I’m super happy that Orbit provided me with a paperback ARC of We Lie With Death, the sequel to We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson. Thanks to Nazia for arranging it.
Note: The following review is the updated version of the one I wrote back then when We Lie With Death was supposed to be self-published. It contains spoilers for We Ride the Storm, so proceed with caution if you haven’t read book 1 of The Reborn Empire series yet.
|Series: The Reborn Empire #2||Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Dark Fantasy|
|Date of Publishing: January 14th 2021||Trigger Warnings: Violence, beheadings, murder, killing animals out of mercy|
|Page count: 576||Publisher: Orbit|
The empire has fallen and another rises in its place in the action-packed sequel to Devin Madson’s epic fantasy, We Ride the Storm.
Into Kisia’s conquered north, a Levanti empire is born.
Loyal to the new emperor, Dishiva e’Jaroven must tread the line between building a new life and clinging to the old. Only Gideon can lead them, but when he allies himself with a man returned from the dead it will challenge all she thinks she knows and everything she wants to believe.
Now empress of nothing, Miko is more determined than ever to fight for her people, yet with her hunt for allies increasingly desperate, she may learn too late that power lies not in names but in people.
Rah refused to bow to the Levanti emperor, but now abandoned by the Second Swords he must choose whether to fight for his people, or his soul. Will honor be his salvation, or lead to his destruction?
Sold to the Witchdoctor, Cassandra’s only chance of freedom is in his hands, but when her fate becomes inextricably linked to Empress Hana, her true nature could condemn them both.
There is no calm after the storm.
“What is justice if not an idea?” she said. “What is freedom if not an idea? What is culture if not an idea? If you do not fight for it then someone can take it from you. Can take your way of life. Your freedom. Are those things not worth fighting for?”
I went with a Skillet song for We Ride the Storm so decided to stick with that. This time around I picked Hero with Miko and Rah in mind.
Events pick up right where they were left off at the end of We Ride the Storm. Miko is forced to fled and find allies to get back Kisia’s throne with her faithful General on her side. Rah leaves the forming Levanti Empire behind after refusing to bow down to Gideon, trying to figure out where he should go. Cassandra finally meets the Witchdoctor, but not exactly the way she planned. Actually, nothing happens the way she planned. In We Lie With Death a fourth POV character joins the others: Dishiva e’Jaroen, who decides to stay with Gideon and help him build the Levanti Empire and keep him safe, even from himself if needed.
I’ll try not to go too much into details regarding the plot, as this is a book you have to discover for yourself. There are so many layers to We Lie With Death that it’s hard to talk about them all without some accidental spoilers. But I’ll try anyway. One of the strengths of Madson‘s book – s we know from book 1 – is her characters. We Lie With Death is purely character driven and hoo boy, it’s hard not to root for at least one of them.
My favorite remains to be Cassandra, whose person is surrounded by mystery. Rest assured, we’ll get a few answers and a bit of explanation of how reincarnation of a soul works for example, or why does Cassandra have a company in Her. And hers is the honor to reveal one big twist which will leave your jaw hanging open. Seriously, I did not see that coming and it also makes Dishiva’s troubles muuuuch more interesting. Not that they weren’t to begin with. But back to Cassandra for a minute. Like it or not her fate is entwined with Empress Hana’s and they have to work together in order to have a chance of survival. One of my favorite parts of this plotline was the house they are delivered to by the Witchdoctor. It has a huge tree in the middle of it and the way Madson described it, makes me want to live in it – after some rebuilding and cleaning, that is. On second thought, it would be a total pain to keep that house up. Anyway. Cassandra keeps finding herself in impossible situations and forced to work closely with others. For someone who prefers to work alone, this is not a fun situation. But fear not, she is still her dirty-mouthed, strong-headed, loud self as always.
Dishiva. I already liked her in We Ride the Storm, and I was really happy to see her getting her own chapters. As one of Gideon’s trusted people, her job is to take care of the safety of Gideon, as the head of the guard. There is a certain someone who, despite Dishiva’s warning, gets close to Gideon while he tries to make his dream of a free Levanti Empire come true. In We Lie With Death, we get to glimpse at Gideon’s pretty complex situation and wonder how aware he is of certain things around himself. Dishiva tries her best to warn him though. Her “reward” for her troubles is being sent for taking care of some problems which just leads Dishiva deeper into politics and her consciousness. Dealing with problems and fulfilling orders seem to be simple enough, but what she doesn’t see coming is that she’ll start questioning her own loyalty and find herself conflicted. My favorite part about her plotline was the way the mystery slowly unfurled around her, made me think I was reading a crime novel – the better kind might I add. It’s amazing, how Madson can wave so many tropes and genres into one novel.
Rah finds himself in a position where he is forced to make an unusual ally and accept some hard truths about himself and the expectations some of the Levanti sets for him. The question is, what does Rah want? Keep living in exile, go home or fight against/for Gideon and his dreams of an Empire? Or something else?
“In darkness you cease to exist as solitude wears your soul to a stub, but nothing could erode the truth in my heart.”
Miko was my least favorite character in We Ride the Storm, but she started to grow on me this time around. She is no longer the spoiled princess who tries to play the adults’ game. Now she has to find her own way to claim her throne and find allies to fight against the Levanti. What she didn’t expect is that she has to fight for the support of her own people and find a way to make a deal with Jie.
One of my favorite things about We Lie With Death is the way the cultures collide with each other. Levanti and Kisian are forced to get closer to each other and learn about the other’s customs, sometimes adapting to them. It’s interesting to see how people can understand, furthermore form a bond with each other without speaking a common language. Also to experience how one’s opinion about a character changes when seeing them through a different character’s eyes. The biggest achievement from Madson is that while I usually don’t like too much traveling in books, she made me not to care about that at all because I was just so engrossed in the characters’ story as it unfurled before my eyes.
If I liked We Ride the Storm, I’m sure as hell loved We Lie With Death. All the POV characters have their distinct voices and you can’t help but turn the pages in your need to learn what happens next. This is that kind of book which makes you promise yourself you’ll only read one more chapter. Let me spare you of lying to yourself: you won’t be able to stop. Every chapter ends in a mini climax urging you to read on. By the end, you won’t be able to contain your feelings and probably will curse Devin Madson by leaving you hanging, waiting for the next book like a drug addict waits for the next shot. Or Stiff, if we are talking about Cassandra.
We Lie With Death is cleverly written, intricate and addictive, merging genres like it’s the most natural thing in the world while handling topics with a sensitivity that shows Madson’s genius. If you didn’t read We Ride the Storm yet, start it now because you don’t want to miss out on We Lie With Death!