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The Reborn Empire #1

We Ride the Storm

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In the midst of a burgeoning war, a warrior, an assassin, and a princess chase their own ambitions no matter the cost in Devin Madson's visceral, emotionally charged debut.

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 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.

As an empire dies, three warriors will rise. They will have to ride the storm or drown in its blood.

The Reborn EmpireWe Ride the Storm
For more from Devin Madson, check out:
The Vengeance TrilogyThe Blood of WhisperersThe Gods of ViceThe Grave at Storm's End

528 pages, Paperback

First published June 7, 2018

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About the author

Devin Madson

15 books430 followers
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.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 359 reviews
Profile Image for Mark Lawrence.
Author 72 books51k followers
October 7, 2022
This book came joint 2nd out of 300 entries to the 4th Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off contest from a field of 300 entries!


It's a pretty long book so it has taken me a while to read, but I really enjoyed it! I think for me the defining feature that raises it above almost all the SPFBO entries I've read and above most books in general is the quality of the prose. For those that care about such things - and many readers do not - it's a really well written book. The language never descends into flowery but is used to excellent effect painting evocative scenes, capturing reactions, delivering thoughts and emotions that ring true, and generating excitement where needed.

To back that up we have an engaging story told through the eyes of three interesting characters. Princess Miko is the least original of the three but manages in many ways to be the most entertaining - the Asian influence is strong here and I got some echoes of Feist & Wurts' Mistress of the Empire with a female protagonist using her intelligence and other prowess to navigate a political court and later to gather power and engage in battle.
Rah is a minor leader in a nomadic horse tribe whose people become a kind of slave-mercenary force for the empire opposing the one Miko inhabits. Madson does some nice world-building here, centred on their horse-culture and tradition of decapitating the corpses of fallen friends and enemies alike.
Cassandra is the most unusual, an assassin / prostitute who has a novel form of split personality and strange powers over the dead.

I've enjoyed historical fiction like James Clavell's Shōgun, and Asian inspired fantasy like the aforementioned Mistress of the Empire, and this carries shades of both while being its own, highly entertaining thing.

The story reaches a crescendo but it's very definitely book 1 of a series with scads of questions left demanding answers. So, I look forward to the next instalment.

Definitely one of the best books to come out of the SPFBO and certainly worth your attention. It's being re-released, so I think you have to pre-order it at the moment, so do that! Madson's an exciting new (to traditional publishing) author who should do well.

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Profile Image for Petrik.
675 reviews43k followers
November 4, 2020
A new gale of hope for self-published fantasy blows with all its might as Devin Madson summons a new triumphant tornado in We Ride the Storm.

Open up your thesaurus and look up the word “underrated.” Devin Madson’s name truly belongs there. I bloody loved this book, even more than all of Madson’s previous works which were great themselves. You can check my review history and you’ll see that for self-published/indie books that I've read and reviewed so far, I’ve given a full 5 stars rating (without rounding up on Goodreads) to literally only one book, The Mirror's Truth by Michael R. Fletcher. We Ride the Storm is the second occurrence.

We Ride the Storm is the first book in Madson’s newest series, The Reborn Empire. It takes place more than a decade after the end of Madson’s previous trilogy, The Vengeance Trilogy. The story this time felt more epic in both scope and tone and it was infused with efficient storytelling and addictive pacing that never neglects crucial characterizations. The first chapter immediately introduced us to the Levanti culture and their method of equality in honoring the dead in the name of their god, Nassus. The method? Decapitation of the head in the most vivid and intricate descriptions of the act that I’ve ever read. Madson has become a grim goddess of infusing palpable tension into the scenes within each chapter. I’m serious, every page was fantastic to read and brilliantly paced. Almost every chapter was well-structured and given its own start, middle, and climax sequences, which made every sentence a constant propulsion to continue reading. Every single chapter has important scenes that function as a fuel that pumped adrenaline through my blood.

“Even the smallest cog is important in the workings of a clock.”

The magic system from Madson’s Vengeance Trilogy—Empathy—didn’t play a role here but my empathy towards the characters was real; I was trapped in a turbulence of feelings and I enjoyed every moment of it. The emotions imbued into these pages can truly be felt and the circumstances forced upon the characters truly made me care about their journey, which is the most dominant sign of a fantastic book for me. When the characters’ actions truly make me grit my teeth and drop my jaw several times, it’s a sign that I’m drowning in a maelstrom of marvelous pages and I don’t want any lifeguard to save me. Madson achieved this result by making sure that the characterizations were extremely well-written. I thought it would be hard to move on from the characters in the previous trilogy but I was proven wrong immediately. Starting from the first three chapters, I actually enjoyed reading the new set of characters’ POV even more than those before. Same as Madson’s previous trilogy, the story was told from three characters—Rah, Cassandra, and Miko—perspectives in first person storytelling narrative. Despite being told in first person narrative, all three of them have highly distinct inner voices and cultures. I thoroughly loved reading each characters’ perspectives; they all hold the same crucial and prominent weight in helping the book to reach its peak level of greatness. However, my favorite characters were definitely Rah e’Torin and Miko.

Rah e’Torin, the leader of the Second Swords of Torin, has an inspiring code of honor that tells a story of survival. After being exiled, Rah and his herd of Swords have been forced to act against their codes in order to survive in a foreign land. I absolutely love Rah’s POV; all of Madson’s characters have a grey moral compass but Rah is the only protagonist that has a truly good moral compass, despite the gruesome actions he had to do. He was like a light in the darkness of Madson’s world. Not that I mind the bleak and the grim tone, I adore them actually, but Rah (and Miko) did bring a new complexity and some positive aspects to the book that were not present in the Madson’s previous works, they give the readers someone truly worth rooting for in her series.

“We are the Swords that hunt so your hands may be clean. We are the Swords that kill so your soul may be light. We are the Swords that die so you may live.”

I have no doubt the book will be well-received by a lot of readers. But for me personally, the book reached a new level of quality because I had already lived through the world-building and histories of the book because I have read all of Madson's prior works already; the result was tremendously impactful in enhancing my experience reading this book, especially during Miko's POV. Her POV was filled with massive bonuses and homage for anyone who has read Madson’s previous books. This doesn’t mean that you have to read them to understand but it would absolutely be beneficial in enriching your experience. Not only did a lot of familiar faces and names make an appearance, but for instance, there was also one character's farewell scene in the book that simply won’t be as significant and poignant if the reader hasn’t read The Vengeance Trilogy. As for Miko herself as a character, she’s such an empowering female character. Unlike Hana from the previous series, I found Miko to be non-infuriating and a much more engaging character to read; I was truly invested in her struggles weaving through the court politics of Kisian Empire. In a place that’s heavily ruled by men, she simply won’t bow down and her gradual character development was truly spectacular, making her easily one of the best heroines I’ve ever come across in my fantasy reading.

“Lesson number four. Sometimes those who seek to help you are the worst enemies of all.”

Like a serrated blade that thrust its edges into my heart, threats and perpetual tensions were reflected not only in the battle scenes but also in the compelling dialogues. The last 100 pages of the book were a final gale of pulse-pounding rides and converging perspectives that solidified my reasoning to alternate my reading between traditionally published and self-published fantasy novels.

When you've read a lot of the popular, highly-acclaimed adult epic fantasy, you'll probably notice that the majority of them are set in a Medieval European setting. I don't have a problem with the setting but it's always gratifying to find an incredible trilogy written by an author who is brave enough to stray from the popular setting. All of Madson’s books are powerfully Asian-inspired, taking a lot of inspiration from Feudal Japan. The setting and environment were utterly vivid and the prose made me feel like I was totally there inside the story.

Madson’s prose has always been great, but here? It was even more meticulous and immersive than before. It astounds me how she keeps on getting better with each new installment. This book is definitely Madson at the peak of her career so far and I expect to see her improve even more in future installments. With every sentence she crafted, she displayed her wonderful skill as an author. For example, the way she utilized the effectiveness of the word “silence” and the deafening of sounds to create “A calm before the storm” or “sunshine after the rain” situations were absolutely first-class. The pacing between lulls and tense moments was masterfully executed to create several memorable scenes. Plus, the philosophical lessons on what it means to be a leader were profoundly relatable.

“Do not make assumptions about things you know nothing about. An emperor serves his people. The day the people serve the emperor is the day the empire falls. Remember that, Miko, if nothing else. War profits no peasant.”

I finished binge reading ALL Madson’s published works (four novels and one novella) within nine days and I must say, it currently is hands down the best experience I’ve ever had with self-published books. Being inside her imagination was a bloody and delightful experience and I can’t believe I don’t have any more books written by her. Now that I own and have finished everything written by her so far, I plan to do the same with every single of her future works. Usually, when people asked me to recommend top-notch female fantasy authors, I always recommend Robin Hobb, Rebecca Kuang, N.K. Jemisin, and Rachel Aaron. But now, I will definitely be putting Devin Madson on that list. Together with The Poppy War by Rebecca Kuang, Madson’s books currently sit at the top of my recommendation list for anyone who's looking for an impeccable Asian-inspired low-fantasy series. Also, none of Madson’s books received anything below a 4 stars rating from me, which I think speaks volumes for her work.

