We Ride the Storm (The Reborn Empire #1) by Devin Madson
Published by Orbit
Adult, Grim Dark Fantasy
First Published Date : 7th June 2018
Orbit Publish Date : 23rd June 2020
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.
“We are the Swords that hunts 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.”
Trigger Warning : rape, decapitation, gore, death, war
A whirlwind first book set during a war between two nations and an exiled tribe stuck in middle of it all. Three different perspectives converge as they each play a part in this ever looming war.
We Ride the Storm is the first installment to The Reborn Empire trilogy by Devin Madson. This book was originally self published as part of Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off in 2018 landing the third spot. Capitalizing Devin Madson’s ever growing popularity in the self published sphere by 2020 the series is picked up by Orbit in a monumental deal. With this acquisition, We Ride the Storm is revamped with a new stunning cover art by Nico Delort. On the cover it features one of the main characters of the story, Rah. The cover definitely enticed me to buy a physical copy of this book. No, I did not settle with just an e-book. I was very adamant about getting the physical copy. I thought about it for days until I bought it.
This book was recommended to me multiple times on Good Reads. Every time I look up books, We Ride the Storm is always there demanding my attention. When I got an email for an ARC (Advance Readers Copy) for the sequel We Lie with Death that will be released January 12th 2021, I thought “IT IS TIME”. Before I start my review I would like to remind potential readers of this book that there are trigger warnings, such as : decapitation, gang rape (Chapter 10), war, gore, mutilation, harming of animals, child death, familial death, massacre, and etc.
In We Ride the Storm we follow three main POV’s, which are :
- Princess Miko Ts’ai Otako, a Kisian princess and daughter of a traitor of the Kisian Empire.
- Rah e’Torin, a Levanti warrior and Captain of the Second Swords of Torin that are exiled by their herd.
- Cassandra Marius, a chiltaen assassin plagued by the voices of the dead that is desperate to free herself from their clutches.
The story revolves around these three POV’s that are inter-connected in the war that is brewing between Kisia and Chiltae, with the Levanti being forced to fighting Chiltae’s war. In the first chapter of the book we follow Rah e’Torin and his newly exiled Swords that are on a journey to survive their exile time and return back home. During their explorations, they are captured by the Chiltae and forced to fight Chiltae’s war against Kisia. These circumstances are against the moral values of the Levanti. They are not suppose to fight against innocent people that never wronged them. This is something that is protested multiple times by Rah. Levanti’s culture are unique but viewed as down right barbaric to the other two nations. One particular practice of their traditions is the decapitation of their fallen comrades or enemy in order to free their souls and send them to a peaceful after life to be reborn again. If you are squeamish about these things I suggest for you to skip the decapitation scenes because there are lots of it.
Rah e’Torin has a certain stubbornest and pride to uphold his Levanti traditions no matter where he is. His unbending will to do everything based off the Levanti’s code of honor is surely admirable. Rah isn’t a perfect leader, he questions all of his decisions and is very flawed. All the while, putting a lot of effort in reminding his Swords who they are and the values they live for. Rah fought to remind everyone of who they are. He isn’t afraid to stand up against other Levanti that doesn’t share his sentiment. Plot wise from Rah’s POV, his presence in the book is like seeing a lost child. Rah and his people are dragged into the war by force, abandoning every sense of the values they’ve upheld for years in their home land. In a new territory that is not their own, the have to make a choice; to fight a war that is not their own or be killed. Despite the horrible task Rah has to do, his moral and values remain unwavering.
On the other hand, Princess Miko Ts’ai Otako is the daughter of a traitor and has lived all her life in a prison of the Kisian empire’s court. Miko learns very early in her life to not trust anyone and is always on high alert of the people around her. The people she trust is only her twin brother, Tanaka and her mother, the Empress. Miko is an ambitious character that will do anything to reach her goal to be rulers of Kisia with Tanaka. After a series of unfortunate events, her plans are ruined. She is then torn between two sides, the Emperor’s and her mother, the Empress, as the rivalry between the two comes to a boiling point dividing the court in a more public setting. Miko’s choice will decide Kisia’s fate in the war.
“Lesson number four. Sometimes those who seek to help you are the worst enemies of all.”
