Mika’s position as a princess in the Kisia Kingdom has never been secure. Her life is dogged by Emperor Kin’s, her stepfather, assassination attempts to remove her and her brother from the line of succession, and she is often overlooked because of her gender. When Kin arranges her marriage to Leo Villius of Chiltae to heal the right between the two kingdoms, she is trapped. She will never live the life she yearns for, one where she is appreciated for her abilities rather than degraded for her gender. Then Leo and her brother are killed, Dom Creos Villius, hieromonk of Chiltae, head of the church and Leo’s father, declares war on Kisia because of his son’s death, and a coup in Kisia unseats Kin. Miks flees with Kin, leaving behind all she knew. Will Mika ever find stability when everything around her is falling apart?
We Ride the Strom is the first book in a new trilogy from Devin Madson that charts the fall of the Kisian Kingdom from the points of view of those involved in the war and those trying to prevent it. While Mika wants to keep the kingdom as it is, Cassandra is an assassin sent to kill Leo, and Rah e’Torin is a displaced warrior forced to fight against Kisia without understanding what the conflict is about.
Mika is a compelling character because of her level-headedness. Unlike her impulsive brother, Mika is guarded and thoughtful. When her mother, Empress Hana, grief-stricken at her son’s death, leads a revolt against Kin, Mika sides with her stepfather over her mother. Mika sees through the emotions to the impact of the situation on the kingdom. Mika is a well-rounded individual; however, her ambitions are unlikely to be realised as women are not considered strong enough for any sort of power. Mika has everything needed to be a ruler except for the right reproductive organs.
Cassandra presents a different type of female character. She is also underestimated because she is beautiful. She poses as a prostitute to disguise her real profession as an assassin. Her face and body mean people only ever see her as a sexual object until too late. But Cassandra is in her thirties and her age used against her as much as her gender. She is the best in both her professions, but her talents are overlooked for her gender and age. Cassandra resonated with me. She cannot help growing older; who can, so why is it a weapon used against women but not men?
For all the toxic males who only view women in terms of how they can increase their power and influence, Rah e’Torin presents a different viewpoint. He believe men and women are equal. Women ride and fight and lead alongside the men, and he is outraged at how his tribe’s females are treated by the Chiltaen’s he’s gang-pressed into fight for. He is also an honourable man, putting the welfare of those under his care before his own needs. We see a little of this from Emperor Kin. He knows Mika would be an excellent ruler but also knows that she wouldn’t be accepted because of her gender. However, most of Kin’s qualities are easy to miss, as we only see him from Mika’s point of view and she hates him even though she respects what he wants to achieve.
These three characters are compelling, motivated and honourable in their own ways and not without flaws. We Ride the Storm is an action-led story with events beyond their control, which means they are often reactive rather than pro-active. The hieromonk, Dom Creos Villius, is the antagonist of the story, and yet he is involved in so little of the action. He sets schemes in motion, however much happens that is out of his sphere of influence. I enjoyed that aspect of the story. Plans are all well and good until people get involved.
We Ride the Storm is a powerful tale about determined women, and I devoured the whole book. Mika, Cassandra and Tor are left in dangerous situations, and I can’t wait to get hold of the second book, We Lie With Death.