Review: Storm’s Eye by Rene Austen

Genre: Adventure/Romance | Pairing: Loki/Sigyn
Summary: In Asgard, post-Avengers, Loki must confront both the rift between himself and his brother, and the sacrifices he is willing to make to meet his heart’s greatest need.

Read Storm’s Eye here.

Review:

Set in Asgard after the events of Avengers, this story has everything you need to mend a heart wounded by prelude comics… As well as doing an astonishing job of characterization, Rene Austen has created an incredibly rich and complex plot that will have you bug-eyed and staring at the screen at 4am because you just. Can’t. Stop.

Through a maelstrom of resentment, regret, angst, loss, loathing, hope, heartbreak, betrayal and so many more feels than I can come up with words for, the family dynamics are brilliantly portrayed here and are an important arc to this story.

Ever sharp-witted, Loki mocks Thor and Odin, as we well expect him to do. He uses his intelligence to verbally back Thor into a corner, and while often in fan fiction this is done by making Thor look to be a brainless buffoon, Rene achieves this with genuine wit and intelligence, allowing Thor to be a character who is smart (though just not as smart), but so open and honest that he just naturally tends to speak without necessarily thinking through what he’s saying. Thor speaks from the heart, whereas Loki selects words that he can use as weapons when speaking to his foster-brother; which is in itself a reflection of how emotionally damaged he is. And yet there are times through the story where you get a definite sense that much of Loki’s hatred is a facade, even if he is not willing to admit it to himself. A part of him still loves and misses his brother, and it’s this subtle thread of hope that contributes to how riveting this story is.

Rene Austen gives us her take on the character Sigyn who, in mythology and Marvel comic-lore, is wife to Loki. As with any character who is not particularly developed in any kind of lore, Sig can be a difficult character to write, with a borderline tendency to become a Mary Sue. This is not the case of Rene’s Sigunn (Rene chooses to spell her name Sigunn to differentiate her from the myth/Marvel version) who is a meticulously well thought-out and believable character.  So much so, her persona through this story will likely set the foundation for how you will forever after think of Sig.

The dialogue is outstanding right throughout the story, the storyline is incredibly well thought out and filled with adventure, suspense, romance, and lots of clever Loki using his wit and outstanding gameplay skills in ways that will have you applauding the screen at the risk of having other people in the room look at you like you’ve flipped your lid.

Chapter One Teaser

I am Loki, of Asgard, son of none.

For the father I knew not is dead by my own hand, and he whom I no longer claim rules the Nine Realms from the High Seat of Hlidskjalf.

I have walked the far roads, the deep paths, the darkened trailways through Yggdrasil’s branches. I have followed the ley lines down evil’s black throat, and traced my way back through fire and pain. I bear the scars.

I wield the weapons of truth and lies, honor and expedience, magic and misdirection, frost and flame. Around me swirl the howling winds engendered by my own double nature. I welcome them. I inhale the winds and exhale the storm.

Do you scoff? Do you laugh at the storm, thinking it a little thing, soon past?

Do not.

For when the screaming gale is anchored, when the wildly tangled winds join hands and caper around a calm central eye, does not their power grow? None can stand before them.

And who will brave the tempest, stand in its eye, and watch the winds of my chaos dance with arms thrown wide and face uplifted?

Who, indeed?

Storm’s Eye

Part 1

Odin’s stables, and, later, the city wall. . .

See a dark horse running, legs flashing, mane streaming in an endless wave across the rider’s quiet hand. He’s a tall man clad in black save for a crescent-shaped torc on his breast; he rides with easy grace, free hand resting on his thigh. Above and before him, the towers of Asgard glitter in the sun, and the green field of Ida stretches behind, slung between the mountains’ raven-haunted peaks.

Horse and rider sweep through the city’s outer gate, past a guard who bows, fist to chest. His companion, inside the guardhouse, looks up, startled, at the crash of hooves striking the pavement. “Who was that?” he calls out.

“Prince Loki,” comes the reply. “Riding hard.”