Seeing that this book is also an entrant in this year’s SPFBO (Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off) competition held by Mark Lawrence, it’s only fair that I enlighten you with a few personal statistics before I close this review. I’m not a judge for the competition this year but based on my assessment, this book has a strong chance of becoming the champion or at least ending up in the final round’s top three. I’ve read the majority of the past top books and champions of the competition, and in my opinion We Ride the Storm triumphed over every single book and top contender I’ve read within the history of SPFBO; this is in fact the first full 5 stars rating I’ve ever given to a book that’s been entered into the competition. Luck is definitely a heavy factor in SPFBO but regardless of the result, I’m genuinely confident that this is a book that will win the hearts of many fans of the genre, as it has definitely won mine.

Combined with the experience of reading her Vengeance Trilogy, We Ride the Storm has given me a whirlwind of emotional temerity to chant that Devin Madson deserves a crowning achievement not only for self-published fantasy but for the entire genre of character-driven grimdark fantasy. She has now become one of the very few indie authors whose careers I'm willing to follow. Bravo, Devin Madson, bravo. We Ride the Storm is a breathtakingly triumphant book. Not only is it one of the two best self-published fantasy I’ve ever read, it has become one of my favorite books of all time. This book is truly a serendipitous and glistening hidden gem oozing with brilliant cinematic set pieces and a gripping, evocative hurricane of emotions that constantly took my breath away. Buy it and read it as soon as possible. Thank me later.

Picture: My copies of Devin Madson’s books. Look how gorgeous they are!

You can order the book HERE!

You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions
Profile Image for John Gwynne.
Author 33 books10.2k followers
June 10, 2020
Wow, I loved this. Set in an Asian-inspired world with echoes of ancient China and the Mongol Empire this is a tale that hits all the right spots. Imaginative world building that feels historically authentic with a sprinkling of the fantastical, captivating, believable characters, and a pace that builds perfectly to a heart-pounding finale. There's a lot to love here. Highly recommended.
461 reviews397 followers
February 23, 2019
EDIT: This is a finalist for SPFBO4 and this is now the official review from The Weatherwax Report for the scoreboard!

The first line in the book is describing the difficulties of severing a head with a knife and how it’s more difficult than many people think. It sets up the readers to anticipate a darker book with a lot of violence – which is absolutely what you should expect from the rest of it. If you’re not a fan of grimdark, this book will likely not be to your taste.

So, it’s one of the main character, Rah, severing the head at the beginning of the book. He wasn’t doing it to be barbaric, he was doing it because his culture believes that the soul resides in the head, and if a head is left on a body after death it traps the soul inside. The head must be severed and brought to a priest so the soul can be released. He was actually spending all that time on the enemy’s head even though his followers didn’t see the point. He’s a deeply devout person who holds his honor above everything else. However, his unbreakable will to do the right thing lands him in a lot of trouble. Instead of surrendering and bending the knee, he chose exile for himself and his riders which is making waves among his own people. He gets challenged for his leadership position and ends up killing the challenger who was a lifelong friend of his. He didn’t want to do it, and he was begging the man to surrender when it was clear he would lose, but he didn’t and so then he ended up carrying his head along with the others in search of a temple. During their search for a city to rest in, they end up being outnumbered and forced into servitude bearing incredible hardship and violation.

Miko is a princess, around 14-16 years old and her mother has decided its time for her to get married, she’s extremely reluctant about it but does try to see the logic in it. The man she’s supposed to marry is the son of someone very important, he’s said to be kind and gentle and good looking – all in all her mother could have chosen much worse for her. Her mother and her father have a very distant and strained relationship, it’s almost an open secret that neither her or her brother are the Usurper Emperor’s children. Something I really loved about this book was how everyone dealt with that situation, the shit that goes down was really exciting and it showed really great dynamics between the characters also leading to some unexpected turns. It did get a little repetitive in the beginning that Miko was being told frequently that she should have been born a boy. She’s smart and calculating, much more so than a typical 16-year-old kid which kept her chapters interesting for me as I tend to gravitate towards mature characters versus impulsive and immature characters full of angst.

Cass is both a prostitute and assassin ( whoresassin lolol) she’s known in her circle for first fucking, then killing her targets. She also has an “inner voice” that plagues her, although it’s clearly a separate entity she only acknowledges as “She” or “Her”. “She” works as a conscience Cass doesn’t want anything to do with. Cass herself is fairly remorseless showing no sympathy or hesitation about her targets or the unfortunate people who may witness it. She works for a woman named Mama Hera who sets up all of her deals, or at least she usually does. A man breaks protocol by approaching her directly with an important job, they want her to take care of someone who’s leaving on an envoy with a destination out of the country. She’s to accompany the wagon as a prostitute and strike when they are far away from the city after they’ve crossed the border. She won’t be paid in money, instead, the employer is offering information, specifically where to find someone called the Witchdoctor who may be able to rid Cass of her eternal invisible passenger for good. Cass also has a rather nasty addiction to something called Stiff, at first I thought it was alcohol, but it’s so expensive that just 6 quarts of the stuff is the same amount of money as buying room and board for 3-4 months. She spends almost all she earns on the stuff and always has a flask on hand.

I really liked the world building in this, it’s actually a little out of my typical style since there isn’t a ton of magic in this. Really great characters and plot will make me forget all about the fact there’s no orcs or mages flinging fire balls at everything that pisses them off. The Levanti culture that Rah (the beheader) belongs to was really fascinating, and although I’ve seen horsemen/nomadic cultures a few times before their religion and value system was very different than say the Dothraki.

The writing for this one was a stand out for me as well, I only took off for a bit of exposition via dialogue when a couple characters met and one of them knew the entire life story of the other one and decided to narrate to them to prove a point that he knows exactly who she is. The dialogue outside of that was really solid, nothing felt forced or stiff or over the top and each character had their own distinct voice. The writing itself was not as straightforward as I’m accustomed to seeing lately, there was more nuance to it and more similes and metaphors than I’ve read in a while and it created great visuals of the world.

The pacing was pretty even, every once in a while it would feel like it got a while to round back to another character since you’re waiting through two POV’s to get back to the one you may be most interested in. However, it didn’t feel uneven and was more due to myself being more invested in one character.

I will definitely be reading more of Devin Madsons work. If I were to give any detractions it would be that there were a few iffy scenes – one of which is when Cass is possessed by her inner passenger and she goes fight club on herself, beating herself up trying to gain control of her body and force out the entity. Other than a few scenes were maybe things went a little over the top, this was an extremely solid book.


For people who like:

* Grimdark
* Multi POV
* First person narration
* Violence
* Female POV
* Assassin POV
* Nomadic Horsemen

Not for people who won’t like:

* Sexual assault
* Graphic violence
* very bleak tone


Plot: 12/15
Characters: 12.5/15
World Building: 12.5/15
Writing: 13.25/15
Pacing: 12/15
Originality: 12/15
Personal Enjoyment: 8.5/10

Final Score: 82.75/100
Profile Image for Hamad.
1,012 reviews1,332 followers
June 30, 2020
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Actual Rating: 4.25 stars

“Even the smallest cog is important in the workings of a clock.”

We Ride the Storm has a very befitting title because it was really a storm going through this adventure of a novel. I have been interested in the book since the days it was self published and I am glad it got the recognition it deserves and got traditionally published by my favorite publisher with awesome new edits and an ass-kicking cover.

Madson can certainly write and I felt that she was was an author with experience. The prose is amazing with many quote worthy lines. There were many parts were I was just flying through the book and feeling all kinds of emotions.

“The world does not wait. People do not wait. Nothing is fair. Some people fight all their lives only to die choking on a bean.”

The book has 3 main POVs which is something I like if it it is well done and it was well done here. Miko, Rah and Cassandra were all special in their own ways and I loved all 3 POVs, all of them had a peak and could make me care about them. Miko with challenging the current emperor and not wanting to be a slave of traditions. Rah and his soul-releasing rituals and weird clan and Cassandra with all the mysteries surrounding her and the witch doctor. I can’t pick one point of view and say it is my favorite because that would be like choosing a favorite kid of yours. All POVs had their peak and I was interested in all!

All 3 lines come together somehow and the plot starts to make more and more sense with each chapter. The book ends all POVs in a kind of cliffhangers which I liked and the next book is coming out soon so I don’t mind the waiting and I am so excited already.

The world-building is good, I mean different empires with different traditions. I just noticed that the book did not have an extensive magical system or world-building but it was great at the same time, evidenced by the fact that I devoured it and not noticed that!!

“Do not make assumptions about things you know nothing about. An emperor serves his people. The day the people serve the emperor is the day the empire falls. Remember that, Miko, if nothing else. War profits no peasant.”

