Intricate, compelling and vividly imagined, this is the first in a new trilogy that I am hugely excited about. Visceral battles, complex politics and fascinating worldbuilding bring Devin's words to life. The ending is both satisfying and leaves the reader craving more - mysteries are revealed around our three protagonists, but further mysteries are introduced that will carry the narrative wth excitement and aplomb into the next book.
Devin makes the bold choice of using three first person POVs for her narrative style. At first I didn't know how this would work, but I can now confidently say it works very, very well. Each idiolect is distinct and unique to that POV, so that within the first paragraph or two, it's clear who is speaking. She also cleverly refers to place very early on, which grounds the POV further, and each POV has its own little symbol on the opening page of that chapter. It took me a while to catch on to those, but they're also a handy guide if there was ever a time you weren't sure which character was narrating.
Excellent read. This world was flavoured with Mongol (I think, though taller), Chinese and Roman races that clash on a continent in a war of conquest. The magic is subtle and intriguing, the characters are well-fleshed and interesting. It's written in first person point of view for each of the three main characters: A nomadic horseman, who is captain of his herd (clan), a whore and expert assassin who carries a ghost in her mind, and a warrior-princess of the Chinese inspired race. The tone of each POV chapter captures the essence of these characters well. The story wove between the their different outlooks and lives bringing me into the tapestry of the over-arching narrative. I'm very much looking forward to the next book
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 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!
This book is a wild ride filled with non-stop action, fantastic characters and imaginative world-building.
It took me a few chapters to get into it, simply because there's three protagonists and all three of them are written in the first person. At first, I wasn't sure who I was reading about, but once that became clear I could sit back and enjoy the ride.
The characters are incredibly well developed, all three of them are engaging and at no point did I think, I'd rather go back to the previous character. All three have to fight to survive. Rah is exiled from home, Miko is trapped in a patriarchal society, and Cassandra is fighting a mysterious entity inside her own head. Cassandra is probably my favourite character. She's insane, constantly arguing with the voice in her head, but she's also incredibly intelligent, strong and captivating.
The world building focuses on what the reader needs to know to understand the story. No info dumps slow down the story.
The themes are varied but boil down to: greed, honour, back stabbing, loyalty.
This is a book I found hard to put down and the plot moves at a neck-breaking speed with various twists and turns I did not see coming.
We Ride the Storm is a brilliant start to a new fantasy series, and I can't wait for the sequel. Highly recommended to anyone who loves fantasy and doesn't mind that this is a bit low on the magical side.
Every so often you come across a book that you just want to rave about. The kind of book that causes you to forget all the unwritten rules of social propriety and “personal space” as you violently attempt to shove it into your friends’ eyeballs. The kind of book that will have you out on the streets, throwing paperbacks at passersby like a darts player on acid.
For me, this was that kind of book.
We Ride the Storm is a story about three people from three different walks of life trying to survive as the world around them spirals into chaos. The blurb describes these characters better than I ever could, but it’s important to note that each of them are interesting and engaging in their own way. Too often in multi-POV books there will be one or two POVs that shine above the others, and I’m thrilled to say that was not the case for me here.
Each of the main characters are trapped by circumstance. Rah is trapped in a foreign and hostile land, exiled from home, and fighting a war that isn’t his own. Miko is princess trapped in a patriarchal society, stuck under the boot of the emperor who falsely claims to be her father. And Cassandra has a mysterious, corpse-hopping magical entity trapped inside her head.
Trust me, it’s as cool and as creepy as it sounds.
It did take me a little time to gain a sense of familiarity with the characters, and as a result the beginning portion of the book seemed a little rough. But after reading a couple of chapters from each perspective, I quickly found myself becoming invested in their stories.
These stories unfold on more of an individual level, rather than the intertwining narrative that is common for epic fantasy, but I loved that I was able to witness the major events of the novel through different perspectives.
I’d definitely describe this as character-focused novel, although that’s not to say that there isn’t a generous helping of high-action battle scenes and plot-twists. It’s just that as the plot races ahead and the circumstances change, Madson takes the time to explore how her characters react to this change and how they grow as a result.
In terms of the setting, this is an interesting pseudo-Asian world which isn’t really explored all too much. The worldbuilding generally focuses on details that are necessary for the plot (or to provide context), and so I didn’t really get a sense for the world beyond the story. This did mean that I was able to enjoy the story without being distracted by any superficial details, but I imagine that any readers who are worldbuilding-nuts could find it a little sparse.
What you do see of the world, though… is brutal. The book has this oppressive tone which makes even the beheading of a corpse seem almost mundane. I’d hesitate to label it ‘grimdark’, but the depictions of battle and war have that kind of feel.
This is a story about war, and about three individuals trying to survive it. It’s brutal, it’s depressing, and a lot of messed-up stuff happens.
But in the end, We Ride the Storm deserves the highest compliment that I can give: It really made me care.
I loved this book. And if it sounds like your kind of thing, then I highly recommend that you pick it up.
It is—hands down—one of the best self-published books I’ve ever read.