Today I am reviewing ‘We Ride the Storm’ by Devin Madson, which is up there as one of my favourite reads of the year. I had fallen in love with the cover and premise and first sight, and was over the moon to receive an e-arc from netgalley.
*Disclaimer – I received an e-arc via netgalley in exchange for an honest review*
War built the Kisian Empire. War will tear it down.
Seventeen years after rebels stormed the streets, factions divide Kisia. Only the firm hand of the god-emperor holds the empire together. But when a shocking betrayal destroys a tense alliance with neighboring Chiltae, all that has been won comes crashing down.
In Kisia, Princess Miko Ts’ai is a prisoner in her own castle. She dreams of claiming her empire, but the path to power could rip it, and her family, asunder.
In Chiltae, assassin Cassandra Marius is plagued by the voices of the dead. Desperate, she accepts a contract that promises to reward her with a cure if she helps an empire fall.
And on the border between nations, Captain Rah e’Torin and his warriors are exiles forced to fight in a foreign war or die.
As an empire dies, three warriors will rise. They will have to ride the storm or drown in its blood.
We Ride the Storm is everything I love in fantasy.
I do have to say right off the bat, that this is not a book for the faint-heated, it contains a lot of hard to read scenes depicting the horrors of war and conflict, and it doesn’t shy away from them.
I love books that are told through multiple POV characters, and that is done skilfully here between three very different, but fascinating characters. With such distinctive and unique character voices, there was no mistaking who was talking, and it added an extra facet to the part of the world and narrative that they are experiencing.
The first, Princess Miko Ts’ai is our gateway to Kisia and the political intrigue in that country. It took me a little while to get into her POV, and at the start, I found her a little frustrating, because for all that she was playing in the political games and knew the risk – ‘They tried to kill me four times before I could walk’ – she seemed very naïve. This was a complaint that I retracted as her story arc progressed, and we saw her learn and grow, and that beginning was an essential part of that and made it all the more realistic. What I love about Miko is that when she makes a mistake, she learns from it, and filters it into her next choices, which makes her growth all the more believable. For all that she is learning and growing for most of the book, Miko is a force of nature. A woman who bends the events and intrigue around herself, shaping the narrative rather than being shaped by it.
The second POV character was probably my favourite, although I love all three, and that is Captain Rah e’Torin of the Levanti horse tribes. Exiled, and far from home, he is trying to make sense of a changing world, without allowing it to change him. In many ways, he is as naïve as Miko, and unlike her, he doesn’t seem to lose that. Even as he learns more and starts to see the world and the people around him for what they are. It is a little frustrating at points, and some of his losses might have been mitigated if he had been more adaptable. However, that is also one of my favourite things about him. He has his beliefs, his faith and morals, and he refuses to let them change just to fit into a world – it is rare of a character to remain so true to themselves, as everything crumbles around them, and I couldn’t help but admire him for it.
The third was Cassandra Marius, an assassin who has an intriguing relationship with death and the dead, and a voice in her head who argues against her darker nature. There are a lot of questions around this character, and not too many answers in this book. Again, she is a unique female character – violent, impulsive and far from ladylike most of the time, and that is her strength. She is caught up in a world, and events where she is ‘powerless’ and she makes a niche for herself, often under duress, and having to make the most of what she has, and I enjoyed her adaptivity. She is a fascinating character, and I found her chapters fascinating, and look forward to finding out more of what is going to happen to her, and what will happen with her and the Witchdoctor she was hunting for. I did feel she was a little neglected towards the end of the book, but I feel that was due to the how the narrative was progressing, and while I would have liked to see more of her if not get more answers I trust that will develop in the next book.
There were a variety of cultures portrayed in this book, and it made for a complex and interesting world, and as flashpoints for conflict. There were a couple of places where I felt the worldbuilding could have been built up a little more, but for the most part, I found this a rich world. I also have yet to read the Vengeance trilogy which is an earlier series set within the same world, and while I have read that it isn’t necessary to read them I intend to rectify that as soon as possible, and it will be interesting to see whether that fills in the gaps. But, mainly I just want an excuse to read more in this world and by this author.
We Ride the Storm, really does feel like you’re riding the storm and not just because of the war sweeping through the story. It’s a relentless book, filled with action – beautifully written, visceral conflict, plot twists, revelations and betrayals. Once I had got into it, there was no putting it down, because I had to know what was going to happen next. The writing is fantastic, a blend of lyrical prose and those phrases that will just stick with you for a long time ‘“It’s harder to sever a head than people think”. Each word held impact, drawing you further and further into the story until you’re completely hooked. Honestly, I can’t recommend this one highly enough. It’s one of my favourites reads this year – and that ending – I will be counting down the days until books two- ‘We Lie With Death’ is released next year.
We Ride the Storm (The Reborn Empire #1) – Devin Madson (Published by Orbit/Little, Brown Book Group – 23rd June (US)/ 25th June (UK) – ***** (5/5 Stars)
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.