Summary: A great book by a great author with the perfect mix of awesome pose, interesting characters and plot twists. I am definitely continuing this!!

You can get more books from Book Depository
Profile Image for Nick Borrelli.
367 reviews353 followers
April 6, 2020
WE RIDE THE STORM is a book that has had quite an interesting journey over the past couple of years. Originally released in 2018 as a self-published novel, it just recently got a brand new look for its cover (absolutely stunning by the way) after author Devin Madson was deservedly picked up by well-known publisher Orbit Books.

This book first found its way on my radar last year when it advanced all the way to the finals of Mark Lawrence's Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. For a number of different reasons I just never got around to picking it up. Fast forward a year and in a huge stroke of good luck, I was able to obtain a review copy of the new re-release from Orbit last month. So a sincere thank you goes out to them for doing that. And now, on to the most difficult book review that I've ever had to write (because the book is that special and I don't know if I have the words).

The book is told through the eyes of three main characters. Princess Miko Ts'ai being the first - stepdaughter of the Emperor of Kisia and brother to Tanaka, the would-be male heir to the throne. Miko is literally a prisoner in her own castle and is mostly a princess with no power or recognition. You see, the Emperor doesn't formally recognize either of them as heirs due to the fact that they are the blood children of a hated enemy from his past. and not his own. There have also been numerous assassination attempts on both Miko and Tanaka over the years that many whispering around the palace say were ordered by the Emperor himself. Tanaka believes that he should be the one to now rule Kisia, especially in light of the fact that neighboring Chiltae seems poised for an all-out war. But the Emperor has other plans and won't give up the throne so easily. Miko believes her brother is right but also sees him as somewhat reckless and brash. There is a very real danger in challenging the ruthless tyrant so openly at the moment and she quickly finds herself thrust in the middle of a power struggle that can only end in treachery and bloodshed.

The second main character is Chiltaen Cassandra Marius, part time prostitute, and full time assassin. In fact, she quite often uses the circumstances of her trade to lower the guard of would-be targets, making her a very effective weapon indeed and one that many seek the services of. When she is approached by a mysterious man who asks her to carry out a very high-profile hit in exchange for a cure to silence the voices in her head that torment her, she finds herself unable to refuse the offer. But even she is unaware of the full ramifications of her charge and what it could result in. For one skilled and deadly assassin's knife thrust could very well start the trumpets of war playing in earnest between neighboring countries with a tumultuous history between them.

Then there is Captain Rah e'Toring of the nomadic Levanti. A once-proud farming people, the Levanti have now been exiled by the brutal Chiltaens and their warriors. They are forced to fight for a kingdom that doesn't care for them or die. It's not really much of a choice but Rah and his fellow Levanti do what they must for now with the hope that they can find the opening that they have been looking for to restore their freedom. When Rah witnesses the horrors being carried out by the Chiltaen army, it only strengthens his resolve to find a way to slip the leash of his oppressors. But what hope can one man have against a mighty force of thousands? Maybe more than anyone thinks. For hope is a dangerous thing, but it is also an incredibly powerful motivator.

When the fates of these three main characters and those loyal to them finally collide, both Kisia and Chiltae will be forever changed. One thing is for certain, nobody can be trusted and who you think is your friend may very well really be your enemy waiting to slit your throat at the proper moment. Who will be left standing when the ambitious opportunists sneak out from the shadows to stake their claim?

About three quarters of the way through this book I made a very bold statement on Twitter. I said that WE RIDE THE STORM may be the best fantasy book that I've read in decades. Yes, you heard me correctly, decades. Now I'm not that old, so we're probably talking about only two or three decades tops, but this is still an impressive feat. And now that I've finished the book, I not only stand by that statement but I re-emphasize it loudly.

I cannot believe how many plots and subplots were packed into this one amazing book. It almost felt like I was reading a few different books at once. The fact that Devin Madson was able to not only juggle these, but also to make them all come together to fit into one coherent story is in my estimation a wondrous accomplishment. It truly shows what a talented writer she is and the boundless imagination behind this incredible creation.

There were so many moments in this book that I didn't see coming at all. Soul-crushing moments, heartbreaking moments, and moments of stupendous inspiration that lifted me up while I was reading. Too often I read books that follow a specific flow or predictable theme. I am happy to say that WE RIDE THE STORM surprises at every turn and makes a 500+ page book seem like the fastest read in the world. The layers upon layers that you get to peel back as the chapters unfold makes this one of the more rewarding reading experiences you will find in any book period, let alone any fantasy book.

Lastly I would like to comment on the characters. I felt such a connection to not only the main characters in this story, but every single character that was introduced regardless of how minor. That's the mark of a fantastic storyteller, to get you invested in even the side characters because they are fleshed out so well and their personalities come through in even just the briefest appearances.

Now that I've read WE RIDE THE STORM I honestly can't fathom how it didn't take home the top prize in #SPFBO4. It should have won going away in my opinion. I'm so glad that I finally got a chance to read it because my eyes have been opened to a favorite new author and a series that I will cherish for a long time coming.

The paperback will be officially available for purchase worldwide on June 23rd. However the ebook is available to buy now, so go grab a digital copy because you are not going to want to miss one of the very best fantasy books that I have ever had the pleasure of reading (and I've read a heck of a lot). Beautiful prose, deep and complex characters, fantastic world-building, and a story that will keep you riveted with every single page. You can't do much better than WE RIDE THE STORM, so please find out what I already know. This is the best of the best and I cannot wait to continue to find out how The Reborn Empire series unfolds. Simply magnificent storytelling.
Profile Image for Hiu Gregg.
113 reviews156 followers
June 12, 2020
Edit: I have finished the now-traditionally-published version and will have an updated review coming shortly! But honestly my feelings are pretty much the same, though some rough bits have been smoothed out. I really, really love this book.


Original, Self-Published review:

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.
Profile Image for Julia Sarene.
1,256 reviews131 followers
July 1, 2018
Just finished this one and really loved it!

I enjoyed all the POVs, and how different they were. 3 different cultures, two at war and the third mingled up in the middle. Male and female main characters along with emperors, priests and assassins. All this variety has kept me hooked all the way through and kept it interesting!

The strongest suit for this book definitely were the characters and cultures. I loved spending time with them, and learning more and more over the course of the story! I was able to really vanish into the book. To feel the wind blow past me on the ride, to smell the stink of the battlefield, to taste the blood on the air and sit right there having tea with the characters. The book really managed to get all the little details across without spending a lot of time describing it.

The fight scenes are really well written. They portrait action, and the effect on characters. They had a good balance between chaotic, but realistic! No one is save in this one - and a lot of main characters don't make it to the end.

There's quite a bit of politics in this one, but not so much that it gets boring, you need a flowchart to follow it, or the pace getting bogged down by it.

There's some scenes which had me yell "YESSS!" and put a big grin on my face, but there have also been scenes that had me on the edge of my seat, some that had me cringe and some that had me hold my breath.

I absolutely loved "We ride the storm" and will make sure to read more by Devin Madson!

One of my favorite quotes (Slight spoiler as it's from the end of the book, so you will be able to guess one character who makes it to the end, no other spoilers):
"Further examination is required to ascertain the precise nature of her ailment but it appears to be chronic, possibly degenerative, that—”

“The imperial disease.”

Torvash turned on the Hieromonk. “Explain.”

The highest of clerics under God shrugged. “It comes of claiming to be false gods. Such arrogance draws the wrath of—”

“No. That is not how medicine works.”

“What other explanation can there be for a disease that strikes down so many emperors who call themselves gods?”

The first emotion crossed the Witchdoctor’s sculptured face – a contemptuous curl of the lip that warmed my heart even as it reddened the Hieromonk’s cheeks. “One that makes logical sense.”
Profile Image for Nils | nilsreviewsit.
318 reviews472 followers
July 3, 2020
‘We are the swords that hunt so your hands may stay clean. We are the swords that kill so your soul may be light. We are the swords that die so you may live.’

If you follow the buzz around books on Twitter then you may have been hearing quite a bit about We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson. Originally self-published and becoming a finalist in the SPFBO 4 competition back in 2018, Madson has been on quite the journey with this book. Now, I’d had my eye on this novel for quite a while, but never actually got around to getting myself a copy. So when Orbit announced they had acquired it for publication, with brand new (gorgeous) cover art by Neco Delort, I was thrilled and very much anticipating its release.

Before I go on to review We Ride the Storm, I feel I ought to make it clear here, this book is most definitely grimdark. Now I very much enjoy this sub-genre, if you look at my bio on The Fantasy Hive, you’ll find it says that I enjoy books where ‘heads are rolling, and guts are spilling.’ Well, Devin Madson delivers on this score tenfold, and I thoroughly loved it! However, if you’re triggered by rape scenes there is one fairly early on in the novel, which I felt perhaps wasnt necessarily needed to be included. It is an extremely brief scene though, and isn’t graphic, so personally my enjoyment of the book was not hindered. This is not just a grimdark novel either, this is an intricately layered story of political warfare, the play for power and vengeance, and a journey riddled with much bloodshed and twists along the way.

