We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson is one of the best books I’ve read, ever. It really is fantastic and Devin’s recent deal with Orbit books is fully deserved; you can see why they have put their faith in her to deliver a full series.
So why did I love it? A number of reasons, of course. Mainly:
- The expansive world that really feels fleshed out, with a history as intriguing as its future
- The cultures and factions introduced, with a rich array of characters representing them
- The 3 brilliant, and completely different, POVs
- The best political intrigue and twisting throne room manoeuverings I’ve read since A Clash of Kings
- Well thought-out magical elements that complement the story rather than taking over or becoming the centre of attention.
“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.”Synopsis
Through these 3 POV characters, we gradually develop an understanding of the political, cultural and historical backdrop the story takes place in, which has a very Asian-inspired feel. For someone who has predominately read fantasy set in a medieval Europe type setting, this was pretty new for me. I wondered during the first couple of chapters whether it would feel as familiar to me (despite being fantasy) as a world inspired by something I have much more understanding of. My questions were answered very quickly and it was a real pleasure to dive head first into the world Madson has created here, the change of setting feeling completely refreshing to me, which is another reason I really loved it. It showed that you should definitely leave your comfort-zone and explore stories inspired by other cultures than your (my) own.
So, as I was saying: the 3 POV characters.
My favourite has to be Miko. All three characters pull us along on their personal journeys, and we can empathise or sympathise with them all in some respect but Miko’s story really makes you feel her frustrations, her challenges and desires. It is also through her POV we see the majority of the Kisian political battles and the brutal, butterfly-effect nature of playing the Game of Thrones, to reference a successful author. One turn of phrase or misstep is enough to change the course of history and you really get that impression in Miko’s story.
I loved Rah’s storyline too, and it was really interesting to see how his Levanti warriors (basically a nomadic horselord tribe) would react to being forced into a situation they hadn’t experienced, and fight alongside the Chiltaens – a lot of reminders of Imperial Rome both in style and characteristics, with Rah’s sense of honour being put to the test.
Cassandra is perhaps a little less relatable than the other two (as relatable as a Princess and tribal warrior can be!) but it is through her story we see possibly the most of the magical elements and characters that make this story read like a fantasy. Without this, it could easily be an excellent historical fiction with a few names and places changed. Especially intriguing is her relationship with her nameless and pretty intrinsically tied companion. Their fates are obviously tied in some respect and this is drip-fed to the reader at just the right speed to keep things exciting and interesting without revealing all.
Although all first person narratives, the three interweave together to tell an engaging wider story, the characters viewpoints working well too, in viewing the other major players in the conflict and the events shaping it.
Just before finishing the book, I was told that Devin Madson actually completed her Vengeance Trilogy, in the same world, but set years previously. I will read this while waiting for the follow up to We Ride the Storm. I have no idea whether it is beneficial to read that trilogy first, but there was certainly nothing missing for me in terms of knowledge gaps. Perhaps there will be a few Easter Eggs or nods to past events here that I missed; saying that though, as mentioned at the start of the review, having a fleshed out history already in place actually made this all the more enjoyable! It can be really immersive to jump into a story with important events having already transpired, giving a realistic and actual ‘history-like’ (in a good way) feel to the worldbuilding.
At this point I’d like to point out I did a buddy-read for this book with Peter @Eldrazi, but he rightfully bombed ahead of me and finished a week or two ahead due to some unavoidable stuff cropping up; sorry you had to keep our catch-ups pretty spoiler free, Peter! Read his review Here
I’d like to end by saying, Devin Madson, if you happen to read this review sometime, thanks for creating such an awesome book, I loved it and can’t wait to ride forth on your next adventure when more of the story is revealed! I highly recommend this book to anybody that enjoys political intrigue, entertaining characters with depth, badass women, some pretty brutal moments and an amazingly well crafted world!
After recently reading about content/trigger warnings, I decided to add some of the more obvious ones in my reviews. This book does feature (once) a rape scene and some bloody imagery, including heads being sawn off dead bodies. I found neither to be gratuitous in the context of the wider story.