Blossompaw does a deep dive on Sandstorm’s portrayal in the series.
Sandstorm is a well-known and commonly liked character. Everyone recognizes Firestar’s mate, the mother of his two daughters and the ancestor to the long line of ThunderClan protagonists. Her traits are simple to list, too – brave, loyal, full of energy and sassy at times. Among the cats of Warriors, who often suffer from dull or conventional personalities, like being friendly or devoted to the Clan, Sandstorm is one of the easiest to define. Because of that, as well as her major role in the beloved first series, she has gained a role of an icon in the fandom. So, what I have to say will perhaps sound ridiculous, and I’m convinced it is going to cause a debate – Sandstorm failed miserably as a character.
I do not mean the way she is portrayed in The New Prophecy, Power of Three and Omen of The Stars. Though I agree that – as practically each and every significant character from The Prophecy Begins – she is completely washed out of character there. It is, of course, logical that she matured, as she not only grew up, but also had kits to raise, and motherhood requires a lot of wisdom and patience, but she became Background Warrior No. 223 – her function is literally to fill empty space in ThunderClan. She does not really show sparks of her old personality, like getting angry at Blackstar or Onestar when they accuse ThunderClan of something on a gathering or immediately volunteering to go on some risky patrol or journey. But The New Prophecy and on is not the topic of the article. I am talking about her behaviour in The Prophecy Begins.
Sandstorm’s Role in The First Series, and Why She Failed
Don’t get me wrong. Sandstorm has a specified and realistic personality. If she was a background character, I would probably enjoy her a lot. What makes her bad is her being one of the main ones.
Each of the important characters in The Prophecy Begins undergoes some form of development, or faces personal problems. Graystripe has his romance with Silverstream and switches Clans, seeking the place where he belongs. Bluestar’s faith in StarClan collapses, then she breaks down even more after she reveals the heritage of her children she gave up and they are angry at her. Cinderpelt grapples with her injury until she finally finds peace as Yellowfang’s apprentice. And what about Sandstorm?
Every time Sandstorm has a significant appearance in the books, it is related to Fireheart – whether it is about his own problems or her crush on him. We never get to see Sandstorm herself; her struggles, her relationships with her clanmates, her goals outside of winning his heart. She kind of resembles the type of female characters who are only added to the story so the male protagonist could have a wife.
I have seen Sandstorm’s fans complain that most people only see her as Firestar’s mate, but in reality… she simply is little more than that. Other aspects of her life remain unexplored. Even the cats she is established to be close with disappear from her life as her attraction to Fireheart grows. Dustpelt, a childhood best friend of hers, is eventually reduced to someone she can talk to on a patrol. As a warrior, she is also never shown interacting with Whitestorm, her former mentor – we don’t see her cheering with special enthusiasm when he is chosen for deputy, or even mourning when he dies. There is Graystripe, but in Into The Wild there never seems to be a particular amity between them, and their friendship only evolves once she gets closer with Fireheart.
Given how big of a part Sandstorm plays in the first series, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to know more of her life and motives. Her romance with Fireheart is quite important in Rising Storm and A Dangerous Path, and an introduction of her personal problems could easily improve the way their love story was handled in the books.
Now, I am aware that Firestar and Sandstorm are a huge fan favourite, but I just can’t bring myself to like them. There’s something about this pairing that feels off.
In my opinion, a main character romance should be some kind of little arc on its own, the way they evolve and the obstacles they overcome. It is learning to love in different forms – whether it can be by overcoming prejudices, letting go of troubling past, trying to be a better partner or something else. For Dovewing and Tigerstar it was Dovewing, a cat who was used to heeding everybody’s calls, finally putting her needs first, and Tigerheart maturing, becoming able to be the mate she wanted and needed. For Leafpool and Crowfeather, it was Crowfeather learning to move on from Feathertail and admit that he loves Leafpool. But for Sandstorm and Firestar, there is nothing like that. It is young Fireheart dealing with his own issues and Sandstorm being around, sometimes trying to please him and sometimes getting angry at him. There are a few cute scenes with them, like the border patrol in Fire and Ice, but overall they seem more like bits of random interactions.
The way they pulled off the enemies-to-lovers plot is not the best, either. I adore the trope when it is done well, but instead there was the “protagonist rescues a girl who initially disliked him and then gets her” cliche. This bugs me even more because it is Sandstorm, portrayed as independent and brave – why did it have to be the damsel in distress scenario? I’d prefer if it was something requiring teamwork, like fighting together or Sandstorm getting injured and Fireheart helping her get to the camp. Besides, it ruins the potential their relationship had. To me, the true charm of enemies/rivals to lovers is to watch a person slowly let go of their prejudice or old rivalry, developing feelings for the other. It would be more fun if we saw Sandstorm’s opinion on Fireheart change gradually instead of her becoming sympathetic towards him in a blink of an eye.
