We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson

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.

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 shit 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 above 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 fucked-up shit happens.

But in the end, We Ride the Storm deserves the highest compliment that I can give: It really made me give a fuck.

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.


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