Title: WE RIDE THE STORM (The Reborn Empire #1)
Author: Devin Madson
Back Cover Blurb
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.
What I thought
WE RIDE THE STORM by Devin Madson has definitely been a wild ride of murder, mayhem, and enough twists and turns to make a reader dizzy! Madson is not averse to throwing in a good blindside. So that, just when you think you know what’s going on, she sucker punches you in the gut with a twist you never saw coming.
Well, for me at least, there were some really delicious twists I never saw coming. And let me tell you, that’s a rare achievement in and of itself.
It is this gift, along with the narrative and telling the story through the eyes of not one, but three main protagonist, and, in the first person no less, that seals the deal. Making WE RIDE THE STORM one of the best reads I’ve had, well, since Chakraborty’s DAEVABAD series of books. Madson has created three outstanding threads and then, has woven them into a fast emotional cohesive roller coaster read that meant I was page turning at a faster rate than I’m normally use to.
The choice of showing us this world through three sets of eyes is, for me, a clever way to tell a story that is much larger in scope than just a single individual protagonist might show us. Thus giving us a better foundation of the factions and players involved in an escalating war between nations.
I really enjoyed how Madson approached this aspect of her world building, in creating the set up, the battles, the politics and the repercussions of decisions and actions taken. It makes for a rich, satisfying read without the usual info dumps fantasy is want to throw at us. The author gives us just enough to make up our own minds about the central factions involved: the Roman-inspired Chiltae in the north, the horse-loving Levanti of the dry plains, and, in the southern region, the Japanese-styled Kisia Empire where politics and protocol rule the day.
This sets us up to enjoy three very different styled cultures, their politics, religion, and daily lives, which are all in stark contrast to one another.
The other aspect of reading three individual threads, and in the first person, gives us a chance to really connect with the characters on different level and see not only their thoughts, but feel the depth of their emotions too. How they react to difficult event and respond to the drama forced upon them makes it gut-wrenching and painfully personal. The pain and the brutality they suffer, the confusion, the doubt, plus the small moments of triumph mixed in with the dreadful realisation that despite their best efforts to the contrary, they might not change the course of the war, survive unscathed, or even come out of the war alive.
All makes for a compelling, page turning read.
Of the three characters, while I thoroughly enjoyed Miko’s personal war in her fight to save Kisia from an invading Chiltae army, it was Cassandra who captured my attention the most.
Here is a woman forced by strange circumstances into a life where she’s not only become a whore, in order to live, but one of the best, and highest paid assassins Chiltae has ever known. But that’s not all. Cassandra has a whole other set of daemons. Real or imagined? You’ll find out. From the strange voice in her head: Her. Who is also able—in times of great stress—to take over Cassandra’s body. To the the fact she hears the dead singing and calling out where ever she goes, you wonder how this woman has not only managed to survive, but hasn’t gone quite mad in the meantime. I am so looking forward to learning more about her as this series progresses.
The least exciting of the three, for me personally, was the straight arrow, Rah e’Torin, of the Levanti. While it was interesting to learn more about him, his people, and his battle of wits and strength against not only his Chiltae capturers, but one of his own, Herd Master Gideon. I felt he never really had as much of an impact as did Miko or Cassandra. Others may say differently. That’s the delight of a book like WE RIDE THE STORM. There’s something for everyone in here. Oh, and did I mention, ritual beheading? Yeah … that’s what I thought too.
From some deliciously witty dialogue, to political intrigue at its best, to devious machinations and betrayal on a brutal scale, we are delivered a thoroughly immersive read where the action is visceral, the characters compelling, and an over-arching story that will leave you, I hope, like me, wanting more!