Our story revolves around three main protagonists, and each POV is written in first person. I’ll be upfront here, I didn’t think this would work, I assumed there would be much confusion, that the characters would not be distinguished enough. Madison proved me wrong. She crafts each idiolect to be so unique, they become memorable, compelling and impactful characters. Usually when there are multiple POV’s I’m more drawn to certain character’s narratives than I am to others, but in this book, I was invested in all of them. I often found myself eagerly turning through pages to see where each one’s story led.

The lands of Kisia and Chiltae are at war. Upon the Crimson Throne in Kisia sits Emperor Kin - burnt, scarred, and in poor health, he clings to power as the pressure for him to announce his heir ever grows. You see Emperor Kin does have two children, twins Miko and Tanaka, and so to the people of Kisia, the son Tanaka should rightfully be named his heir. However, in secret these twins are only his step-children, and furthermore, they are in fact the offspring of an alleged traitor to Kisia. This doesn’t deter Tanaka from vocally expressing his desire for the throne though, but thankfully his more level-headed sister Miko, who shares her brother's notion to rule, knows how to play a more subtle game. But can she reign her brother’s brashness in? Can she really overcome the tyranny of the Emperor?

‘Better to die than be exiled alone, but I clung to life as I clung to the blades that had never let me down.’

The second character is Rah, Captain of the Second Sword of Torin, he and his men are Levanti warriors but are more affectionately known as a herd. The Levanti race are primarily farmers who live by a strict code of honour, the purpose of the warriors is solely to protect their own people, and perhaps equally as important, to care for their horses, as the animals are almost godlike to each of them. I think the most striking aspect of their culture resides in their belief that every person who dies, be it enemy or ally, must have their soul set free. The method of doing this? Decapitation! Remember I mentioned earlier about heads rolling?! However, now forced into exile, the Levanti become nothing but downtrodden slaves. As Rah continuously witnesses the brutality of their captors, as he sees and foretells the slow eradication of their culture and way of life, his resolve to fight back ever increases.

‘Lesson five, never beg forgiveness. Gods are never wrong. And to rule an empire you have to be a god.

The last POV is Cassandra Marius - a prostitute and assassin with a penchant for being, let me put this frankly, quite stabby stabby. There is also something else that lurks behind Cassandra’s facade, something which she would do absolutely anything to be free from. A voice lives inside her head. So, together, Cassandra and the entity within her mind must take on one of the most dangerous hits they’ve ever been contracted to do. One that could bring a maelstrom of war upon the two nations of Kisia and Chiltae. But with the promise of seeing a Witchdoctor to cure her predicament, this is a hit she can't refuse.

There were an abundance of traits I loved about each character - from Miko’s stubbornness to Rah’s strong moral compass and earnestness; these characters are ones that feel very much alive and who’s plight I become consumed by. Yet, if I were to choose a favourite, it would be my beloved Cassandra. Darkly humorous, damaged, quick tempered, there was never a dull moment when Cassandra entered the scene. Her inner monologues made for many laugh out loud moments, and her foul-mouthed quips delighted me no end! Madson most definitely shines in her characterisation, I cannot wait to see the shape these characters take as the series progresses.

‘It would have been easier to slit his throat than to talk to him.’

In terms of world building, Madson delivers a stellar job. The setting is that of ancient feudal Japan, and with the current release of more Asian inspired fantasy novels, this is fast becoming one of my favourite settings. We see that Madson pays much attention to detail as she encompasses the Levanti race with deeply rich and unique culture. I loved their devotion to their horses, and the rituals they had to undertake before becoming fully fledged warriors. The magic system is very subtle in this first instalment; we are not given much explanation, particularly when concerning the powers of the priest’s son, Leo and Cassandra’s inner voice, but nevertheless I enjoyed the mystery of it. Then as the novel progressed, I felt there were very clever turn of events which were skilfully weaved into the plot to connect the three POV’s together, and to deliver a cracking ending.

Political warfare, thrilling action scenes, endearing characters and a twisty twisty plot, this ticked all the right boxes for me. Devin Madson is certainly an author to keep your eye on, this book was a little more than addictive to read. We Ride the Storm, nah, We Revere the Storm!

ARC provided by Orbit UK in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the copy! We Ride the Storm is out now!

Profile Image for Anna Stephens.
Author 35 books627 followers
September 25, 2018
Epic fantasy of the highest quality

Intricate, compelling and vividly imagined, this is the first in a new trilogy that I am hugely excited about. Visceral battles, complex politics and fascinating worldbuilding bring Devin's words to life. The ending is both satisfying and leaves the reader craving more - mysteries are revealed around our three protagonists, but further mysteries are introduced that will carry the narrative wth excitement and aplomb into the next book.

Devin makes the bold choice of using three first person POVs for her narrative style. At first I didn't know how this would work, but I can now confidently say it works very, very well. Each idiolect is distinct and unique to that POV, so that within the first paragraph or two, it's clear who is speaking. She also cleverly refers to place very early on, which grounds the POV further, and each POV has its own little symbol on the opening page of that chapter. It took me a while to catch on to those, but they're also a handy guide if there was ever a time you weren't sure which character was narrating.

I know this is in #SPFBO 2018 and I don't know where exactly it sits, but it would be a travesty if it doesn't make it through to the final of the competition.
Profile Image for Holly (The GrimDragon).
1,000 reviews235 followers
June 21, 2020
“They tried to kill me four times before I could walk. Seven before I held any memory of the world. Every time thereafter I knew fear, but it was anger that chipped sharp edges into my soul.

I had done nothing but exist. Nothing but own the wrong face and the wrong eyes, the wrong ancestors and the wrong name.”

We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson has quite the story behind it. Originally self-published in 2018, Madson began to gain traction when she entered it in Mark Lawrence’s wickedly popular Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO) contest. We Ride the Storm didn’t win that year (it was runner-up), but it ended up capturing the attention of the wonderful folx over at Orbit Books. So much so in fact that they acquired not only We Ride the Storm, but six other books from Madson. Now THAT is a deal!

Oof. This is going to be a difficult one for me to review, because on paper this would be a book that I dig the hell out of. Yet, some of this didn’t sit well with me. It has received rave review after rave review with many touting this as Book of the Year and I just have a hard time wrapping my brain around what I struggled with being the same book as what is being hyped.

I feel like I’m skip hopping merrily into the party where everyone is amped up and having a fucking spectacular time and here I am arriving and effectively shitting all over your parade like, “Sorry folx, I’m just here to fuck up your happy celebration! DON’T MIND ME!!”

Oops? But also, sorry not sorry.

We Ride the Storm is an Asian-inspired fantasy with three fundamentally different POV’s. These characters are from various backgrounds, although there is a severe lack in developing them any further than the basic descriptors. This is a long book, one that has no qualms in killing off characters, yet I didn’t feel much because I just didn’t care enough about them. I’m an emotional reader and I’m super into characterizations, especially when it comes to fantasy. The one character I was most interested in, Cassandra, is basically relegated to a background role towards the last half of the book. WHYYY?!?

Then there is the much bigger issue of POC being depicted as savages. I don’t want to make any assumptions, but I do have to wonder if Madson had a cultural beta reader? Some murky waters here with heavy-handed stereotypes.

I was also disappointed to find that We Ride the Storm had an unnecessary rape thrown in for the sake of brutality. The rapists responsible didn’t suffer any consequences. The rape brought nothing to the story. The fact that someone other than an old white dude decided that it needed to be included, which obviously isn’t okay either but happens all too frequently, is just.. ugh. It goes without saying that I’m somewhat surprised that Orbit didn’t seem to have many problems with it, considering there was plenty of time between when it was acquired and when it was released to reconceptualize certain scenes and yet..

Did I mention that the rape was compared to a dead horse? Because, yeah. That happened.

I’m surprised and disappointed when reviewers gloss over rape like it just adds to the GRIM AND DARK vibe. Half the time it’s thrown into the review as an afterthought, if at all. Rape isn’t a prerequisite for the grimdark genre. There are plenty of other writers out there who are able to tell a gritty, grimy story without forcibly violating a character. Don’t add to the problem by continuing to resort to such needless tropes. I’m so fucking tired, y’all.

Having only read In Shadows We Fall, Madson’s prequel novella which takes place within the same world, I feel of two completely different minds when comparing them. There was a spark there that I was missing in this full-length novel, along with problems that got under my skin.

It was like weathering a storm, indeed.

(Thanks to Orbit Books for sending me a copy!)

**The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication**
Profile Image for Terence.
1,114 reviews345 followers
May 31, 2023
Through war empires rise and fall. War is ready to tear down the Kisian Empire. Some like Princess Miko, a daughter of a traitor, will fight to preserve the empire. Some like exiled Rah e'Torin will fight because he has no choice. One woman, Cassandra, fights to make the voice in her mind go away. Blood will be spilled as a storm wipes away an empire.

