Hope and Red by Jon Skovron

Rating 9.6/10
Skovron has a great talent for storytelling

A Recommended Book of the Month

Superb fantasy packed with daring pirates, brave warriors, intelligent thieves and revolution. Hope and Red is a phenomenal read with something for everyone – I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

Jon Skovron’s first adult novel follows the lives of two protagonists Hope and Red. Bleak Hope, a young girl orphaned at the tender age of eight when the emperor's biomancers – mystics of biology with the power to make living things grow, decay or change into something else entirely – massacre her whole village. The lone survivor, Hope sneaks on board a travelling merchant ship and by chance becomes a servant at the old Vinchen monastery, home to the empire's best warriors. There she is secretly trained by the greatest Vinchen warrior in history, and is driven by her dream of vengeance against those responsible for her parent's death. Meanwhile, Red is a young boy, who like Hope, is lost following the death of his parents. A survivor from birth, Red meets the notorious criminal Sadie the Goat, and with her help Red masters the art of thievery. Quickly rising up the New Laven street hierarchy, Red becomes an infamous highly intelligent criminal mastermind.

Hope and Red's paths are about to cross and their joint force will have a great impact on the empire, starting with taking down a corrupt gang lord and one particularly cruel biomancer…

Hope and Red is a masterpiece – I was completely hooked from the beginning. The novel initially follows both Hope and Red through their respective childhoods and learning about their origins, in particular the hardships they faced, was a fantastic beginning to the story. The detailed account of their pasts is brilliant in enabling the reader to get to know both characters, and shows how their personalities develop as a result of events in their upbringing. In fact, it's not until halfway through that the two protagonists meet and at that point the book goes up a level, quickening in tempo and thickening in plot. Suffice to say there is never a dull moment.

Although the plot keeps you on the edge of your seat, the well-developed strong main and side characters are by far the greatest achievement of Jon Skovron's novel. For me, any great story has to have great memorable characters that make you desperately want to read on to discover their fate. In this the author does not disappoint. The two protagonists stand out as favourites and I can't wait for the next book in the series to delve deeper into the pasts of the side characters, which were not particularly touched on in Hope and Red.

Jon Skovron's world building is also a good feature of the book. As Hope travels across the empire, we are able to see through her eyes the many different cultures and contrasting lifestyles in impoverished northern towns, and rich southern cities. Meanwhile, Red's life on the streets of one of the main ports of the empire paints a blunt picture of the great divide between the rich and the poor. This is perhaps, however, the main area in which the author could have set the novel out amongst the rest of the genre, but hopefully there will more history about the empire and explanations about how different elements of the empire work, in the next instalment of the Empire of Storms trilogy.

Credit has to go to Jon Skovron who has a great talent for storytelling, he keeps the reader intrigued throughout and I absolutely loved the pirate element of the novel, which is a rarity in fantasy novels nowadays. If you want to be thrilled with a fast plot and are looking for a fantasy book that is incredibly easy to pick up and not put down, Hope and Red is the best book for you.

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