Not only is that kind of plot boring, it is also very impractical from a writer’s point of view. If halfway through the second book it is already obvious that Sandstorm likes him, how is an author supposed to get the readers to immerse in their story? How can they make the fans cheer for Fireheart and Sandstorm, waiting patiently for the moment when they finally say “I love you”? They can’t become mates in Forest of Secrets, after all. A young couple needs obstacles in their path. Since Sandstorm’s dislike for Fireheart was only a memory, there were no obstacles. So the Erins had to add them. And they did… and to be honest, this also did not work well.
(I am starting to feel like I am just being whiny, or have ridiculous fictional relationship standards. Maybe it is a symptom of Pride and Prejudice Fan Syndrome. Nevertheless, I stand with my opinion)
First, Fireheart doesn’t realise he loves Sandstorm until Cinderpelt directly tells him that she has a crush on him. Before, he shows almost no signs of attraction, he enjoys spending time in her company, but does not really act like he is interested in her. Only when Cinderpelt says that Sandstorm presumably wishes to his mate, he is struck with the thought that “hey, maybe I like her too?”. Excuse me, what? I always had a rather high opinion of Fireheartstar’s intellect in the first series. If someone can figure out who murdered the Clan deputy at the age of sixteen, he should also be able to figure out that he has a crush on someone. I do realise that some people don’t want to admit to themselves that they are in love, however, I repeat; Fireheart does not seem to fancy Sandstorm until someone points it out. Normally even if he did not think that he has feelings for her, he would show it subconsciously – feel tingles in his fur, admire her posture or eyes, want to get back to her if someone interrupted their meeting.
Yet, after Fireheart learns that he loves her in Rising Storm, there is pretty much nothing stopping them from being together – and that is perhaps too early. In result, A Dangerous Path is a series of minor disagreements that successfully prevent them from becoming mates.
“It’s easy for you!” he argued. “You share Clan blood with the rest of the Clan. Cloudpaw was my only kin. Now there’s no one in the Clan that’s close to me.
Sandstorm flinched as if he had struck her. “How can you say that? You have me!” she spat. “I’ve done nothing but try to help you. Doesn’t that mean anything? I thought our friendship was important to you, but clearly I was wrong!”
Rising Storm, Chapter 28
Of course, them being able to admit they were wrong and reconcile is a sign of their relationship being healthy. There is, however, one problem – a clear imbalance when it comes to who starts the argument. It is literally always Sandstorm. Even if Fireheart provokes her somehow, for example saying something borderline offensive when he is angry or sad, Sandstorm’s the one to yell right back and storm off before he can explain himself. It is always a similar scheme: he says or does something, she gets angry, he tiptoes around and tries to apologise. Given how irrelevant the reasons are – his bad mood or wrong choice of words, her not being given an apprentice – it can honestly come across as Sandstorm being petty. Even more so as we do not know anything about her experiences and are not able to provide a reasoning for her actions. Their fights are flat and based on one repeating pattern, which emphasises Sandstorm’s impatient personality rather than helps establish them as a complex, developed relationship.
There’s also the drama in Firestar’s Quest. Mighty StarClan, even if I meant to talk about The Prophecy Begins… It is definitely one of my least favourite plots ever. Sandstorm is understandable here, but the conflict is so tiring to read. I was desperately wishing for it to end while it lasted. Spottedleaf and Firestar’s ghost communication was handled terribly – if I were to write it, I would probably make it a more loose guardian angel or StarClan Google Assistant kind of motive instead of a beautiful, sweet-smelling she-cat flying towards Firestar to give him an omen – but I do not think we needed it as a conflict tool. Quoting what @MissyDakota once said on Discord, “Spotted’s great, I like her a lot, but not as a stick put in the SandFire anthill”.
I personally believe a great way to improve both Sandstorm’s character and her and Fireheart’s love story would be using her anonymous parents. Make her some kit found on ThunderClan’s territory, one that could easily be the offspring of some loner or house cat. She thinks her clanmates don’t think she deserves her position as much as the cats born among them, and desperately tries to show that she’s a real warrior. Then, a young tom everyone knows was a kittypet before shows up and is given everything she did so much to prove she was worthy of – a name, a place in the apprentices’ den, even the leader herself for a mentor. In this version, Sandstorm’s development would be more about slowly letting go of her bitterness and befriending Fireheart – to the point where she trusts him enough to confide in him about his heritage, and he is surprised at her confession as he always thought she was every inch a Clan cat, telling her not to worry because she is amazing the way she is. It would also make the apprentice drama and that little episode in Darkest Hour when she worries about Firestar having more to do as a leader than being with her more reasonable, as she would doubt she was as good as him.
That all being said, I don’t like the concept of a Sandstorm novella or Super Edition. Additional books are for the cats who have more stories to tell; their motivation, past or background relationships and scenes which the main books didn’t show in enough detail. Sandstorm’s life and motives were all described. They just could have been better.