We Ride the Storm reads like a low magic version of A Song of Ice and Fire. There are bastards, traitors, secrets, horse lords, and so many lies. If that was where the similarities ended I wouldn't mind, but two of the three point of view characters felt heavily inspired from A Song of Ice and Fire.

Princess Miko was perhaps the most naive and needy character I've seen since reading Sansa Stark in A Game of Thrones. Miko seems to go through Sansa's arc as she begins as considerably naive with some plots of her own and becomes massively manipulative as the story continues. She seemed to be too naive to survive, but like Sansa she kept managing to stay alive. Miko did have some differing qualities from Sansa as she was incredible with a bow and she has some political sense.

Rah e'Torin, the exiled Levanti captain, hung on to his honor more than any character I've seen since Eddard and Robb Stark. Rah would rather be executed than submit and it was only the threat of death to those under his charge that got him to go along at all. Rah is stiff necked and determined. Honestly he seemed like a gigantic pain to have around. He and the rest of the Levanti felt like a slightly more civilized version of the Dothraki from A Song of Ice and Fire. They love their horses and are deadly fighting from them. They are nomadic people who care nothing for wealth and civilization as a whole.

The third point of view character, Cassandra, is the one who received the least amount of page time. Cassandra happened to have the only story I felt was truly intriguing, but she gets massively ignored in the second half of the book. It seems Cassandra has another woman's mind living in her body and in order to ignore it she drinks. The other woman can take control of Cassandra's body at times and she largely disagrees with everything Cassandra does. The other woman can do even more interesting things than that, which is why I wanted a lot more of her and a lot less of the Kisian War. I forgot to mention Cassandra is also a whore assassin and apparently very good looking despite her being a little old for a whore.

Dom Leo Villius is the one other character of note. He has an interesting arc and he's incredibly mysterious. He has some power or someone powerful backing him and I would have much rathered see his point of view rather than Miko or Rah.

The war storyline was largely predictable. Nothing happened that truly felt like a shock. Nothing happened that even excited me. Generally I enjoy a good war story, but I found myself wanting to know the origin of the other woman in Cassandra's head or how Leo could do the things he did.

We Ride the Storm is a story that had quite a bit of under used potential. I'm curious to see if the sequels will focus more on the interesting tidbits rather than being a lesser version of A Song of Ice and Fire.

3 out of 5 stars

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Library of a Viking.
156 reviews2,401 followers
May 19, 2023
This was surprisingly good!

I won this book in a giveaway two years ago, and I have wanted to read it solely due to the cover art. I am absolutely obsessed with it! I finally got around to reading it AND...I really enjoyed it!

In simple words, I would describe this book as "addictive". Madson constantly constantly adds satisfying plot twists, the book is grimdark (in a good way), and the plot is tense and the pacing is excellent. I had a great time with this book and would definitely recommend it if you are looking for an underrated grimdark epic fantasy. I will continue this series!

4 / 5 stars
Profile Image for Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller.
725 reviews1,204 followers
February 7, 2023
Check out my Booktube channel at: The Obsessive Bookseller

If you’re looking for a fun, fast-paced fantasy, this is a great pick.

The author doesn’t waste any time throwing you into the deep end. Luckily the components aren’t too complicated to pick up on. These types of quick reads are always great to make me feel like I’m making progress on something (even though the page count was still about average). The snappy beginning did come at a bit of a cost – enough time wasn’t taken to ground you with the characters and fully establish their motives. So later in the book when suddenly everyone has these grand convictions, it felt a little thin because we lacked the foundation at the beginning. In fact, things went so fast in places that I kept having to backtrack to see if I’d missed anything. This general feeling was a consensus in my Patreon Book Club. Had some of my Patrons not also voiced a bit of struggle with the pacing, I may have just assumed it was an attention-span problem on my end.

Even though the characters didn’t get a lot of grounding, they were still wildly interesting profiles. You have three very different perspectives and each one provides a unique payoff. There’s one in particular who is still a total enigma by the end of the book, and I’m most excited to read on to see what’s going on with her. I love when authors can keep me coming back for more. I also enjoyed the trajectory of the story and the fact that all of my early predictions came to naught. I feel so happy to be reading in a era where authors are no longer following the same old storytelling formula. I think it a theme lately that I keep describing books as “unconventional,” which is thrilling to me – it’s driving my enthusiasm for reading to discover new things. This one had familiar setups but then took a bunch of different directions to the point where I stopped guessing and just started enjoying. Good stuff.

Overall, I’m glad for the time I spent with this book even though it lacked a bit of depth. Sometimes read something fun and uncomplicated is exactly what you need. I’ve forgotten that with all of the heavy tomes I’ve been into lately. It does, however, offer some promising things for future books, so maybe one day I’ll be raving how much fun and substantial this series is… fingers crossed. :)

Recommendations: pick this up for a fun, fast-paced fantasy that will take you on an unconventional ride… into the metaphorical storm.

Thank you to my Patrons: Filipe, Dave, Frank, Sonja, Staci, Kat, Katrin, Melissa, Derek, and Tonya! <3

Via The Obsessive Bookseller at www.NikiHawkes.com

Other books you might like:
City of Lies (Poison Wars, #1) by Sam Hawke The Coward (Quest for Heroes, #1) by Stephen Aryan The Way of Shadows (Night Angel, #1) by Brent Weeks Blood of an Exile (Dragons of Terra, #1) by Brian Naslund The Dragon's Path (The Dagger and the Coin, #1) by Daniel Abraham
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,551 reviews2,937 followers
January 9, 2019
* This is a finalist in the 2018 #SPFBO so I read it as a judge *

I had heard a lot of hype surrounding this book when I went into it, so naturally I had some high expectations. I think this book has even been suggested as the book which could win the competition this year, and I was very excited to get to it because it's a big old epic with Asian influence, and I thought it would be exactly my kind of read. Maybe I expected a little too much from it, because whilst it was a likeable read and one I enjoyed on the whole, there was one main PoV that I really disliked and that soured some of the story for me.

This is a fantasy world with a twist. Although we do have an Emperor who sits in his palace we also have the Levanti, a culture of horse-riding warriors. The world takes a lot of inspiration from Japanese culture in particular, and I found that I really enjoyed that, because Feudal Japan is an era I love to read about... I definitely think you got the strong atmosphere whilst reading this of a world with a lot of backstory, I believe that there is actually a previous series which is set in this world and follows some of the characters who are older in this book. Personally, I have not read the other series so I think maybe some of the associations and set up could have been slightly lost on me.

The characters we follow are quite different people, we have Rah e'Torin who is a Levanti. He is trying to lead his people to safety but they are soon captured and they end up working with people who seem to have differed their beliefs from the traditional ways. Next we have Princess Miko who is a hostage at the Emperor's palace as her mother is married to the Emperor, but she is not his daughter and she is know as the daughter of a traitor. Finally we have Cass who is a whore/assassin all in one with a strange presence who lives in her mind.
I'll start by talking about Rah...I hated this character. Honestly there wasn't anything that felt 'good' in terms of characterisation to me. He was sickly sweet, kind, and quite boring to read about (and the majority of the reason I didn't give this a higher rating comes down to him). I don't usually persevere when I read a book with a character that I hate so much, but I did with this one because the other two plotlines were far more interesting, but I just took an instant dislike to Rah's lack of action and compliance, and found him so dull. I definitely think this is a personal thing and not a reflection of the writing because I know many others have loved this character, but for me he just bored me and I found his scenes and chapters to be a struggle.
Onto better things, I really enjoyed Miko as a character. At first I thought maybe she was going to fall into the trap of being a pretty but useless object of desire as the story starts with her mother saying she needs to marry, but quickly Miko proved her worth. Miko defied many of my preconceptions, and I found her to be a great character for her bold determination and the way that she struggled on despite overwhelmingly bad odds. In the end I think she took top spot for the character I most enjoyed reading about, and I think she's one I would like to see more of.
Finally Cass is a character that I found fascinating at first and last but her story didn't grip me quite as much as Miko's I was constantly asking questions in my head when it came to Cass as I feel she is the most mysterious of the characters and I think she has a lot to bring to the story. I definitely think we will see more of her as time goes on, and I believe that Cass was one of the better developed in terms of backstory at the start too.

The plot of this one felt fairly moderate throughout although the ending is pretty dramatic with warfare on all fronts. I think if you're used to reading fantasy then this would work well for you, but it's got a slower start.

