Happy Saturday everyone! I finally finished a book that was not related to my thesis. I got Son of the Storm via NetGalley, and was really excited because this book really intrigued me a lot.
Thanks to me being busy, it took me a long while to read through it. But at some point I didn’t want to stop reading! Some sleep may have been sacrificed… Anyway, take a look at the content warnings below, and then let’s get into why I enjoyed Son of the Storm
Son of the Storm
By Suyi Davies OkungbowaMy Rating: ★★★★☆
Published 11 May 2021 by Orbit
High fantasy | West African | Adult
From one of the most exciting new storytellers in epic fantasy, Son of the Storm is a sweeping tale of violent conquest and forgotten magic set in a world inspired by the pre-colonial empires of West Africa.
In the ancient city of Bassa, Danso is a clever scholar on the cusp of achieving greatness—only he doesn’t want it. Instead, he prefers to chase forbidden stories about what lies outside the city walls. The Bassai elite claim there is nothing of interest. The city’s immigrants are sworn to secrecy.
But when Danso stumbles across a warrior wielding magic that shouldn’t exist, he’s put on a collision course with Bassa’s darkest secrets. Drawn into the city’s hidden history, he sets out on a journey beyond its borders. And the chaos left in the wake of his discovery threatens to destroy the empire.
What I Liked
I thought this was a great take on the high fantasy genre, mostly because it didn’t involve any Western elements like in so many other high fantasies. I mean, I like those, but many of them involve elements that almost feel like rules: travel is done by horseback, travelers only eat hard cheese, and society dynamics are often very predictable. This book has none of that and is way more complex.
So let’s talk about world building first. The setting of this book was amazing. It’s a West-African inspired, so imagine dense tropical forests and sweeping savannas. The first part of the book takes place in the great city of Bassa, where people are divided into castes based on how dark their skin is. Darker skin is more valued than lighter skin, and thus for mixed Danso, life isn’t always easy. There are lots of elements to this world that you need to remember, so pay attention.
The magic system is simple enough, though. I liked that it deviated from standard practices of magic in high fantasy. It’s very original, and even believable. It was well thought out, meaning that the author thought of what rules apply to its use, and what using the magic does to one’s body.
Time to talk about the characters! I mentioned Danso before, who is our main character. However, this book involves multiple POV chapters. Danso is a scholar, but because of his lighter skin he is not quite as respected as he should be. He is also cursed with insatiable curiosity which in Bassa isn’t a good thing. So obviously he gets in trouble a lot. I really enjoyed his character. He tends to rush into things without thinking through it, but he is also a rational human being that is able to contextualize his feelings.
Another such rational human being is Lilong, the catalyst that accidentally starts off all the trouble in Bassa. She is a yellowskin belonging to a people that uses magic; something that Bassa heavily fears. She starts off very single-minded: she’s on a mission, and the only thing that matters is completing the mission and returning home. However, throughout the book her world becomes a lot more complicated. She is also able to logically think through her feelings, especially toward Danso who she in the beginning saw as a typical Bassai oppressor.
Lastly, let’s talk about Esheme. Like Danso, she does not entirely fit in with the highest caste, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t try. She and Danso are supposed to get married. I loved her chapters because she is insanely ruthless; a “the means justify the ends” kind of person. She’s the type of character that is always three step ahead of her enemies. I can’t wait to read more about her.
What I Liked Less
Then finally, let’s talk a little bit about the plot. In my opinion, it takes a little while for the plot to really settle. Like I said, it took me a while to get into the story, and I think that can be partially attributed to the pacing. It starts off relatively slow, and on top of that you have no clue what is going on. I wouldn’t necessarily say there is a lot of info-dumping, but this book is very heavy on the world building. I love the world, but you have to remember a lot very quickly. There are many different terms and names, and Bassa has a whole history with the other inhabitants of the continent that are all relevant to what happens in the story. Learning about the world was fun, but in my opinion it took a little too long. However, now that the world is truly settled, I think the second book will have a much better pace.