As he reined in and dismounted, Loki scanned the yard for the new stableman; the bruising ride had left Hrafn’s black shoulders streaked with lather. But the yard remained empty, and after a few moments, Loki’s mouth tightened. He glanced back at Hrafn, whose eyes watched him with close attention, and then walked forward through the stable’s arched entrance. The horse followed.

Inside, silhouetted against the bright sunlight of the far doors, he saw the errant stableman, engaged in discussion with a white-cloaked maiden. He gestured to Hrafn, and, when the horse drew near and gently nosed his shoulder, tethered him to a nearby post, his eyes still on the distant conversation. He strode toward them, a sharp rebuke on his lips for the stableman’s inattentiveness. But as he approached and their words became audible, his attention was caught by the lady. When she turned slightly, he recognized her: one of Frigga’s handmaidens, dressed to ride in slim breeches and a short leather jerkin. A frisson of amusement rippled through him, then; for it was clear that she was furious, though her voice remained low and pleasant and her face calm, and yet the stableman seemed oblivious to the fire in her eyes.

“My lady, I’m responsible for the safety of those who use these mounts. Let me choose for you. . .”

“I assure you, sir, I understand your position. But I have used these stables long, and I ride the stallion Bruni. Please fetch him to me.”

“Bruni is too large and strong for you, Lady.”

“He is not. I assure you. Again.”

“I would be flogged if you were to be injured.”

Loki’s smile broadened as he watched the stableman lift his chin and glare down his nose at her, and the lady’s lips press into a tight line. Her voice grew more soft and yet bitingly clear.

“Sir, please, if you will bring Bruni out, I think you will find that the stallion and I have a good understanding of one another. He has always been my chosen mount. You’re new to your position here, and, forgive me, you know neither the horse nor myself well enough to cavalierly forbid me to ride.”

‘I’m sure you’re an excellent rider, but that stallion. . .”

Loki cleared his throat, and was rewarded with two startled faces. The stableman bowed deeply, at once, though not before Loki noticed the sudden stiff tension in his face. The fear.

A wolf in your stable, yes?

When the man straightened, Loki nodded toward the woman and said, “This is Lady Sigunn, handmaiden to the Queen. If she says that she prefers the stallion, I suggest that you go and saddle the beast. Now.”

The command in his voice drove the man into another nervous bow, and then, without a word, he scurried down a side passage, into the depths of the stable.

Loki turned to Sigunn. He had seen her often, serving the queen among a crowd of other maidens; he had spoken with her once or twice. And he knew that if he had been tasked with choosing a mount for her, he would have selected a gentle palfrey. Studying her now, as she lowered her gaze and bent the neck to him, he felt a tug of annoyance. His judgements of people were rarely so inaccurate.

When her eyes returned to his face, he said, “One has only to look at you to see that you are a rider of stallions.”

He meant it to be an easy jest, but he saw at once that it did not strike her as such. Her brows lowered.

“You would be the first to say so, my lord.”

She tilted her head to look down the passage the stableman had taken, and she murmured, “I may be their mare, but I will not choose to ride one!”

She hadn’t meant for him to hear that, Loki was certain. “Excuse me?” he asked.

When she turned back, he realized that she was still violently, desperately angry, though not with him, not even with the ignorant stableman. He watched as she visibly took rein on her fury, swallowing it until she could raise clear eyes to his face.

“I . . .” she shook her head. “Forgive me, my lord. I am speaking nonsense.”

There was a moment of silence while Loki digested this obvious untruth. A muscle in her jaw trembled unsteadily, and her eyes left him, to study the stable wall beyond his right shoulder.

“Well,” he spread his hands, watching her eyes. “I have often found nonsense to be a useful mode of expression.”

A smile escaped her, and her eyes lightened. As she pulled a pair of leather gloves from the belt at her waist, she said, “Perhaps I should give it more credence.”

“Consider it, at least. Nonsense charms the ally, or disarms the enemy.” He decided to push, just a little. “It can be a potent weapon.”

“I expect it is, for you, my lord.” The light in her face faded. “But I don’t suppose I possess your skill in wielding it.”

“I’m flattered, Lady, that you attribute my nonsense to skill and not innate nature.”

