Review: We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson

War built the Kisian Empire and war will tear it down. And as an empire falls, three warriors rise.

Caught in a foreign war, Captain Rah e’Torin and his exiled warriors will have to fight or die. Their honour code is all they have left until orders from within stress them to breaking point, and the very bonds that hold them together will be ripped apart. 

Cassandra wants the voice in her head to go away. Willing to do anything for peace, the ageing whore takes an assassination contract that promises answers, only the true price may be everyone and everything she knows. 

A prisoner in her own castle, Princess Miko doesn’t dream of freedom but of the power to fight for her empire. As the daughter of a traitor the path to redemption could as easily tear it, and her family, asunder. 

As an empire dies they will have to ride the storm or drown in its blood.

5 of 5 stars!

This is a rich, Asian-inspired story of a brewing political conflict and three cultures that are drawn into it. Beautiful, savage, and inspiring in equal parts, this book is masterfully done.

There are three point of view characters, and each is written in first person. This would definitely be a writing challenge, and Madson handles it well. The characterization is excellent and the storylines different enough that transitioning between characters is always smooth.

Rah is the leader of a nomadic horse tribe that gets forced into a war, enslaved to reinforce the army of a nation they've formerly been hostile with. He struggles with his personal sense of honor and his culture's sense of duty. He must follow the commands of his superior even though he doesn't understand or agree. His self-righteous nature got his tribe exiled from their homeland temporarily, and that was only the beginning of his plight.

Cassandra is an assassin who gets close to her targets most often in the guise of a whore. She's also sharing her conscious mind with another entity, who we don't find out much about but who always seems to object to Cassandra's way of doing things. She's an intriguing character. Her plans often get sidetracked and she has to improvise quite a bit. From a first-impression standpoint, Cassandra was my favorite POV character, but my favorite story arc overall is Miko.

Miko is a princess in a society ruled by men. Her twin brother is heir to the throne, but her only chance at power is a strong political marriage. Despite her weapons training and education, it looks as though she won't have much opportunity to lead. But when her betrothed becomes an assassination target, her entire future is thrown into upheaval. Through sacrifice and determination, she must do what is best for her country, and her fortitude pushes her to action that defies all tradition. Miko is a dynamic character and watching her develop is thrilling.

We Ride the Storm finished second in SPFBO4, and it's well-deserved. A breathtaking start to what will surely be an exciting series. Congrats to the author and thank you for a fantastic tale!

You can find it here on Amazon or here on Goodreads.

Review: Never Die by Rob J. Hayes

Ein is on a mission from God. A God of Death. 
Time is up for the Emperor of Ten Kings and it falls to a murdered eight year old boy to render the judgement of a God. Ein knows he can't do it alone, but the empire is rife with heroes. The only problem; in order to serve, they must first die.

Ein has four legendary heroes in mind, names from story books read to him by his father. Now he must find them and kill them, so he can bring them back to fight the Reaper's war.

4 of 5 stars

Ein is a small boy who has been given a mission to kill the Emperor of Ten Kings. He's granted a mystical power to resurrect fallen heroes and tie them to him so they must help. We follow their journey across the empire Hosa as Ein finds legendary heroes and builds an army.

Traversing this land includes combatting Asian-inspired fantasy creatures, as they have to fight the minions of warring gods and confront an opposing army that is also vying against the emperor.

Will they fall before even reaching their goal? Will they learn to work together? Will they find enough courage within them?

Their journey is not an easy one. They must face successes and failures, and examine who they were in their previous lives and what it takes to keep them focused on this mission. Because of Ein's special ability, they don't have much of a choice of whether to follow him, but their path lends itself to a lot of reflection and challenges each of them to dig deep enough to find the resolve it will take to stand up against the emperor.

I recommend this to fans of dark fantasy looking for Asian-inspired lore with a mythological atmosphere, rife with battle and uncertain heroes hoping for redemption.

You can find it here on Amazon or here on Goodreads.

The space between raindrops

I crave the space between raindrops,
The pause before the breath,
The rise of that sweet stillness
That brings my heart to rest. 

Come fill me with an empty hall.
Nourish me with peace. 
The silence just before applause
Sets my soul at ease.