There is very little magic in this world as it's a low fantasy, although you do see hints of it. I would have liked to see more but again this is just personal preference :)

In the end I enjoyed two out of three of the plots and now that many of the characters have come together I believe that Rah's plot may well pick up in book #2. It was a solidly written book throughout and I have no complaints on the editing, but I was slightly put off by the one plot that just didn't work for me. I gave it 3*s overall which is a 6/10 for #SPFBO.
Profile Image for Micperk.
37 reviews21 followers
May 16, 2019
So after my foray in YA and sci-fi books I decided to come back to my typical reads and landed on this book....... holy shit.....it was like going completely to the other side of the spectrum. I mean it starts off with a guy getting beheaded(not a spoiler). It was like the author wanted to REALLY reassure you that this was indeed a grim dark book in case you didn't get the memo. Even though it starts off pretty gruesome it never really goes full DEEP DARK DEPRESSION and even people who aren't fans of grim dark will find a really solid read with this one.

It took a bit for this book to really click with me, there's a lot to take in at the beginning. It's only 3 pov's but you're kind of thrown straight into the thick of things without knowing whats what. But as the story progresses and you start becoming familiar with the new information the story really starts to take off and shine. The pacing was fantastic, pretty much from cover to cover something is constantly happening. It takes a lot of turns to keep you on edge, I wouldn't consider any of them huge plot twists but they serve the story very well. It also has a bunch of unique aspects to it, like I found it interesting that a guy could be chopping someones head off but be the kindest soul on the battlefield who think's he's helping someones soul to move on.

The characters are also extremely solid. One girls pov in particular was a complete blast to read. This girl was completely and utterly BAT SHIT CRAZY....I mean she has reason to be..... but she's still a super huge lunatic. You'll know who I'm talking about if you read it lol. The other pov's were both equally captivating I just had to give the crazy one a shout out real quick.

The story does seem to have some type of magic system in it but so far it's been a more traditional type of warfare and action. She does a great job of writing the actions scenes and I felt pretty submerged while reading them. My only complaint about it would be they were written pretty fast paced and ended rather quickly as a result. Even though I love action I was more interested in the story and intrigue in this book anyways so it wasn't a problem for me.

If you love grim dark (and even if you don't) you should check this book out. Like I said earlier it can take a bit to really get settled into the world but once you do it's a fantastic ride. I'll definitely be checking out book two pretty soon.
Profile Image for Jon Adams.
294 reviews57 followers
June 23, 2018
Yet another series I must follow. I can't wait for book two! I really want to learn more about this world.
Profile Image for Iryna *Book and Sword*.
438 reviews635 followers
September 10, 2018
“Be careful what you say, Rah,” he said. “Be careful what you do. Open your eyes. Watch before you speak. Speak before you act. Trust those who have earned your trust. That is our way.”

I don't know if my expectations were too high, or what, but I didn't enjoy this one as much as I enjoyed every single other of Madson's books. The novel is brilliantly written, so this really just came down to my personal taste. Something just didn't click in We Ride the Storm for me. And with this review I will attempt to discuss what it was.

It didn't help much that I only enjoyed one character out of three. In my opinion Cassandra was the only one who brought something new to the story. With the strange voice in her head Cassandra was interesting, to say the least. Although I just couldn't buy her "assassin" side, if you will. It lacked development in the beginning and in the end it just felt too easy, too staged.

​Didn't care one bit about Rah, his chapters were a chore to get through. 90 percent of the time Rah is there just sewing head off the bodies, and there's only so much excitement in that. He was too righteous for my liking, but also at the same time I found him to be the weakest character. Both in development and in character strength.

“Lesson number four. Sometimes those who seek to help you are the worst enemies of all.”

​Miko. I don't know how to feel bout Miko, mostly because I just don't get it. I don't get the drive that she (and Hana) for that matter had for the empire. Although Hana had more reasons than Miko did for sure. Everything these "royal blooded" characters do is always for the empire, but we don't get to see the empire in the story much. Only when it's burning. But there is never any interaction between regular people, who compose the empire, and the ones who rule it. All of the action is always of political nature and is always done in the court of the palace. That is the big reason as of why I don't understand the drive, because to me it seems like they care nothing about the empire and it's people, they only want the throne.

For about 80 percent of the book Miko is very much like Hana - they both make very stupid decisions, and they both are driven by the same things. Even the way Miko took the throne was very similar to how Hana did. Altogether, to me We Ride the Storm was way too similar to the Vengeance Trilogy. I know the all of the things were just supposed to be nods to the other books, but with so many of them - they just became very repetitive. Most of the time I felt as I've "been there done that". Characters make a lot of the same choices, the driving force and reason are very much the same for both stories, there's the same war going on - I just feel like I didn't get anything new out of this.

​Now for the only character I truly enjoyed, even though there was barely any of him in the book - Leo. Leo was great! That is all I have to say about him. I did like how the ending took a few interesting twists and am intrigued to see where it takes some of the characters. Particularly Cassandra and her new "companion".

All of Madson's book series can be read in any order - I read them starting with the novella, then Vengeance Trilogy and then We Ride the Storm. Reading them this way gives the most insight and background as stories just keep layering on top of each other, but you don't have to. You will discover all of the secrets anyway, no matter which order you choose.

Big thanks to NetGalley and Devin Madson for a digital ARC of the book. All opinions are my own, honest and come from the heart.

Profile Image for Olivia.
709 reviews120 followers
January 3, 2019
Many congratulations to the author for becoming a SPFBO (Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off organised by Mark_Lawrence) finalist.

This book is a wild ride filled with non-stop action, fantastic characters and imaginative world-building.

It took me a few chapters to get into it, simply because there's three protagonists and all three of them are written in the first person. At first, I wasn't sure who I was reading about, but once that became clear I could sit back and enjoy the ride.

The characters are incredibly well developed, all three of them are engaging and at no point did I think, I'd rather go back to the previous character. All three have to fight to survive. Rah is exiled from home, Miko is trapped in a patriarchal society, and Cassandra is fighting a mysterious entity inside her own head. Cassandra is probably my favourite character. She's insane, constantly arguing with the voice in her head, but she's also incredibly intelligent, strong and captivating.

The world building focuses on what the reader needs to know to understand the story. No info dumps slow down the story.

The themes are varied but boil down to: greed, honour, back stabbing, loyalty.

This is a book I found hard to put down and the plot moves at a neck-breaking speed with various twists and turns I did not see coming.

We Ride the Storm is a brilliant start to a new fantasy series, and I can't wait for the sequel. Highly recommended to anyone who loves fantasy and doesn't mind that this is a bit low on the magical side.

Thank you, Devin Madson, for providing me with a review copy of this book.
Profile Image for Steve.
375 reviews72 followers
September 19, 2020
This book is certainly going to be close to being one of my favourite reads of the year. Absorbing read, great characters and an epic plot.
There are three first person protagonists with labelled chapter headings, roughly alternating in sequence as we work through the book.
Princess Miko, in the royal family of the Krasian Empire, a sort of medieval Chinese style state. A nice character development from a pampered girl to someone forced to, and desirous of, making critical life and death decisions.
Rah, a captain in an exiled nomadic tribe, being used to fight a war on behalf of the Krasian’s enemy, the Chitaens - I found him especially interesting as he’s almost given a traditionalist’s role, trying to cling to tribal traditions which is tough to maintain for a people being uprooted from their past life.
Finally, Cassandra, a Krasian based assassin and sometime whore, ruthless, bitter and with a rather curious split personality that’s more than just physiological!

All of these characters have their backstories beautifully developed. Indeed the whole backstory to the Empire and other peoples, including relevant histories, is nicely revealed as we work our way through the storyline. Having read some books recently where these world building features are often given to the reader via ‘info dumps’ I was just stunned at how well the author gently gave us everything we needed to know without feeling we were being instructed. An excellent writing technique that I think this author has fully mastered.

Any magic in the fantasy? Very little - Cassandra’s personality could be viewed to be in that category and one of the Chitean leaders is a strange, mysterious character.
The story is primarily centred on a new conflict between the Krasians and Chiteans, with plenty of internal intrigues, and jostling for position, especially amongst the Krasians.

One or two friends had thought the book, from reviews, to be especially bloody, but really it isn’t - no more than ‘Game of Thrones level’ for warfare! I think the reputation may be because the nomadic Levantine tribes that Rah belongs to have a tradition to separate the head from the body of all dead friends and foes after a battle to free their souls. In fact they regard it almost as a humanitarian duty! The nice twist being that others regard them as bloody savages for doing this ‘duty‘ to the dead...

I have read another short story by the author about a year ago (I needed reminding by a friend, and didn’t realise until I’d nearly finished this book). I recall enjoying the writing style and oriental scenario but was a little disappointed just because it was so short and I didn’t understand its context. I do now, and I also see other books by the author set in earlier times in this world. But I really didn’t feel I’d missed anything regarding world building by not reading these ‘earlier’ books. All you need is in this volume. I fully intend to continue with this series, possibly without first going back to the other books in this world though I think I shall in due course (my large TBR list getting in the way, I’m afraid).

