Lord of Thunder is the sequel to Andre Norton’s The Beast Master. It is the much easier book of the two to find, but it is also the much weaker book. Which isn’t to say that it is bad. It is to say that if you want to read the first book—and you should—go ahead and pick up the omnibus version.
Lord of Thunder sees Hosteen Storm on a new adventure on the wild Arzor. I didn’t find the adventure quite as satisfying. More importantly, Lord of Thunder lacks the thematic weight—the feelz, for you kids out there—of The Beast Master.
Lord of Thunder opens with Hosteen Storm ranching his own land, settled in as a member of the rancher community and as a part of his new, adopted household. The first sign that the peace is not to last is news that the Norbies are heading en masse into uncharted territories where it is taboo for man to tread. During the Big Dry. Norbies don’t commit what might amount to mass suicide lightly. That, of course, has the ranchers on edge. More fuel is added to the fire when a very rich man arrives from off-world to look for his son, whose starship may have crash landed deep in the forbidden zone of Arzor. And he wants Storm to guide him out there, whether Storm likes it or not.
As I alluded to above, Lord of Thunder doesn’t really build on the emotional weight of Storm’s backstory and impetus for choosing Arzor post-service. Norton was somewhat limited in what she could do after the big reveal at the end of the first book, but she didn’t do as much here as she could have. That tied the story of The Beast Master together, giving it thematic weight and making it more than just a good adventure story.
And the adventure story in Lord of Thunder isn’t quite as good. In particular, I was disappointed in the absence of Storm’s team for much of the story. His meerkat (now with a litter of pups) doesn’t accompany him at all. He loses track of the big cat Surra and the eagle Baku for a very long stretch of the book. As a science fiction book, Lord of Thunder might be better than The Beast Master, but I’m not much of a science fiction fan, and that has never been the strength of these books.
There are three more Beast Master books, but they were co-authored with Lyn McConchie. McConchie claims she wrote the books based on an outline provided by Norton and the prose is entirely hers. I think I will pick up another one of my Norton books first.
Keith Phipps on Lord of Thunder at AV Club.
James Davis Nicholl on Lord of Thunder at James Nicholl Reviews.
John O’Neill on The Beast Master and Lord of Thunder (mostly on the covers) at Black Gate.
3.5 of 5 Stars.