Review Blog – We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson
First off a little disclaimer. This book is entered into this year’s SPFBO (Self Published Fantasy Blog Off) and is in BookNest’s group. While I am a judge for BookNest this year, this book was not in my list to judge. This is my own personal review.
I’m gonna start off by saying I loved this book! A lot. It’s a low fantasy setting with only hints at magic, possibly some gods and some necromancy and that’s about all we know of so far. It’s also a non-traditional setting in that it’s clearly Asian-inspired. It also does things a bit differently by giving us 3 points of view, but each one is written in first person. I’m not going to lie, this was a little confusing at first, but by about a quarter of the way through the book, each character’s own distinctive style was apparent enough that the voices no longer bled into one another. Honestly, to have 3 different character point of views in the same book, all written in first person, all have their own distinctive voices is an achievement that the author deserves no end of praise for!
This book has more severed heads than a GRRM novel!
I’ve not read any of Devin Madson’s earlier works (which are apparently set in the same world), but I’m sure as hell going to after reading this one. I have it on good knowledge they help flesh out the world even more. And the world definitely seems a complex one. There are multiple different empires, each with their own cultures and religions and customs, and many of them collide in this book… often with violence. There’s quite a bit of violence. The Kisians hold a lot in common with ancient Japan, the Chiltaens feel a lot like Christianity led Rome, and the Levanti are nomadic horse lords. It’s fair to say there’s some tension when they interact, and the clash of customs is handled well.
Character wise we get Rah e’Torin, Levanti warrior and leader of his own little warband. Rah is in exile from his homeland and searching for a way to keep his people alive in a part of the world that is entirely new to him. Cassandra Marius is a Chiltaen whore/assassin… who can sense the dead and has a ghost(?) riding along as an internal passenger. Miko T’sai is a Kisian princess and caught up in a game much larger than she ever realised, but is determined to stamp her own legacy upon the world. Cassandra and Miko were what drove the story for me. Cassandra is foul mouthed, violent, impulsive, and mysterious. I was eager to learn more about her internal passenger, and her odd power. It’s hard to say what I liked about Miko so much without spoilers, but she is a strong character unwilling to give in to the whims of fate, or the machinations of others.
And there’s also a straight up holy prophet character who may or may not be on a mission from god…
With war on the horizon, all 3 of our main characters will play a part in the conflict, and though they never interact with each other, they each feel the effects of each other’s actions. And when the war does come… it hits the fan!
So here’s the hard part. I really wanted to give this book 5 stars because I honestly loved it. But there’s was always something that just didn’t work for me… and it was Rah. From the get go I struggled with his character, never really feeling him. He’s an exile, determined to keep to his old traditions even in a land that doesn’t recognise them, even when all others around him are moving on progressively. There’s no bend to him, only angst that puts him at odds with everyone he encounters. To top it off, he has no real agency. The story just picks him up and carries him around, and he moans about it, but never fights it. Cassandra, on the other hand, fights the current at every possible point, regardless of success. And Miko… well the story doesn’t happen to Miko. She damn well happens to the story! But the book starts with Rah and it ends with Rah, so for me, it both started and ended on a flat note. But pretty much everything in between was !!!!!!
I give We Ride the Storm 4 stars. But I really wish it had been 5. Buy this book. Read this book. Love this book!