Easy, easy 5*.
Profile Image for The Nerd Book Review.
153 reviews70 followers
December 16, 2018
Im calling this a 4+.
Link to the author interview

The Nerd Book Review

As I have written far too often lately I will leave a much more in depth review at some point in the not too distant future. I also plan to interview the author in the next week or two.
Quick thoughts. Well written and an exciting story that I really enjoyed. My only real problem with the story and the reason it is a 4* not a 5* for me is the way the POV chapters were structured. I really enjoyed 2 of the 3 peeps and liked the 3rd, even if I didn’t love him quite like the other 2 but each chapter went on a bit too long for me and it took until about the 3rd rotation before I really remembered details about the first by the time I got back to them again. I enjoyed the 2nd half of the book a lot more than the first half because I had trouble remembering details about the first.
Aside from this l really thought this was a solid book that I think will contend in the SPFBO competition.
Profile Image for Lukasz.
1,310 reviews212 followers
June 22, 2018
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 breaks lives and 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 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 wits strong sense of honour. Unfortunately, in this world honour and higher values have little value. Torin and his soldiers 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 three protagonists revolve around him. Miko was supposed to marry 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.

In the end, I'm confused, so I'll make it simple. I loved parts of the book. I equally hated other parts of the book. It was bleak and brutal, and some scenes were probably over the top. I appreciate political intrigue and 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.
Profile Image for Brenda Waworga.
594 reviews668 followers
August 7, 2020
I probably put so high expectation for this book, this one just didn’t impressed me much.. it has everything I used to love on Fantasy book but I just couldn’t feel the excitement through the story but let’s us start with things I love from this books

The writing style is so easy to read, the characters are super interesting.. we have 3 different POVs here:

MIKO,a princess with great ambition to be a leader and constantly live in the shadow of her twin brother Prince Tanaka, Miko POV is probably the most annoying POV on this book.. I just dislike being inside her head, she is selfish and willing to do anything to reach her goals
RAH, a honorobale exile warrior who tried his best to honoured his culture and belief, his POV is the most disturbing cause Rah believe if people die they need to beheaded for the soul to be free from the body.. so there were a lot of preserved head scenes, Rah accidently locked in the middle of war between 2 clans
CASSANDRA, a prostiture who is also an assassin and can talk to the death, Cassandra’s POV is my fav.. I really love how unique the concept of this character, unfortunately through the book she got very little scenes and arc compares to the other 2 POVs

Now things I don’t like.. there are a lot of things happening but nothing really matter much, the court intrigues are undercooked, it felt like everyone can capture anyone and ask anyone to kill anyone, anyone can be the emperor/empress, it’s so messy the coout felt like children playground. The plot is barely there.. it’s just a war between 2 clans and there is that, I also don’t really like or feel attached to any of the characters.

Trigger warning: rape & gory scenes
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
2,090 reviews2,953 followers
March 23, 2022
3.5 Stars
This is the first novel in an action centered epic fantasy series. The prose were straightforward and the story itself was easy to follow, making this a good series for beginner fantasy. 

Yet seasoned fantasy may also enjoy this one too as it hits on many of the beats of classic fantasy tropes. I enjoyed the story, but I did not fall in love with it. The characters are likeable but not the most uniquely developed. The worldbuilding is inspired by Asian culture, although those influences felt quite subtle.

I would recommend this novel to fantasy readers looking for a new series.

Disclaimer I received a copy of this book from the publisher. 
Profile Image for Kristen.
578 reviews110 followers
February 4, 2019
Full review is here, on my blog!

This story follows three primary characters, with each telling their story in the first person.

We start out with Rah e’Torin, who is the commander of a group of nomadic horse riding warriors from a people known as the Levanti. Due to something that Rah did, his group has been exiled from their homeland, and must leave for a year before they can be welcomed back into the herd of his people. As they travel into the land of Chiltae, they get captured by… well Chiltaeans, and more or less forced into slavery to fight for Chiltae in their war against Kisia.

Cassandra is a Chiltean assassin and prostitute (‘whoreassin’) who is hired to kill an important man on his way from Chiltae to Kisia. Cassandra suffers an odd malady (though malady is a debatable term here), wherein she is possessed by some sort of being that we only know as ‘She’ or ‘Her’, which manifests as a voice in her head who can sometimes take over her body. She is on her way with her entourage of very important people when some inevitable shenanigans go down. Of course they do!

Miko Ts’ai is the princess of Kisia, though the current Emperor is not her real father, nobody really knows that, and since her mother is the Empress, she is the princess. Her twin brother, Tanaka, is the prince and heir to the throne. Kisia is currently at war with Chiltae, and so both counties are planning to attempt some peace by marrying the son of the Hieromonk (something like the Pope) to Miko, the princess of Kisia, who is not at all excited for this.

I really, really enjoyed this one. I found myself really digging these characters, and rooting for them to win the day. Cassandra was easily my favorite character, as I found her fascinating to read about. I read on and on, wondering just what her deal was, and just what the voice in her head actually was. Another character I really ended up liking a lot was Leo Villius. I need to know the story there too!

Normally in books with multiple POVs, I will find myself sort of sighing inwardly when one person’s story switches to another person’s right when it was getting excited, but I didn’t find that happening during this book at all, because each character’s story was interesting in their own ways, and so, I liked the structure of the book, and never found it boring or hard to pick back up.

The worldbuilding was really well done, and since these lands and their people are similar to lands and people within our own world, it was easy for me to envision. This story mostly takes place in or around Kisia, as all the characters are either there or headed there for some reason, whether it be assassination or conquest. Kisia is very much influenced by Japan, and since I had a mild interest in Japanese history when I was younger, I found it easy to imagine, and very captivating to read about. Adding Chiltaen culture, which felt very reminiscent of Renaissance Italy, and a group of nomadic horsemen (and women) and this book was a great melding of cultures to imagine.

The plot was intricate and full of all kinds of shenanigans and political intrigue, as one wonders how the three characters might come together, or how each of them might meet, or even seeing how each character’s point of view relates to another. The prose was lovely, and the book was very easy to read and flowed quite well. I easily picked it up and read for hours without really even noticing the passing of that much time. I love books that manage to make me lose track of time. :D

There were plenty of twists and turns, and I had no idea what would happen. This book left me with so many questions, but not in a cliffhangery way. I’m not going to have too much trouble waiting for the next book in the series, but at the same time… questionnnnnsssss. Dat ending though. What?! What even is going to happen?!

All told, I really had a good time with this book, I would say 8.5/10 stars of fun with it (reminder: this is my score, not Team Weatherwax’s score). There is definitely going to be some more of Devin Madson’s work in my future, because daaaaamn. It was like… okay, it was kind of like an Akira Kurosawa film with Assassin’s Creed II and some badass horsemen mixed in. Does this not sound awesome? Yes it does! So go read it! GO!
Profile Image for  Charlie.
477 reviews218 followers
March 22, 2020
Seventeen years after rebels stormed the streets, fractions divide Kisia. Only the firm hand of the god-emperor holds the empire together.

But when a shocking betrayal destroys a tense alliance with neighbouring Chiltae, all that has been won comes crashing down.

Now as an empire dies, three warriors will rise. They will ride the storm or drown in its blood.

We Ride The Storm by Devin Madson was an interesting book for me and the first one I’ve read by the author. It pulled me out of a bit of a reading slump – yay for me – and reminded me of all that I love about fantasy. It was also quite different from anything I’ve read lately.

It starts out absolutely all over the place. Normally there is a moment of peace, a second to establish a base norm for characters and the world, but this book grabs you straight by the lower intestines. We meet each of the main characters already in the middle of their own plotlines, not just making decisions but taking action and reacting, and I’d be lying if I said it was easy to get to grips with who was doing what. Thankfully it was never overwhelming because the pace was perfect, the tension ebbed and flowed as it should and the characters quickly grew on me. It wasn’t long before I was 150 pages in and didn’t want to put it down and I have to attribute this to the extraordinary quality of the prose. The plot may be a little complicated but the way it is told is just gorgeous.

The first protagonist of three, and the most traditional, is Princess Miko. Miko’s father was actually Katashi Otako, killed years before in a failed uprising to reclaim the throne his family once sat on and now condemned by history as a traitor. However, only her mother and brother know the truth of her parentage, with her being publicly and legitimately regarded as the daughter of Emperor Kin. The Emperor is in the process of negotiating a treaty with the Chiltae but Miko and her brother Prince Tanaka have their own mission, one that involves Tanaka being formally named as heir.

Miko is a bit of a paradox. She is strong, smart and tenacious but also used to being culturally subservient to her brother – and men in general – and his quest to one day sit on the throne; the woman behind the man, as it were. It would seem to some that she is driven by rage but I would say it is more a lack of confidence clashing with an unwillingness to silently witness injustice and stupidity.

“I will prove them all wrong,” I muttered. “Prove that not all Otakos are monsters. That a woman can sit on the throne. That it is possible to rule fairly without being blinded by old anger and hurt.”

