Book Review: We Ride the Storm (The Reborn Empire #1) by Devin Madson
Well. This is by far my favourite read of 2018. It was B R I L L I A N T. It knocked the socks off everything I’ve read this year, and that’s saying something as I’ve read a lot of great books in the past 12 months. So, why was We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson that good? Let me explain…
This grimdark fantasy novel throws the reader right in at the deep end with this gloriously gruesome first line: “It’s harder to sever a head than people think.” And as the chapter progresses the rich world, beautifully rounded characterisation, excellent dialogue and fast pace sweep you along until you’re ten chapters in and haven’t done anything you were meant to. This is the first novel in a long time that has gripped me and held my attention enough to keep me awake late into the night (seriously, I love my sleep).
Essentially the story goes something like this: the world is changing – and not always for the better. The Levanti horse tribes are being forced out of their lands and into Chiltaen territory, but many still cling to their herd way of life. The Chiltaens have got their sights set on the country of Kisia and will use the uninvited Levanti visitors in their lands to conquer it for them – although it goes against the Levanti culture. The war comes at a problematic time for the Kisians. They have a leadership problem, with everyone in the royal family wanting to rule the empire.
We Ride the Storm is a tale of power, greed, honour and scheming, told from the voices of three point of view characters. First, the head chopper, the Levanti captain Rah e’Torin. Rah has been banished from his homeland and his herd with his group of Swords. These are horseback warriors who are sworn to protect the herd, but cast out they must find their own way. Rah is so adamant about clinging to his traditions and honour code that he makes some enemies among his own people, as well as among the Chiltaens. But he also finds a friend in a Chiltaen priest, who has a gift for mind-reading (and more).
The second character is a Chiltaen whore and assassin: Cassandra Marius. Cassandra is pretty handy with a blade, and also has a strange affinity with dead people. She’s hired to assassinate two people on the same journey to Kisia, but ends up in all kinds of shit (sometimes literally).
Lastly, Princess Miko Ts’ai from Kisia. To the outside world, her father is the aging, but feared, emperor Kin Ts’ai. Her mother, the equally feared Hana, is of Otako royal blood and would like an Otako to rule once again, to oust the Ts’ai family once and for all. Miko also has a twin brother with big ambitions. And Miko herself has a grand goal, one which means she has to make some difficult choices about her family allegiances.
As the plot unfolds – often in totally unexpected ways – we see how these three characters are linked and how their twisted, unpredictable lives are on the brink of collision.
I really enjoyed the fact that there is little in-yer-face magic in this novel, there are hints with the priest’s abilities and Cassandra’s strange voice in her head, but the focus is on the Asian-inspired world, the machinations of those countries in it and the tough choices foisted on the main characters.
There’s violence, funny moments and unexpected twists. There’s convincing dialogue, vivid descriptions and skilfully flowing prose that keeps you riveted to the unfolding story.
This is an excellent fantasy and, for the first time in ages, I’m actually desperate to read book two to see what happens next!
We Ride the Storm was announced yesterday as a finalist in the SPFBO competition – very well deserved!
My rating: 5/5
Goodreads | Author website
* I received a free review copy from James Tivendale at Fantasy Book Review (thanks James!)
>>My debut novel, a grimdark epic fantasy called MELOKAI, is out now! Available from Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play Books, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. Read more about my books here.<<
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