She began drawing on the gloves. “You are a man of many skills. Anyone who spends any time in your presence would recognize that.”

Loki blinked, and paused, studying her more sharply. From anyone else, in any other conversation, such a sally would have been base flattery, if not blatant flirtation. But her mind was so obviously elsewhere, her desperation to be away from him, from here, so patent, that he knew he could not read any heat into it. A pity, that. He was enjoying the conversation, the easy way that she followed his thought, and he was suddenly very aware of the lovely line of her collarbone and the curve of her breast under the jerkin.

She looked away and murmured, “As for me, I need a less ethereal weapon.”

“Are you going into battle this morning? Is that why you ride a stallion?” He kept his voice light.

“I am no warrior,” she said quietly, bitterly.

Relief crossed her face then as the stableman emerged from a side passage leading a huge, blood-red horse. “I merely seek a morning’s diversion. Bruni will provide it.”

Her voice caressed the horse’s name, and his ears pricked eagerly toward her. She turned back to Loki; suddenly her hands twisted awkwardly together as she peered up at him. He could almost hear her thoughts replaying the words they had just shared, and a wince crossed her face.

“Your pardon, my lord. I am . . .I am not really fit company for a prince of Asgard this morning.”

“No matter. I am not really a prince of Asgard,” Loki had taken to telling the exact truth, for the acrid amusement it afforded him: watching people of all stripes as they heard his truths, agreed with them completely in their hearts, and yet denied them flatly to his face.

She eyed him quizzically for a moment. Then, she dropped him a quick and very inadequate curtsey and said, “As you wish. Good day, Loki.”

A breath of laughter was startled from his throat. To be given-named by this slip of a girl! Then she compounded the impertinence by pivoting away without waiting for his acknowledgement, whispering words of greeting to the giant horse, who stretched out his neck to rub his muzzle against her hair, pulling several soft waves out of their bindings.

The stableman stooped, clasping his hands to receive her knee and then tossing her up into the saddle. She gave both he and Loki an equally cursory nod of farewell, and then, whirling the stallion about, she sent him out the far door at a brisk trot.

Loki watched her go, face thoughtful. Then he beckoned sharply to the stableman. “Hrafn needs attention. He’s had a hard ride.”

“At once, my lord.” The servant bobbed his head, and Loki saw, with some exasperation, that the man’s hands were shaking.

I truly am a monster in my own house.

After waiting just a moment, to be certain that the man was attending properly to the horse, he turned on his heel and left the stable in a swirl of black cloak.

For some minutes, the stable was quiet but for the muted clink of metal and rustle of leather as the stableman divested Hrafn of his tack. Taking extra care, he shipped the stirrups and looped the reins; this was the prince’s personal gear, and he did not wish to risk a reprimand.

A subtle movement caught his eye and he spun about, feeling the bridle slip from his grasp and fumbling clumsily to catch it. A man stood there, cloaked and hooded. As he stepped forward the cloak parted enough for the stableman to recognize the distinctive armor of the Allfather’s bodyguard. Swallowing nervously, he bowed and asked, “How may I serve you, sir?”

“The lady who rode out just now. . .”

“Lady Sigunn?”

The voice sharpened. “You know her name?”

“The prince told me.”

The figure before him went utterly still for a moment. Then the voice asked softly, “The prince?”

“Prince Loki, sir.”

A longer silence. “She was here with him?

“They were speaking together.”

“He went with her?”

“Oh, no, sir. She rode out alone.”

“I see. Where does she ride this morning?”

The stableman’s vague disquiet was growing. Reluctantly he answered, “I know not, sir. She did not say.”

“But she was alone.”

“Yes, sir.”

Without another word, the cloaked figure turned and strode out the door. The stableman stood there, with the prince’s tack bundled in his arms, staring uneasily after him. In the air there was a faint scent of stale ashes and distant smoke.

 

Want the rest? Read Storm’s Eye here.

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In a nutshell: 30-something. Mother of 3. New Zealander. Prone to escapism. Procrastinates over most things yet energised and enthusiastic when hit with alarmingly stupid and random ideas. Hasn't slept since the early-90's.

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