We Ride the Storm // by Devin Madson
Book 1 of The Reborn Empire
Pub Day: June 23, 2020
Publisher: Orbit Books
Length: 528 pages
War built the Kisian Empire. War will tear it down.
Seventeen years after rebels stormed the streets, factions divide Kisia. Only the firm hand of the god-emperor holds the empire together. But when an unexpected 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.
While this wasn’t the first book I started this year (that honor goes to Elantris), it was the first book I finished in 2021 because let me tell you, once Devin Madson sucks you into a story, she doesn’t let you go until you turn the last page. This book took me on an absolutely wild ride and I loved every minute of it! I wish everyone could start their year off with a bang like I did.
I’ve noticed that the majority of my favorite fantasy books have multiple narrators and it seems that three is the number many authors fall on. I like that a lot when it is well done because you get a better understanding of what’s going on along the way. Madson chose three very different characters in her story. They came from different cultures, were raised in different social classes and systems, had widely different personalities and attitudes, and have or were preparing for very different occupations. When it came to choosing varying POVs, she really couldn’t have done any better. I love how her writing made you feel empathetic towards each one. She made you want the best for them but the entire way through it was difficult to determine how all of them could come out on top in the end without sacrificing someone’s happiness along the way.
By having such different characters we got to learn about the three main cultures that were addressed in this book. The Levanti social system couldn’t have been any more different from Kisia and Chiltae, and it was absolutely fascinating to learn about their traditions. The setup for the other two countries felt much more familiar at first glance but there were still interesting nuances to learn about them nonetheless. I didn’t know until I finished the book that this series is set in the same world as Madson’s previous series, The Vengeance Trilogy, and I definitely want to check that out to get a better understanding of everything though you do not need to have read those to enjoy this book. Due to having these vastly different characters, we also get to understand their unique motivations, which is providing us with all kinds of intrigue from start to finish. While we do get to learn plenty about the world itself, this never stopped the action from happening. And let me tell you, once it started, it never slowed down until the end. Madson puts both elements – the world-building and the action – together very well though where they complement each other rather than stealing the limelight.
Minor spoilers ahead for trigger warnings (rape/brutality):
I was initially scared away from this book last year when I saw reviewers write about how gory it is. I’m not saying it isn’t that – you do learn about certain things in detail, such as how to cut off someone’s head – but it definitely was not nearly as bad as expected. There is a lot of killing and hurting people, there is rape, there is psychological abuse. But at least to me, someone that really struggles with rape scenes and excessive brutality, this wasn’t done in a way that put unnecessary attention on those actions and they weren’t detailed in a disturbing way either. It’s hard to describe honestly but if you want to take the beheading as an example, the importance isn’t in the brutality of it; it is important culturally to help the souls of those slain bodies move on in the afterlife so the people performing the severing of heads do it out of respect for those fallen, even if they weren’t on their side. It has a much different feel to it than sheer brutality and goriness for the shock effect.
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About the Author:
Devin Madson is an Aurealis Award-winning fantasy author from Australia. After some sucky teenage years, she gave up reality and is now a dual-wielding rogue who works through every tiny side-quest and always ends up too over-powered for the final boss. Anything but zen, Devin subsists on tea and chocolate and so much fried zucchini she ought to have turned into one by now. Her fantasy novels come in all shades of grey and are populated with characters of questionable morals and a liking for witty banter.
About the Publisher:
Orbit is a leading publisher of Science Fiction and Fantasy, with imprints in the UK, US and Australia. They publish across the spectrum of Science Fiction and Fantasy – from action-packed urban fantasy to widescreen space opera; from sweeping epic adventures to near-future thrillers. Launched in 2007, Orbit US is the Science Fiction and Fantasy imprint at Hachette Book Group USA.
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Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review. Thank you especially to Angie at Orbit for the absolute gorgeous paperback copy also.