We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson
I saw a tweet this morning about different types of reviewers, some being very liberal about their five-star reviews and the other being picky about how they rate those books. Now in my The Girl and the Stars review I said I don’t use five-star ratings, and apparently, I’m a liar. Devin Madson’s We Ride with the Storm gets another five-star review. You know what, I don’t care, and you know why? Because this book was fucking amazing. And if a book is really fucking amazing it gets a five star (If I don’t feel the need to use swear words then it just gets four stars).
Now I’m kind of ashamed of myself because I hadn’t heard of Devin till very recently and I didn’t realise until the interview at the end of WRtS that she had a series before this (The Vengeance Trilogy), a series that I would imagine might enhance certain parts of the book. However, if you’re like me and you’re in the same boat, do not fret, you can read WRtS without needing to read the prior series. However, Devin if you read this by some small chance, I will go back and read them, I promise.
The story tells of the struggles between the Kisian, Chiltaen and Levanti people, this world is based on what seems to be Feudal Japan, taking very strong cultural impressions from all over Asia. Devin has managed to write a world that feels rich with the history and traditions of those people, and she manages to write this world with little need of piling us with tons of unnecessary details. Instead, incorporating the information we need to know into the story and allowing us to feel like we know these people, characters and what drives them while keeping the story going at breakneck speeds. Devin’s writing style was incredible the entire way through the book and really felt unlike anything I’ve read in recent years. As I was scribbling down notes, I wrote it felt like every time I was turning a page, I was waiting for Devin to pop out from wherever she was hiding and slap me in the face, before running off and hiding somewhere new so I wouldn’t know where to expect the next one from. I felt scared and tense for the characters I came to know, I spent chapters holding in my breath without realising, clenching my jaw, I wrote angry sentences about how Devin didn’t want any of us to be happy as she twisted the plot once again. It’s not often a book stresses me as much as WRtS and it should be taken as a massive compliment. I never knew where this book was going to take me, whether that was the storyline Devin was so masterfully crafting. Scenes I couldn’t even try to pretend I could guess what was going to happen next, or just actual scenes that were stunning to read, whether that being for how beautiful the prose were or because of how shocking the scene was. I mean we basically open the book with Devin in detail describing how to cut off a head.
“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. The first incision is easy. Then you drag your serrated blade through the flesh and think you’ll soon be done. I thought so my first time. I thought it would be quick and simple and not involve such thick globs of blob.”Rah e’Toring, We Ride the Storm – Devin Madson
If it wasn’t for the fact it was incredibly illegal, I would think Devin’s been hacking off human heads herself, and to be honest I’m not sure if that stopped her, she knows vastly too much on the subject. On top of this incredible writing, we had then potentially some of the most wonderful chapter structure I’ve had the pleasure of reading in a long time. Epic fantasy that tells its story through the POV of multiple characters tends to do similar things, creating nice little cliff-hangers at the end of each chapter (series like the Wheel of Time or Game of Thrones are prime examples of this), leaving you with your favourite character bleeding out on a battlefield while then jumping halfway across the world to maybe two characters you don’t care about, talking politics. Leaving you with a knife in your gut as you try your best not to skim over those next hundred pages, till you finally return and find out what happened. Devin instead writes these beautiful chapters which each tend to have their own crescendo, each picking up quickly till it peaks with something jaw-droppingly exciting before then normally giving you some sort of resolution at the end. You get the knife thrust to the gut, swift battlefield surgery and sent on your merry way all in one chapter and I can’t tell you enough how much I loved that.
Now I mention my desire to skim over or just skip over chapters (Don’t shame me, I don’t do it. I’m just tempted). I’ve touched on this in previous reviews, when it does happen it can occasionally be because of the character, I’m now having to read about someone who I can’t get along with. Devin negates this issue of mine really easily by making sure all three main characters are insanely amazing. I would also like to make it clear that Devin wrote every character, no matter how minor to the story as someone important to the reader. Each one was written so you became invested, somehow even becoming emotionally attached to the characters you maybe thought were arseholes, Devin’s ability to write characters incredibly, no matter how big or small is something that truly makes this book great.
