Book of the Year 2020 (see all)
Devin Madson has given us a magnificent story with fascinating characters in We Ride the Storm. The world feels alive and thriving, and yet still mysterious. I found myself reading late into the night and hesitating to put the book down. It has the sort of story that grips you and doesn’t let go until it has finished with you. In a word, it is masterful.
Madson uses a unique storytelling device in having three perspectives and telling all three in first person. I didn’t find this distracting or confusing in any way. Each character is given a unique voice, and I immediately knew whose perspective I was reading after the first couple sentences of each chapter. The fact that Madson manages to communicate with just a couple sentences which character you’re reading about is truly amazing. The world that she has crafted is also unique. Perhaps what Madson excels at the most is building cultures. Three different cultures are represented in the story and each of those cultures feels unique, alive, and engaging. It is often difficult to craft a single convincing culture in fantasy literature, and Madson has crafted three in a single book. She deserves accolades for this feat alone. The Levanti are one of the most interesting and unique cultures I have read about. But in addition to this she has also crafted three believable characters. While I resonated the most with Rah and Princess Miko, I have no criticisms of Cassandra, she just didn’t grab me as much as the other two. Each of these three offers a wonderful perspective on the world that comes alive in the pages of We Ride the Storm. You understand the motivations of each character, even when they may be working at cross purposes from one another. More than this, you care for each of them, the situation they find themselves in, and you want each of them to succeed. This can put you at odds with yourself, however, because as the story progresses success for one character might necessarily mean failure for another. Madson uses this tension with aplomb, however, to craft an engaging story that isn’t merely interesting, but gripping and emotional.
I don’t see many weaknesses in this novel. There isn’t much magic in this novel, and as someone who loves magic in his fantasy, I would have liked to have seen a little more. But what is there is so tantalizing, and clearly points to a deep and complex magic in the world that Madson is slowly revealing. Nearly all the characters were superbly crafted. As I already mentioned, I loved the three viewpoint characters and found myself cheering each on. Even many of the side characters, however, were well crafted. One or two of them did feel a little flat or under-developed for me. But I barely noticed this as I was reading.
You need to pick this book up. From the characters to the world building to the plotting and pacing it’s a masterclass in engaging fantasy. Among the finest debuts I have ever read, We Ride the Storm is a story that can’t be missed. Madson is sure to join the luminaries of the genre in short order.
Review by Calvin Park
9.5/10 from 1 reviews
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