Book review: The Storm Sister by Lucinda Riley

A seven-book series was always going to be an ambitious project but two books into her trans-global Seven Sisters epic and master storyteller Lucinda Riley is on the crest of a wave.

By Pam Norfolk
Thursday, 19th November 2015, 11:06 am
The Storm Sister by Lucinda Riley
The Storm Sister by Lucinda Riley

Riley has developed into one of the most accomplished and creative authors of that perennially popular and seductive blending of past and present. Her thrilling novels bring together real life history and riveting stories packed with fascinating characters, imaginative, cleverly worked plotlines and heart-stopping emotion.

The dramatic accounts of the six very different D’Aplièse sisters – including eldest sister Maia whose past has already played out in Rio and the seventh sister mysteriously missing – are taking us on a rollercoaster journey to all corners of the world, carried along on a tide of tears, revelations and tragedy.

Each woman was adopted as a baby by a shadowy Swiss billionaire and each is in now in search of their true heritage following clues left after the death of their father, known as Pa Salt.

Inspired by Riley’s own fascination with the distinctive Pleiades star cluster, commonly known as The Seven Sisters, this spellbinding series is based loosely on the mythology surrounding the famous constellation, using recurring motifs and intriguing anagrams.

In The Storm Sister, we take off to the high seas with second sister Ally (Alcyone), head to Oslo for the first performance of Grieg’s iconic Peer Gynt and live through the loves, losses, triumphs and despairs of a remarkable Norwegian family caught up in the sweep of history.

Ally has always been regarded as ‘the leader’ of the six D'Aplièse sisters. The most practical and outgoing of the brood, she is a talented yachtswoman and a highly trained and accomplished flautist.

But quite unexpectedly she has fallen madly and passionately in love with fellow yachtsman Theo Falys-King, the half-English, half-American celebrity skipper of the sailing world, and is preparing to compete with his crew in the Fastnet, one of the world’s most perilous offshore races.

However, Ally’s life and love are put on hold when she hears the devastating news of her adoptive father Pa Salt’s sudden, mysterious death. She heads back immediately to meet her five sisters at their family home Atlantis on the shores of Lake Geneva and is handed the clues to her true heritage… a set of co-ordinates and a little brown fog.

When all her plans are turned upside down, Ally decides to leave the open seas and follow the trail that her father left her, a path which leads her to the icy beauty of Oslo in Norway.

And it is there that Ally begins to discover her roots and how her story is inextricably bound to that of a young unknown singer, Anna Landvik from a small farmstead in Telemark, who in 1876 sang in the first performance of Grieg’s musical masterpiece, Peer Gynt, based on Henrik Ibsen’s play.

As Ally learns more about Anna and her links to Grieg and a gifted young musician called Jens Halvorsen, she also begins to question who Pa Salt really was and where her future lies…

Riley is at the peak of her writing powers in The Storm Sister, the pages packed with an exciting melee of yachting, romance and the music of Grieg, with the joy of Ally’s personal story proving as forceful and fascinating as the tempestuous family history that unfolds around her.

This is an author who knows how to weave a vast tapestry of people and events, stitching together their lives through different timelines and countries, threading in high drama, tear-jerking angst and simmering passions, and tying up all loose ends with perfect precision and just a tantalising hint of ongoing mystery.

Across continents, generations and history, The Storm Sister is a true box of delights, exploring the impact of real events on the lives of one extraordinary family, throwing up intriguing parallels between the past and the present and slowly opening a window onto Ally’s hidden past.

And with surprises around every corner, the soaring strains of Grieg’s music still ringing in our ears and the mystery of Pa Salt’s death as yet unexplained, it’s good to know that the next sister’s story is already waiting in the wings!

(Macmillan, hardback, £16.99)