I thoroughly loved reading each character’s perspectives, no character felt more important than another, each falling into their parts of the story perfectly and each slowly being entwined together to get it to its ending masterfully. As much as I loved all three characters, I think Miko ended up as my favourite even though she probably started out as my least. Miko is a princess of Kisia, her and her brother, Tanaka, prince of Kisia and potential heir to the throne are stepchildren to the all mighty God Emperor of Kisia. However, both are Okato children, this information hidden away for years to stop any uprising from the troubled north, still fiercely loyal to the Okato’s. Miko even though quite clearly the more capable of the two siblings is looked over due to her being a female, classic historical misogyny. Although, Miko has very different plans for herself and I think quite early on you can guess the sort of storyline that she will follow, however what I wouldn’t have guessed is the gorydamn roller coaster of emotions that Devin would put us through. Her story starting out slowly ends up rampaging in excitement as the book carries on, the last hundred or so pages being a complete emotional maelstrom that truly makes you grit your teeth.
“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”.Princess Miko, We Ride the Storm – Devin Madson
The second character is Rah e’Toring, Captain of the Second Swords of the Torin Tribe, part of the nomadic tribes of the Levanti. A people heavily steeped in an honour and code that was incredibly fun to read and potentially is based on the Mongolian people, Devin did a really incredible job of giving us a ton of information on how the Levanti lived without ever needing to sit down and explain it. Rah’s people are exiled from their lands and end up being captured and forced to fight by the Chiltaens, finding out as you go that this was all a lot more complicated than it seemed. Rah started off as my favourite character and held that spot till right at the end, his story is a constant source of gripping excitement, his struggles to return his people to some sort of freedom and a way back to the code that he has been forced to stray from. Devin does as incredible job of communicating this character’s emotions onto the paper and really makes us feel his pain and fear, his love for his people and his concern for the decisions he has taken. I’m glad I don’t have to wait to long to read the second book because Devin really upped her slapping game for the end of this one.
“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.”Rah e’Toring, We Ride the Storm – Devin Madson
Cassandra is the last of our characters, a Chiltaen full time assassin, part time prostitute, full time mental case, or so you think early on. You find out everything she does is to quiet the voices of ‘her’ -a voice in Cassandras head that she wants rid of. Cassandra is caught deeply in the web of Chiltaen politics as she finds herself being bounced between the different sides, all wanting her skills for their own devious ends. Cassandra quite quickly shocks as she’s introduced and is a character you eagerly wait to reappear in the story, but as we go on it turns out there’s so much more to her than the drug fuelled sex fiend that’s portrayed at the beginning. Devin doing a fantastic job of humanising her character and really drawing you in emotionally as you realise her story in fullness. Towards the end I did find her story overshadowed somewhat but only due to how incredible the other two were, Devin left Cassandra’s story in the perfect place and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.
Devin has achieved something magnificent with We Ride the Storm, I don’t think since Pierce Browns Golden Son have, I felt so much emotion from a book, that emotion being mainly stress, and again I can’t stress (haha) how much this is a compliment. A book that drives you to madness with how incredibly well done the story is, the sort of book you don’t want to put down at 2am, the sort of book you want to shout in frustration at. This book has quickly entered the list of my all-time favourites and if it wasn’t for the queue of books I currently have and the fact Mike Brooks told me on twitter I had to read his book next, I would have gone straight onto the sequel. I bet this series will feature in some sort of end of year post and I’m positive it will stay my favourite book of 2021 till May…
I already have a signed copy of book three pre-ordered which you can purchase through https://www.thebrokenbinding.co.uk/product-page/we-cry-for-blood-devin-madson in case you’re interested, and to be honest I would highly recommend you doing the same. (I am in no way affiliated with The Broken Binding, they are just awesome, you can also get signed copies of Devin’s other books.)
Thanks for reading.