- We Ride the Storm (The Reborn Empire #1).
- Devin Madson.
- 448 pages.
- Epic Fantasy / Grimdark.
- My Rating: Hellyeah Book 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.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
“They tried to kill me four times before I could walk. Seven before I held any memory of the world. Every time thereafter I knew fear, but it was anger that chipped sharp edges into my soul”.
I know that it is a very stereotypical thing to say, but I was hooked after reading the first paragraph (the above quote) of We Ride the Storm. It is darkly enticing, intriguing, catered perfectly to my love of all things grim and it made me sit up and take notice. My initial thought upon reading the paragraph was that I was in for something special and I was, We Ride the Storm is absolutely fantastic. Or, if you prefer the down and dirty version, I fucking loved it.
Princess Miko Tsai is the twin brother to Prince Tanaka, the potential heir to the Crimson Throne in the Kisian Empire. Miko and Tanaka have the Ts’ai name but, not the blood. Emperor Kin the Soldier Emperor is their stepfather, their true lineage that of the Otako, the former line of Emperors of Kisia. Miko and Tanaka have survived numerous assassination attempts, many at the hands of their stepfather. Aspiring to be the next Emperor, Tanaka with Miko by his side wants to serve Kisia, to rule, to heal the cracks that Kin’s reign has caused and to take control of Kisia in the face of the impending war with Chiltae.
Rah e’Torin and the Second Swords of Torin were exiled from their homeland, the Levanti Plains. The Levanti don’t fight in the other nations wars and Rah and the Second Swords have no claim, no stake in the current conflict between Kisia and Chiltae. Far from home and in a hostile land, chained and enslaved. When the only choice that he and the Second Swords are given is between servitude and death Rah has no option but to fight for Chiltae. For the Second Swords to join the Chiltaen Army and be used as a tool in the attack against Kisia in the hope that there might later be a chance of escape, freedom and survival.
Cassandra Marius is an assassin and a high-end prostitute who takes on an assassination contract to assassinate a high-profile target who is travelling from Chiltae to Kisia. The dead call to Cassandra and she has ‘She‘ a voice in her head that plagues, torments and tortures her. She yearns for peace and the payment for fulfilling the contract is the chance to ask questions and receive answers on how to finally get rid of ‘She‘.
To tell her story in We We Ride the Storm Madson combines together multiple and first-person POV into multiple first-person POV and it works well, extremely well. Madson does a stellar job of making each of her trio of POV characters distinct from the other by giving them each their own individual personality and unique voice. By using a trio of first-person POV in We Ride the Storm it allows Madson broader brush strokes and the ability to tell her simultaneously epic yet personal story over a large and sweeping canvas. Allowing separate threads where actions, choices and events echo and reverberate across the whole far-reaching story as the trio of POV characters gradually become woven together in a twisted and tangled knot while maintaining the individuality and intimacy that you get with a first-person account.
There is a depth and a complexity to the trio of engaging POV characters that Madson has created and many secondary and side characters are extremely well-developed too. As the story unfolds and they endure the constant hardship, struggles and hell that Madson puts them through I found myself caring about, I connected with and I was totally invested in what happened to each of them. Miko is determined and fierce, a powerless princess, a female in an Asian-inspired culture that is ruled by men, overlooked and unseen she is ambitious, driven, knowledgeable and strong. Due to their traditions, the nomadic Levanti, horse-herders where the herd and horses are their way of life are seen as barbarians by both Kisia and Chiltae. Deemed as savages because they severe the heads of their dead in order to set the soul free. Rah is stubborn and unwavering in his honour and strictly clings to the Levanti traditions as he tries to keep his faith in a changing world. And, Cassandra, well, Cassandra is troubled, slightly insane, a whole lot of snarky and pure awesome. A story can live or die by its characters. As they find themselves caught up in the war between Kisia and Chiltae. Miko, Rah and Cassandra are the driving force that breathes bloody life into We Ride the Storm.
In We Ride the Storm Madson has created a world that feels alive and lived in with a trio of singular cultures in the Kisian, Chiltaen and the Levanti each with their own customs, religions and rich history. Yet, there is no unnecessary detail included to bog down the pacing or interrupt the flow of the story. Magic is minimal and sparse in We Ride the Storm giving the world a grounded feel rather than a fantastical with a feeling that there is more to be discovered in the future books in the trilogy.
There is an energy to both the writing and the story in We Ride the Storm and the book feels far shorter than its 500 page-length. There are some emotive moments spread throughout and some dark humour is also included. The dark humour comes courtesy of the verbal sparring between Cassandra and her inner voice ‘She’ and Cassandra and some other characters too, particularly her jousting with Dom Leo Villius. Along with the writing, there is a strength to the storytelling in We Ride the Storm and each story arc and each POV is rewarding, keeps you turning the pages and keeps you coming back for more. It is a multi-layered story that builds and that from beginning to end always has something happening with twists, turns, betrayals, treachery, beheadings galore, politics, machinations, secrets and schemes, courtly intrigue where ears are always listening, eyes are always watching and where words are used as weapons and are just as deadly as blades and plenty of ferocious fighting and intense action scenes.
We Ride the Storm is a whirlwind of a book, action-packed, bloody, brutal, emotional, fast-paced, frenetic and gripping.
Purchase We Ride the Storm (The Reborn Empire #1) by Devin Madson.
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