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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

We Ride The Storm by Devin Madson (Reviewed by Lukasz Przywoski)

Official Author Website
Order We Ride The Storm HERE
Read an excerpt HERE 

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Devin Madson is the Aurealis Award-winning author of In Shadows We Fall. Having given up on reality she is now a dual-wielding rogue with a lot of points sunk into stealth and lock picking skills. Anything but zen, Devin subsists on tea and chocolate and so much fried zucchini she ought to have turned into one by now.

If you’re after happy, fuzzy tales then you’ve come to the wrong place. Her fantasy novels come in all shades of grey and are populated with characters of questionable morals and a liking for witty banter.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: 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.

CLASSIFICATION: The Reborn Empire is a gritty and violent action-packed, character-driven dark fantasy series.

FORMAT/INFO: We Ride the Storm is 444 pages long divided over twenty four numbered chapters. The narration is in the third person and focuses on three main POV characters: captain Rah e’Torin, whore/assassin Cassandra and Princess Miko. This is the first volume of the Reborn Empire series.

This book is available in e-book and paperback format. It was self-published by the author. Cover art is by John Antony Di Giovanni, cover design is provided by Shawn T. King.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: I've never tried to saw off the head. To my surprise, it's a complicated and bloody process***. If you've ever wondered how it's done, it's described in gory detail in the first chapter of We Ride The Storm. From here, things get even more gruesome. It's probably the most violent novel I've read this year.

It's also a surprisingly layered book, but before you fully appreciate it, you'll have to look past spilt blood, sticky viscera or brains oozing through the cracked skulls.

Sounds fun?

Then buckle your seatbelts and prepare for a hell of a ride.

The book is about war and war politics. In times of war, no one cares about people, and both religious and political leaders play a cruel, devastating game that destroys lives and  breaks kingdoms. Despite focusing on bigger conflict, it's a character-centric story. While there were parts of the book that dealt with army movements and politics, it wasn't frustrating and didn't dilute an otherwise engaging story.

We Ride The Storm revolves around numerous characters, but we learn about the world and the events through the eyes of three of them.

Captain Rah e’Torin and his exiled warriors are caught in a war they have no interest in. They're nomads with a strong sense of honour. Unfortunately, in this world honour and higher values have little value. Torin and his soldiers have become slaves; they're abused (physically, mentally and sexually) and are used to fight.

Cassandra is a whore and an assassin. She's never alone as there's another voice in her head. She wants nothing more than to make it go away. She accepts a contract that may give her answers and relief; only its true price may be everyone and everything she knows.

Princess Miko wants the power to fight for her empire. As the bastard daughter of a traitor, her possibilities are limited. And yet this resourceful gal may find a way to reshape the empire and become a legend. I like her.

Their fates and paths will soon cross in the aftermath of an epic and bloody battle.

Secondary characters were interesting but less developed. I'm especially interested in Dom Leo Villius of Chiltae, eldest son of His Holiness the Hieromonk. He's a servant of God who somehow had gotten himself mixed up in politics, and someone disliked it enough to want him dead. The storylines of the three protagonists revolve around him. Miko was supposed to marry him. Cassandra intends to behead him. And Rah tries to protect him. Leo is interesting for few reasons. All of them are spoilers. Suffice to say I want to learn more about him and see if he'll return in the sequel.

My favourite portions of the book were definitely those that involved Cassandra. That fallen, insane woman ended up playing a major part in this book, somewhat unwillingly, and I was suitably impressed by it. Not that she's so impressive as a character, but her actions and choices influenced the plot directly and indirectly. I still don’t understand what's the nature of the entity that shares her body and mind, but their dialogues and struggle for control were impressive. I'm not sure if some of the scenes, especially the ones in which Cassandra beats herself, weren't a bit over the top. But that's the thing about this book. I still don't know how I feel about it.

Because of extreme violence (including rape and sexual abuse), it's definitely a book you want to open up before buying. Read a sample from it if you're ordering from the internet. It's not for everybody. You need to have a strong stomach to follow the story without reaching for Prozac. After finishing it, I hugged my wife and my dog to remind myself the world can be a safe place and good things happen.

CONCLUSION: In the end, I'm confused, so I'll make it simple. I loved certain parts of the book. I equally disliked other parts of the book. It was bleak and brutal, and some scenes were probably over the top. I appreciated the political intrigue and the impressive depth of the characters. On the other hand, I'm not sure if their motivations are always convincing. And so on, and so on. I really don't know what to think and to say about this book.

One thing is sure, though. I'll read the sequel once it hits the shelves.

***- The bloody part is obvious, but in movies and in books people are usually beheaded gracefully in one blow.


SwiffJustice said...

Nice review, Lukasz! I'm also a fan of Miko, but Cassandra's chapters were consistenly my favorites. Seems like every chapter she was pushed further and further into a corner, and kept worming her way out by the skin of her teeth. Until, of course, that cliffhanger ending. She does seem royally effed.


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