Miko Ts’ai has lived all her life in her brother’s shadow, mainly because she is a girl. She is told plenty of times that it is a shame that she is born a girl. Sexism in this book is especially prominent in Miko’s POV. There are plenty of moments when her gender is brought upon by other characters into certain situations as the Princess’ weak point. Miko’s journey throughout the story is her trying to break free from not just the prejudices of her lineage but also the prejudices of being a woman. Tanaka, her twin brother, is clearly the favorite between the two siblings. Miko shares a complicated relationship with her mother, the Empress is twice as hard on Miko because she is a girl. Something I can personally relate to. Reading this book, Miko Ts’ai is my favorite character out of the three. Her POV gives insight into Kisia’s court drama and politics that is similar to east asian period dramas I’ve watched. Miko is a well fleshed out character with equal amounts of flaws and strengths. Her chapters are always engaging and I love following a bad ass heroine. There are so many awe inspiring moments involving Miko that stood out in the book. Miko absolutely refuses to bow down and accept her destined fate. Her gradual development in becoming Miko Ts’ai at the end of the book is truly an emotional roller coaster. Miko will most likely be standing with other great heroines I’ve come across so far.
Many of the side characters that I like are in Miko’s chapters. Two side characters definitely stood out amongst the others; they are Emperor Kin and Minister Manshin. Both men showed their loyalty to the Empire, they fought tooth and nail in their own way for Kisia. Emperor Kin is the character that left a huge impact in the story without making too many appearances. Though I don’t agree with him, he gives Miko the side eye just because she’s a girl. Minister Manshin on the other hand believed in Miko’s intention in the greater purpose of saving the Empire. During the end of the book, his actions is commendable and emotional at the same time. I salute you Devin for writing Manshin and Kin into existence. Their presence in this book only made me more curious of the past events when Kin was younger.
Cassandra Marius, a Chiltaen assassin under the guise of a prostitute, her character is the total opposite to Miko. Even though both women have incredible skills in weaponry and both are equally deadly, Cassandra is the most unique character I’ve come across. She is plagued by the voices of the dead and is eager to rid of them from her body. Cassandra takes odd jobs killing powerful people not caring about the repercussions. In the story as a hired assassin, Cassandra is hired to kill two men. These two men that she is suppose to kill turns out to be the two people that will change the trajectory of her life. There are many instances in which Cassandra could easily switch sides depending on who is hiring her. Her loyalty is easily bought as long as the payment is what she desires most. The inner conversation between her and the voice inside her head is very engaging. The relationship between Cassandra and the voice is a dependent love hate relationship. Cassandra and the voice share a body together yet they have totally different personalities which is a refreshing spin on the normal assassin trope. Honestly, Cassandra’s POV though interesting, it slowly becomes convoluted as she switch sides so easily. As a narrative it made sense but it wasn’t done as well as I hoped it would. I had a hard time understanding Cassandra’s purpose in the story especially in the ending. Since it is the first book of the series I hope there will be improvements of her plot in the sequel.
There are reoccurring themes in We Ride the Storm, one that comes up every so often is about leadership, identity, and values. These themes surfaced in both Rah’s and Miko’s POV, they are both aspiring leaders that are learning the ways on how to fit into the big shoes they have to fill. Devin Madson’s prose is refreshing to read, everything about the book is meticulously written and highly detailed. I love the specific fashion statements Devin did for Miko. Heroines in armor are my weakness. Specifically, in one certain chapter that surprised me so deeply my hands were shaking with excitement. The setting of the world is heavily Asian inspired, Kisia is similar to the times of feudal Japan. There are only hints of magic in this first book, the lack of magic didn’t hinder me from enjoying the story. Fantasy books with very small hints of magic seems a lot of more interesting to me than most fantasy books with magic being the main component of the story. The action sequences are explosive and grand in scale, complete with : city sieges, crazy cavalry action, betrayals, ambusehs and many-many war strategizing; the most important thing Miko looking majestic in armor. The war became the boiling point and plot convergence of the book, it contained a few wholesome moments. I find it adorable that Miko’s POV during the war is very intense and serious. While Rah’s POV of the war is just him and his swords admiring Miko. It’s so cute! They are on opposite sides but Rah and his Swords are rooting for Miko!!! *chef’s kiss*
My enjoyment of reading We Ride the Storm could be much better if I read the previous series that centers more in Kisia’s past emperor. It is mentioned a few times during Miko’s POV especially by Emperor Kin. This shouldn’t be an obstacle for potential readers that are interested in this series. I went into this book not knowing anything and I still enjoyed the experience. The cliffhanger ending left me hanging with many more questions of what will happen to everyone. Thankfully, I have the ARC of the sequel, We Lie with Death, releasing January 12th 2021. For readers that are interested it is the perfect time to read We Ride the Storm and will only have to wait a few more weeks until the sequel is released. I recommend this book for anyone that likes grim dark fantasy that is heavy on court politics with equal amounts of action and war. The three point of views didn’t distract me from the story and I loved reading about each one of them. Especially, Miko. Yes, I am a Miko stan. Hold on to your heads if you decide to pick this book up because it will blow you away! Again, I would like to remind you all to please pay attention to the trigger warnings before reading.