We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson

Series: The Reborn Empire #1 Rating: 4/5
Date of Publishing: June 7th 2018 Genre: fantasy, epic fantasy, dark fantasy
Format: Kindle Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Number of pages: 444 Author’s website: http://www.devinmadson.com

Quote of the Book

“Take your dreams and escape before they are destroyed. Some light must survive to stand against the darkness. Some honour. Some…” Her fingers strayed toward my lips but she did not lift her eyes to mine. “…beauty and goodness.”

Blurb

War built the Kisian Empire and war will tear it down. And as an empire falls, three warriors rise. 

Caught in a foreign war, Captain Rah e’Torin and his exiled warriors will have to fight or die. Their honour code is all they have left until orders from within stress them to breaking point, and the very bonds that hold them together will be ripped apart. 

Cassandra wants the voice in her head to go away. Willing to do anything for peace, the ageing whore takes an assassination contract that promises answers, only the true price may be everyone and everything she knows. 

A prisoner in her own castle, Princess Miko doesn’t dream of freedom but of the power to fight for her empire. As the daughter of a traitor the path to redemption could as easily tear it, and her family, asunder. 

As an empire dies they will have to ride the storm or drown in its blood.

Personal notes

I’ve received an ARC from the author in exchange of an honest review. I’m sorry it took me so long to read this one. I was an idiot not to read it back in May. Well, there was a lesson to be learned.

Songs of the Book

Well, this one was pretty obvious. I was reading this scene where Cassandra calls herself a monster and at the same time I was listening to Monster by Skillet. It was… enlightening. I went to check the lyrics and damn, it fits perfectly for Cass.

And since it’s unfair to leave out Miko and Rah, I decided to choose a song for them too. Thankfully Skillet has a nice selection of songs which I can use. For Miko I picked Sick of It

Rah. Okay, this was hard. Honestly, I couldn’t find a perfect one so I settled with my best option:

Review

We Ride the Storm is set after the events in The Vengeance Trilogy. It’s not necessary to read those books before plunging into The Reborn Empire series, but it helps to understand what’s happening at the beginning of the story. And might give a better sense of the world, since we are pretty much thrown in the middle of things. Although eventually things will clear up.

We follow the story through 3 characters’ eyes, all of them written in first person:

Rah – Levanti warrior, captain of the Second Swords of Torin. He and his Swords are exiled from their homeland for a cycle and find themselves in the middle of an ages long conflict between two empires: Kisia and Chiltaen. He also manages to get into a conflict himself with another captain, Gideon, because of their different views. Rah stubbornly tries to keep the old customs, helds honor above else and loyal to a fault. He holds to his believes throughout the book. He is that character who you can’t help but look up to, because whatever the circumstances he always tries to do what he believes is right. Even if that has unforseeable consequences. Through his eyes we get to learn about the Levanti culture which is about as shocking to us as to the Chiltaens. Especially since the opening scene gets us right to this point. Let’s just say, I’m happy I wasn’t born to be a Levanti. Although I like their oath:

“We are the Swords that hunt so your hands may be clean. We are the Swords that kill so your soul may be light. We are the Swords that die so you may live.”

Miko – living in the Imperial Court, far from the outside world, under the influence of her mother Empress Hannah, who tries to use her children to get the upper hand against the Emperor, Kin Ts’ai. Miko and her twin brother Tanaka has their own plans to one day get the Crimson Throne and rule over Kisia, but things go awry pretty fast. Miko finds herself choosing between two opposite fractions only to decide to put her self-interest above everything else. Miko is a strong female character, although young, naive and inexperienced when it comes to full scale politics. But she is also clever and can find her own fate, not letting anyone to stand in her way. Maybe she is the weakest character of the three, even though she is a capable fighter thanks to the endless trainings. I just found her hard to connect with despite her circumstances.

Cassandra – “Whoresassin” as Leo puts it. She is quite troubled and against her better judgement she agrees to take a job which promises to get rid of her problem permanently. Out of the three, she is the most interesting, and most complex character, but she gets less place than the other two, which is a shame. Her interactions with Leo were the funniest and the most emotional of all. Also this plotline held all the surprises which left me with my mouth hanging open. I’m really looking forward to see where her path leads. She was the only character I really got to care about, even though I liked Rah too for his idealism and straightforwardness. But there is just something in Cass. Maybe the hardships she’s gone through, her struggle to get control over herself and learning about how to make compromises and care about others too. That her problems aren’t really just hers. Also, the name Cassandra reminds me of the Greek mythology. She was the daughter of King Priam and was cursed so no one ever believed her prophecies, amongst them the destruction of Troy. Anyway, one of my favorite part of her and Leo’s conversation:

“Now let’s keep moving before the sight of this damn place makes me piss myself.” “As you wish, Your Whoreness.” He had taken a few steps but turned to look back over his shoulder, perplexed. “Or should it be Your Assassinness? Whoresassin!”

Through the 3 POVs we not only get glimpses into three lives, but we witness a brewing war too. Nevertheless the main focus is on the character’s lives and motives. There are a few battle scenes which are usually short and brutal. And far more head falls in this book than you’d expect. Maybe because of the switching between the POVs, the sense of time is a bit off. Things seem to happen too fast, especially toward the end. Without the background knowledge of the previous trilogy it’s a bit harder to grasp the world in its entirety. Especially the feud between Kisia and Chiltaen which is the main driver of the story. Sure, we get explanations here and there, but since we see everything through the character’s eyes, our knowledge is limited to theirs. This kind of storytelling reminds me of Ulff Lehmann’s, although the style is quite different. We only get the information necessary to follow the events. Which is fine, but sometimes it can get frustrating. The same goes for the cultural backgrounds of the Empires. We learn the most about Levanti customs and faith, but there are many other things left untold, which would add to the worldbuilding and shine a different light on characters maybe. Let’s take the Hieromonk for example: we learn practically nothing of the religion despite him being the head of the church. Or about his motives, except the obvious, but I’m sure we’ll do so in later books.

Devin Madson seems to have an undying love for beheadings and anything to do with a weapon having a pointy end, and though there are some indeed bloody scenes, it still manages to not to cross that fine line where it ends up being utterly disturbing and/or pointless. Every kill has its purpose, and every battle scene is a dance. Every chapter has its own arc, and every ending is cathartic, which just makes you turn to the next page and it makes damn hard to put it down. If you’ll find yourself saying just one more chapter, don’t be surprised if you end up staying up far too late. Madson’s style of prose also helps things, when you get descriptions like this:

“Koi’s gatehouse stood over the road like a furious matron towering above a naughty child. Its boltholes glared down at us like eyes and the Imperial Flag fluttered like the matron’s blood-stained apron. And between her legs the only way in or out.”

It’s freaking genius, if you ask me. And her subtle humor makes this read even more enjoyable. I just wish it was a bit less predictable, there were quite a few twists that I saw coming.

We Ride the Storm is a strong first book, which builds up the conflict and leaves plenty of questions to be answered for the next installment in the series. It’s a bloody, character driven, headless… err, endless fun. The hype is real and well earned. I wouldn’t be surprised if it landed on many lists at the end of the year as one of the best fantasy books in 2018.

6 thoughts on “We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson

Add yours

    1. It is. I forgot to mention in the review – I blame it on lack of sleep – but it has an Asian-feel setting too. I could recommend if you like dark fantasy, political schemings, and such. Probably better to start with The Vengeance Trilogy to have a better understanding of the world, but you can start here too. It has a different set of characters, since it’s about the next generation.

      Liked by 1 person

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