We Ride The Storm is true epic fantasy – multiple points of view across multiple factions in a world on the brink of war. It’s a delight following all the separate pieces on the board and musing how they might come together. The plot twists and turns with plenty of action and intrigue; I was always curious to know what would happen next.
The chapters alternate between three characters – Miko, Cassandra, and Rah – and all of them are fantastic. Miko is the sister of Tanaka, the apparent heir to Emperor Kin and ruler of the Kisia. Better at politics and far less rash than her brother, she wishes that it were she who had been born a boy and might someday rule the Empire. I loved her – she was strong and witty but real, still regularly outplayed and at the whims of her emotions. I’d want her on my side in a fight.
Cassandra is the most intriguing character but the least well utilised. A sex worker and assassin from Chiltae, Cassandra seduces men then kills them for whoever pays her the most. But there’s more to her than there seems, and she’s driven by motives stronger than money. When Cassandra was introduced, I thought she would be my favourite – but her role in this is smaller than the other main characters, and – without giving any spoilers – there’s only so many times you can end a chapter by blacking out. Hopefully she plays a stronger role in future books.
Rah is the head of the Second Swords of Torin, a tribe of horsemen from the Levanti. He and his Swords are searching for Gideon, head of the First Swords of Torin, who disappeared on an excursion into Chiltae nearly two years ago. Rah is a delight – loyal to his Swords and his customs but playing at a game with bigger stakes than he understands. He’s the sort of friend everyone needs – supportive but will always challenge you if he thinks you’re doing wrong.
We Ride The Storm was originally self-published, and came to prominence in Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog-Off, an annual competition to find the best self-published science fiction and fantasy. It was subsequently picked up by Orbit for re-publication. Having not read the original self-published version, I don’t know how much Orbit have edited it, but I can say it’s a little rough around the edges. The plot is fast-paced and enjoyable and leaves you rooting for the characters, but some of the transitions are a little clunky. I suspect that this will be ironed out in the sequels and am excited to see how they further develop Madson’s writing.
The biggest issue I had was with the ending – it’s a complete cliffhanger, to the extent that it doesn’t feel like the ending of a book. It would be more appropriate as the end of a ‘Part One’. Still, it means that I’ll need to pick up book two which is probably what the author intended…
Overall, this is a solid addition to the epic fantasy genre. Recommended for fans of stories about revolutions and war – especially fans of A Song of Ice and Fire and the Stormlight Archives.
Published by Orbit
Paperback: 25th June 2020