Stormblood by Jeremy Szal – Book Review

“I don’t know if the Stormtech will let me live long enough to fulfil my promises, but I’m going to fight until my dying breath to do it. That’s what a Reaper would do. I’m stormblood. Until I’m dirt and dust.”

Stormblood is the debut sci-fi novel by Jeremy Szal. It is told from the POV of Vakov Fukunawa. Vakov was a Reaper who fought for Harmony against Harvest. Reapers are basically biogenetically enhanced soldiers built to kill and annihilate those that get in their way on the battlefield. Through being injected with DNA from an extinct alien race and wearing Stormtech, the life of Vakov changed instantly. His body chemistry had been altered so much so that it thrives on aggression and thrills. The rush of adrenaline makes him and others to become addicts as they soon begin to crave adrenaline. Purposefully putting themselves in dangerous situations to gain their high and essentially becoming ticking time bombs.

“It rewired our bodies with a hunger for adrenaline, dopamine and endorphins, earning their release through physical effort, risk taking and above all, aggression”

After the war is over, the DNA injected into Reapers such as Vakov began circulating around within the drug market. Addicts become crack heads for adrenaline rushes and violence as that’s how they get their rush. Those who let storm tech take over them fully become reliant on it are known as “Skinnies”. Vakov himself had to go through years of therapy and rehabilitation to allow him to control his urges and regain control of his body. He wants nothing to do with Harmony ever again and is done with helping them.

This is soon tested when Harmony and Vakov must work together once again. Vakov’s former Reaper comrades are being brutally murdered. What makes it worse is that his younger brother, Arytom may have been playing a part in this. This is what inevitably pushes him to team up with Harmony to save his brother.

Stormblood was a highly explosive and gritty novel that will leave you feeling like someone has injected you with a hyper drive dose of adrenaline. The action sequences were some of the best I’ve read since reading the Orphan X series by Gregg Hurwitz

“The room erupted into chaos. Sun-bright muzzle flashes around me. gunfire ripping out from high-calibre rifles and rattling my teeth.”

However, it’s not just the action that keeps you wanting to read on. The characters that do feature in this story have so much depth as you slowly learn about everything they’ve been through and how their lives have been impacted.

I really enjoyed seeing things from the perspective of Vakov. He doesn’t take shit from anyone and his experiences in the Reaper war have resulted in him cocooning himself in an impenetrable inner shield. His childhood has also been rough and we learn a lot throughout the story about his sister Kasia and brother Arytom. Vakov leaving to fight in the Reaper war has a ripple effect on his brother.

Vakov expects the pain he has endured to be gone once he joins the war effort against Harvest, but he soon realises it only leads to more wounds. There are also many lies that have been brushed under the carpet regarding the long term impact of becoming a Reaper. PTSD for one is central to Vakov’s story as his childhood and the war has impacted him mentally. Vakov doesn’t easily trust people anymore at all and is very much defensive in allowing others into his circle. You really do feel his hatred for Harmony as they have destroyed many lives due to their actions.

Vakov does however have a trusted ally in Grim his hacker friend who was a fantastic character. Their bond felt very real and you could tell how much Vakov trusts Grim.

“I’ve not had not much stability in my life, not many people who stuck by me. Grim had. And I don’t let go of my friends easily”

There is also Katherine Kowalski, a member of Harmony that Vakov must reluctantly work with. Although at first Vakov refuses to let her in to his inner circle, Kowalski is able to work her way in by building Vakov’s trust in her and sharing her emotional past.

I also really liked how Jeremy doesn’t make Vakov fully invincible. Yes he may have super strength, agility, and heightened healing capabilities but he is still vulnerable to getting hurt. The only really protection he has is his trusted armour, hand canon, and his wits. There are many times where Vakov is stuck in vulnerable situations which put him in deep shit and bring him very much close to death.

Although the aggressive nature of Reapers can have a detrimental impact on people such as Vakov, it does come in handy when he has no choice. Vakov realises that he has to embrace what he is and what his body can do during these moments.

I also loved how Jeremy Szal shares flashbacks of Vakov during the war against Harvest. You soon realise that Reaper soldiers never truly understood the consequences of being injected with the alien DNA until it was too late. Their bodies capabilities may have become empowered, but the horrors of war and the long term impact of Stormtech impacts them extremely hard. This is something that really hits home during the final flashback as it hits you in the feels like being headbutted in the chest by a bull.

In terms of the world building, I thought it was very very rich. You have home security that are moderated by AI and AI that has the ability to interrogate you by exploiting your deepest secrets and fears. There are also other vast intergalactic species such as the Kaiji, and advanced weaponry. Vakov uses a hand-cannon that reprints bullets, like how bad ass is that!

I can’t say anything without spoiling but you also see that there is so much going on within the wee nooks and crannies of the world the story is set in. For example, Szal’s description of Changhao is phenomenal as it’s grime and infested with drug addicts. As a whole, the world reminded me a lot of the Mass Effect games and also an upcoming game called Cyberpunk 2077. In terms of books, it reminiscent of The Long Way to a Small and Angry Planet by Becky Chambers.

Overall, I am highly impressed by Stormblood. I loved the intensity, the aggressive action, and the depth of the characters. This book got me out of being inches away from a reading slump because whenever I opened it I didn’t want to stop! Definitely recommend this to lovers of sci-fi and cyberpunk.

Thank you to Will and Gollancz for sending this to me! Very grateful 😊

Published by Adeel Reads

Just a fellow avid reader who loved recommending books he has enjoyed :D

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