Then we meet Rah of The Levanti. Rah is torn between his love for his homeland and the ways of his people and what he must do to keep his ‘swords’ alive. He is a character with a great deal of honour who is stuck in his ways in a changing world. He strives to be decent and strong but often finds himself a mirror of those around him that he wishes were better. The Levanti live and die for their horses, riding and hunting on the plains, and until recently were a tribal people. Then they started falling under the rules and regulations of the cities that were growing and expanding around them. Missionaries who at first relied on their protection in the wild now claim the Levanti hunting grounds for farming land, and when laws are broken the men of law tended to side with the men of the city. We first come across Rah doing what the Levanti do after a battle in order to free the souls of the dead so they may be reborn: severing heads.

“It’s harder to sever a head than people think. Perhaps, if one were skilled with an axe, it could be done in a single blow – so long as the body was not trying to run away at the time – but out in the grasslands, decapitation is done with a knife.”

I love horses so I tend to enjoy reading about people that respect them and the Levanti are literally prepared to die for their horses. Their culture is so heavily invested in horses that one who can speak to and train them the best are the equivalent of a respected medicine man or High Priestess. In this respect, it was interesting to see ‘perfect for fans of Mark Lawrence’ on the cover because one of the things I loved about the character of Jorg from his Broken Empire trilogy was that he had a natural affinity for horses. Horses are excellent judges of character and for some reason, despite all the horrors he visited on those around him, horses liked Jorg, and for me, that meant he was always redeemable.

Lastly we have Cassandra the assassin, who I found to be the most interesting but sadly the least seen. She has a bit of a split personality thing going on. She hears a distinctly separate voice in her own head, one that often counsels her against the path of murder and death and one that can also, when properly motivated, take control of her body. Hers is a really cool storyline to follow and she has things going on I’ve never seen before. Her relationship with the other ‘She’ in her mind is the only real magic I can think of in the entire book, which is a little different but sure to be expanded upon in the next volume. Her path through the book is perhaps the most riddled of all so I hope we also see more of her next time.

One thing that struck me about We Ride The Storm was how willing the author was to place the main characters at the mercy of the decisions of others. More often than not the protagonists are pawns on a chessboard, not game-changers themselves, ordered here and there, given the choice between a certain action or death, which is often very little choice at all. It emphasised the grimdark elements in the book because my overriding emotion for the protagonists was sympathy as they were pulled back and forth between their own wants and needs and those being forced on them. They are all given moments of opportunity to rise up and play the game themselves, but as the opening few chapters start with three carefully laid plans all smashing into each other it’s hard to hold out much hope for any of them.

“You said you weren’t our enemy.”

“And I did not lie. Truth is just more complicated than any single utterance.”

“I hate you.”

“Even that isn’t the whole truth.”

We Ride The Storm is a fantastic start to Australian Devin Madson’s “traditional” publishing career. It was only after reading the author’s interview at the end I discovered that whilst this is a new series, the Vengeance Trilogy was written whilst Madson was self-publishing and is set during the period seventeen years before this trilogy. That explained why things felt so crazy at the start and also displays Madson’s very adept hand in crafting a story that I was able to get into Storm and enjoy it without having read the preceding trilogy. Damn this was a good book. We Ride The Storm is perfect for devourers of grimdark fantasy and a triumph of a debut. Bring me the next course.

Thank you to the publishers at Orbit for sending me an ARC. It in no way impacted my review.

This review was originally published at The Fantasy Hive https://fantasy-hive.co.uk/2020/03/we...
Profile Image for Adrian Collins.
Author 35 books112 followers
October 10, 2018
Review originally posted on Grimdark Magazine.

When We Ride the Storm by Devin Madison opened with the line, “It’s harder to sever a head than people think. Perhaps if one were skilled with an axe it could be done in a single blow—so long as the body was not trying to run away at the time” I knew I’d found something truly special.

We Ride the Storm is a book that fans of dark fantasy will love and contains a lot of the themes expected with the genre. he story unravels like a tangle of gore slick entrails as it follows Rah E’torin, the exiled leader of the Second Swords attempting to lead them through strange new lands while keeping to his faith, as he is tested again and again. Daughter of a traitor, Princess Miko hopes not for freedom but for the power to save her people. Cassandra is an assassin long past her prime who will risk everything to make the voice in her head go away—no matter the cost. This war will make or break each of them, as they are thrust into the arms of destiny while the storm crashes around them.

The story is superbly paced and packs plenty of emotion and heart into each chapter. Devin also succeeds in using well placed, baited hooks which make putting this book down almost impossible. The characters are all intriguing, each presenting a unique lens to view Madison’s bloody world through.

The supporting cast of characters is well worth mention. Each of them being lovable, worthy of hatred or somewhere in the middle. But not one of them is easily forgotten or blamed for the decisions they make. I was especially fond of Rah. It was fascinating to watch him grow as a character and break out of the rigid mould of his beliefs and views. He is placed in several challenging situations and always puts others before himself. His loyalty is his strength and his biggest weakness in the very same breath, and I love that duality to the character.

We Ride The Storm is a visceral, intriguing, intense and emotionally charged ride. I cannot wait to see where the next book takes us and eagerly await its arrival. I’d strongly recommend this bloody and bold tale to fans of Mark Lawrence, George R. R. Martin, and Michael R. Fletcher.
Profile Image for Adam.
374 reviews164 followers
July 2, 2018
Note: This is a personal review, and does not reflect the final rating that this blog may give for the SPFBO contest. FantasyBookReview.co.uk will notify readers of their official SPFBO-submitted scores when appropriate.

I was unaware of Devin Madson’s previous work until early reviews of We Ride the Storm started popping up on some trustworthy blogs from reviewers that I respect. There was a lot of hype built around this book’s release that piqued my interest, and I’m happy to report that the hype is well-founded. In short, Madson has crafted a complex and immersive story that catapults the reader through a gripping series of adventures and doesn’t let go until the final electrifying pages.

The book begins with a fair amount of complex exposition, yet the patient will be rewarded. There are three main POVs, and each chapter focuses on a different character. There’s quite a large cast of major players and historical events to absorb, but by around the sixth chapter, after visiting each character twice, the storylines begin to intersect. It is also around this point where the action ramps up, and the surprises and shocking moments start to land fast and heavy. During the middle section of the book, every chapter felt like a finale of sorts: main characters were killed, huge revelations were dropped, and major power moves shook up the foundation of the story. It’s rare that I compare any book series to George Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, yet the comparison kept itching at my brain. Both stories have densely-layered politics and detailed generational histories, and both books don’t think twice about eliminating characters you care about. The comparisons don’t end there, but I’ll let you discover more on your own.

One interesting aspect of the three POVs is that they are all first-person perspectives. I don’t recall encountering a book that shifts between three characters’ minds before, and Madson pulls this off rather well. As the audience becomes privy to the inner thoughts of these characters, we gain a more insightful understanding of their motivations and decisions, and this strengthens the depths of their characterizations. Rah is a leader of a pack of exiled swordsman nomads leading their coveted horses through uncharted territory, until they are roped into a war that they do not wish to fight, and cannot win. Cassandra is a prostitute and assassin who is cursed with a second voice in her head that fights for control of her body. Miko is a princess of Kisia, twin sister to the heir to the throne, but a series of lies about her family’s lineage threatens to upend the kingdom on the brink of invasion. Madson does a commendable job making each of these voices distinct, each with their own strengths and flaws, which helped each voice shine through the narrative in its own singular way.

I briefly spoke with Madson while reading this story and learned that she wrote this book without much planning ahead of time. This impressed me to no end, as I believe the intricate plotting is one of the greatest strengths of the novel. There is no meandering and hardly any build-up; we are transported from pivotal scene to pivotal scene, with each chapter moving the plot along at a startling pace. The amount of changes that occur from the beginning to the end of any given chapter is truly astounding. Even though this book is the start of a series, it felt like it had a trilogy’s worth of events packed into it. The intensity continues to ramp up over time, and I recall cursing out loud after ending several chapters in shock and disbelief. I wonder if this pace can be matched in future volumes, but I’ve learned not to underestimate this author.

The first few chapters were a bit tough to get through, as there were various cultures to discover, quite a few important characters to learn, and generations worth of world history and geography to absorb. It was also slightly vertiginous to constantly hop between characters’ heads; sometimes it took a page or two to recall whose head you were rummaging around in (especially Cass’ two-minded chapters). The only character notification the reader is given in advance is a small identifying glyph displayed at the beginning of each chapter, so starting a new chapter can be a bit confusing, but only for a page or two at most. Once the learning curve is bested, it’s a free and clear race to the finish line, with barely any time to catch your breath.

Minor narrative grievances aside, We Ride the Storm is a brilliant start to an electrifying high fantasy series. It is furiously paced and full of genuine surprises and rousing mysteries, and it is very easy for me to recommend. Just be aware that this story ends on several cliffhangers, so the wait until the next volume might be a difficult one. But don’t let that dissuade you – the buzz around this book is to be believed, so grab a copy and get lost in the Reborn Empire.

I’d like to thank Devin Madson for providing me with a copy of her book in exchange for an honest review.
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