Review of The Coming Storm by Regina M. Hansen
I started The Coming Storm by Regina M. Hansen not knowing what to expect. I had read only a brief, enigmatic description of the plot and seen an image of the gorgeous cover art. Reading the opening scene soon assured me of Hansen’s talent. She accomplishes a great deal quickly without making the prose or plot too caught up in exposition. She introduces her protagonist and one of many narrators, Beet MacNeill, as well as some of her family while executing major plot points that will reverberate throughout the book. Hansen clearly knew her story intimately and had planned its opening with exceptional care.
This attention to detail and elegant construction of plot remains consistent throughout the novel. The story progresses along two timelines, one moving forward in time in 1950 and one moving ever further back in time, even to pre-historic human history. While in the 1950 timeline Hansen switches between established character narrators, in the past timeline many of the narrators are tangentially connected to her primary characters or even one-off characters we never encounter again after their narration concludes. Hansen handles these techniques admirably, keeping the focus of the past timeline more on plot events and establishing a pattern of supernatural occurrences than on the narrators themselves. Hansen clearly trusts the intelligence of her readers in order to be able to connect the dots between the pattern established in the past and ongoing events in the 1950 timeline. My one complaint about these timelines was that were one or two too many repetitions in the past timeline that did not contribute much to the supernatural mythology with which Hansen was working because the events had already been depicted several times.
In addition to the well-planned structure, I loved Hansen’s ability to blend her historical setting of Prince Edward Island with the mythology of the sea and the Scotch heritage of some of the island’s inhabitants. So many YA novels are either realism or fantasy that The Coming Storm’s use of both genres felt fresh and innovative.
Finally, Hansen’s writing style and characters offer ample reading incentive of their own. The characters of Beet’s world are a delight. They range from her supernatural-story loving best friend (how convenient for a posse attempting to fight demonic influences 😊), the town’s otherworldly librarian, and a boy visiting from Boston for the summer. What’s more, Beet’s love of music and the sea are expressed through gorgeous prose describing these passions.
If your last literary visit to Prince Edward Island was reading Anne of Green Gables or one of its sequels, it’s time to return and see it afresh through The Coming Storm.