Each character has their demons to fight, (sometimes literally…) and their complexity gives the book a nice lifelike feel, despite the fantastic premise.
It’s very intimate, as it is written entirely in first-person, present tense – which gets weird only when you see stuff the protagonist sees and which she later forgets. Still, it works, and I have to give props to Dawson as I usually don’t like first-person present. It is tough to pull off well. One of the advantages of this POV that Dawson leverages to the hilt is the ability to use the character’s frame of reference to enhance descriptions: places and smells evoke the protagonist’s memories, and some of the creepiest moments are executed by drawing on her memories.
I normally would not read paranormal/horror (to me this is a mix of the two), I just never got into either genre having been busy reading sci-fi & fantasy but this book reads more like a mystery with utterly fantastic elements. When Dawson gets creepy it’s a juicy tingle down the spine, not the ohmygodIwetmyself sort. At times the action gets a bit gory, but just a little and Dawson uses a light hand, conveying the personal aspect of say, losing a (small) body part without reveling in the sensationalism of it. Same goes for the relationship element – this is about a high-school age girl, and of course there are a couple of romantic entanglements but it is very tastefully addressed. No cringe moments.
Finally, the action gets pretty hectic at the end – Dawson knows how to end a story – and she keeps the action tight, believable (yes, the protag actually does worry about how many bullets she’s got left) and cogent. The denouement is, well, you have to read it….