Book Review: In The Storm by Karen Metcalf

11100954Title: In the Storm
Author: Karen Metcalf
Format: eBook
Genre: Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Young Adult, Short Story
Rating: 4 stars
Review copy provided by the author. Visit the author’s website.
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Abandoned by the world around her, Carly believes she is fated to a life of torment at the hands of her stepfather and is desperate for an escape. When she can bear the abuse no longer and gives in to a thunderous rage, she suddenly finds herself in an unfamiliar, yet beautiful, storm world. This limbo between dimensions appears to be her private sanctuary, but it may just be her purgatory.

No one escapes fate without sacrifice, but is the price more than Carly is willing to pay?

In The Storm is a short story of roughly 90 pages long. In a gripping display of emotions, our protagonist Carly sketches her life at home, under the ‘care’ of her stepfather Richard – a drunk, abusive and malicious man – and the way she and her younger brother Mitchell try to deal with this in their day-to-day life. When she hears her stepfather coming up the stairs to enter her room in the middle of the night, Carly has had enough. With a clicking sound, she leaves her human body behind to travel to a world beyond our own: an imaginative place only Carly can access, and which is inhabited by her guardian angel. Said angel appears in the form of a gorgeous-looking teenage boy who listens to the name of Morgan. He explains to her the very nature of his place sprung from her imagination, and its purpose, as well as his own purpose. To save her, to make her reach a certain life goal. But Carly has yet to realise that this goal comes at great expense…

For a short story, In The Storm certainly covers a lot of topics, ranging from child abuse, loneliness to fantasy worlds, alternate dimensions, guardian angels and destiny. At some points in the story, I wished the author had chosen to cover less topics, and maybe focus more on explaining some loose ends: for instance, the explanation of the different dimensions left me sort of confused, we never got to know why Carly’s mother left them in the first place, or why Carly gets to have an imaginative world at her dismay, whereas some other children in comparable circumstances (like her brother Mitchell) don’t get one. I wish some of these topics were explained more in detail. And although I could relate to the characters, I would have liked to get to know them better. Therefore, in my opinion, this book would have been better suited as a full-length novel than as a novella, considering the depth and complicity of the story, and the development of the characters.

On the other hand, I have to admit that it was nice reading a short story for once, and briefly blinking in and out the lifes of te main characters. I liked Carly as a person: I thought she had a very strong personality, a lot of courage and a very caring heart for her younger brother. I loved the interactions between Carly and her brother Mitchell, because they were so honest and sweet, and so remarkably loving and caring for people in such abusive circumstances. I wish we had a greater insight in Mitchell’s personality though, because he seemed like an interesting person as well. I also ‘liked’ (since ‘like’ isn’t the appropriate word) the way Karen Metcalf sketched stepfather Richard’s personality. An abusive man who spends more time drunk than sober, with a passion for hurting the children left in his care, and an obsession for sick mind games. Naturelly, I detested his personality, but I do admire the way the author described his personality so well, and really portrayed him as the sick man he was. It isn’t easy to do something lik that, especially not in a novella. But whenever the name ‘Richard’ was mentioned, I felt really sick in the pit of stomach and I got the urge to go hit him on the head with a rather large axe. Mission accomplished, I would say, because I really did hate this guy, who is sort of ‘the villain’ in this story. I would have liked to know more about what exactly made Richard turn into a blazing madman though, because I’m curious like that.

What I absolutely loved about this book, is the world building. The world Carly creates from her imagination, the world she can only access once something inside of her goes CLICK, is simply amazing. The way Karen Metcalf describes the looks and feel of this world, the way she makes the giant trees come to live, and the way she makes the storm so vivid and terrifying as if they were real, is very impressive. I also loved the entire background story about why this world was created, and why one can only access it now and then, and the story about Carly’s other lifes, her previous lifes, and her connection with the supposed-to-be’s. I thought these notions were very original, well thought-through, and they got me to do a fair share of thinking myself. Although a fantasy story at the core, I believed the basic ideas to be rather realistic and perhaps even plausible. Who knows where the feeling of déjà-vu really comes from, and who knows there aren’t a ton of other us’s out there, living the exact same life as we have – or something slightly different – in other dimensions? I know that these thoughts crossed my mind before when I was younger and in the whole doubting-life-and-everything-in-it phase, but I outgrew this as I grew older. I’m glad this book reminded me of this, as it’s really an interesting subject matter to think about. Who knows? Maybe in some other life, I’m Queen of the World and everyone bows down for me. Now that would be something.

I also liked the addition of ‘destiny’ and ‘fate’ in this novel, as it was ultimately destiny that brought the characters to where they were, and that no matter how many times Carly’s guardian angel Morgan, had tried to alter the course of destiny; he eventually failed every time. I thought the idea of a world based on our own choice or opinions but ultimately determined by a fixed destiny, was very appealing and intriguing.

It still surprises me how much originality, character development, topics and themes and great life-altering questions Karen Metcalf managed to address in this less-than-one-hour-long read. It leaves me yet again with the thought that this novella could have been life-changing and the next best thing in YA fantasy, had it been longer, and had the topics been covered more thoroughly. I have to hope that Karen Metcalf decides to write a sequel to In The Storm, because this is a story truly deserving of a sequel; and I cannot wait to read more about Carly and Morgan, as their entwined destinies enfold. An excellent read, that I would recommend to every fan of Young Adult Fantasy novels, or even just Fantasy novels, or to everyone who has an hour to spare and wants to read something fresh and original. Try In The Storm – it will not dissapoint.


  1. […] Author: Karen Metcalf Format: eBook Genre: Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Young Adult, Short Story Rating: Read my review for In The Storm. GoodReads | Smashwords | […]

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