Monday, July 30, 2018

Review: We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson

We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson
Self-published, 2018
Ebook. 444 pages. 

About the book:
"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."

In a weird way, I'm becoming overwhelmed by the sheer amount of truly incredible fantasy books I've read so far this year. It's been surprising to me because I know that I am probably only getting pickier when it comes to books I love, so I've arrived at the conclusion that authors are simply majorly on their game this year (once again). I say all this as a prelude to the fact that We Ride the Storm completely blew me mind and is easily one of my favorite books of the year now.

We Ride the Storm is yet another wonderful self-published novel that I have read as a part of /r/fantasy's TBRindr and I am still in awe. I've already said this on my blog with other awesome self-published books (Kings of Paradise, Kingshold), but if you have any preconceived notions about the quality of self-published books and not thinking that they are up to par with traditionally published books, then banish those thoughts from your head right now, because wow was this book phenomenal.

The setting is a strong Asian-inspired one that was so well-written and felt very carefully created and full of detail. Since I read a lot of fantasy, it's easy to get fatigued by different settings and plot or to find similarities among different books, but I'm pleased to say that, on the whole, We Ride the Storm was one of those books that just felt so distinct and creative.

One thing that really stood out to me about this book was that I don't recall ever once feeling bored or overwhelmed with information. It's not that this book is simply told or lacks depth and complexity in any way, it's that this story is told in such an engaging and flowing manner that I couldn't look away from. Madison is meticulous in her detail and continuity and it never felt overdone. This is a fairly dark, grim book with an abundance of violence, but since it's scope is so epic I felt this slightly undercurrent of hope and determination that stayed throughout the novel. It's a pretty small ray of hope sometimes, but it's still there, as if there is a sense or goal of goodness at the end of it. There is also some great dry, witty humor at times that helped this book from going too dark or depressing, which really cemented this book as a well-rounded and well-developed piece of literature.

The story is told from the perspective of three main characters: Rah e'Torin, Cassandra, and Princess Miko. Rah is one of those men that is so loyal to his vows that he's almost annoying and makes me want to say, "just do the bad thing already and shut up," which is always the mark of a character with high morals. He actually reminded me at various times of Joscelin from Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart, simply because of how steadfast he was at staying true to his own ethics and values, and although it can cause him to appear a stubborn mule, it shows his strong, admirable character and a great dedication to his vows and herd. He is a little burst of goodness amidst the grim, morally skewed characters that are littered throughout the rest of the pages.

Cassandra is a bit of a foil to Rah in some ways, seeing as she is both a prostitute and an assassin (a 'whoresassin,' if you will), which would probably go against most of Rah's values. I really enjoyed Cassandra's character, as well a certain accompanying character that is somewhat a part of her--their interactions were always highly entertaining. Cassandra is a tough woman that I couldn't help but admire throughout the entire story. Although she seems to keep ending up in the rough end of situations, she sticks with what she knows she needs to do and never really gives up.

Although I really liked both Rah and Cassandra, Miko is the character that I loved. I am pretty sure she has just become one of my new favorite characters from any book. Miko is strong and confident in herself, but she is also completely aware of the fact that she is still young and has much to learn before she even considers becoming a ruler. I really admired that she was so pragmatic and seemed to actually be filled with common sense. She thinks of her future in every step, while also thinking of the future of those around and the people in her empire and how they will fare as a result of different actions. She is what I consider to be the epitome of badass, which is confirmed by a particular scene in this book that I have been wanting to read in a fantasy book for years. It was actually something that I've always wished for someone to do... and Miko finally did it, and I am endlessly impressed by her.

For those wondering about magical elements in this book, they are overall on the more subtle side so far. There are some obvious instances of fantastic elements, but otherwise it is not a magic-heavy system just yet. I can tell that Madison is really laying some groundwork in this book, though, and I expect future novels might have even more than we experienced in this book.

Overall, I've given We Ride the Storm five (plus) stars! I can see this book going so far and becoming one of the top must-read fantasy novels/series, so definitely get out there and pick up a copy if it sounds like something you might like. Now I need to go out and get my hands on a physical copy to add to my collection!

Content warning: As mentioned, this is a rather violent story at times (the first chapter starts off with a man attempting to remove the head of a dead man--it's for cultural reasons, but still) and there is also some sexual violence, so if you are sensitive to anything like that, just be aware of that when going into the story.

*I received a copy of We Ride the Storm courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the book.*

1 comment:

  1. I love books with strong asian inspiration and epic scope. It also sounds like the characters have depth. Adding this to my TBR!