Hey there, traveler!
What happens when ambition meets fate — when disparate paths intertwine and intersect so intricately that those who trace it come to realize that the path never branched off; it was always one winding road to begin with? Lives connect in trembling, shocking ways. Intentions become clear when the night falls.
Welcome, dear traveler, to Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa, a novel released on May 11, 2021, that stunned me as I completed it on a stormy night, crying out towards the final page as each thread of the plot converged into a complex point.
I am honored and pleased to be part of the Nameless Republic Book Tour, hosted by Caffeine Book Tours! Ginormous thanks to Caffeine Book Tours and Son of the Storm’s publisher, Orbit Books, for an Advanced Reader’s Copy of the novel for my participation in this tour.
A young scholar’s ambition threatens to reshape an empire determined to retain its might in this epic tale of violent conquest, buried histories, and forbidden magic.
In the thriving city of Bassa, Danso is a clever but disillusioned scholar who longs for a life beyond the rigid family and political obligations expected of the city’s elite. A way out presents itself when Lilong, a skin-changing warrior, shows up wounded in his barn. She comes from the Nameless Islands–which, according to Bassa lore, don’t exist–and neither should the mythical magic of ibor she wields. Now swept into a conspiracy far beyond his understanding, Danso will have to set out on a journey that reveals histories violently suppressed and magic only found in lore.
- Emotionally manipulative relationship
- Pregnancy and miscarriage/abortion
- Violence, blood and murder
tl;dr: Do I recommend this book?
MY RATING: ★★★★★
Traveler. This book is made of pure magic.
We shall analyze it, spoiler-free, together!
Son of the Storm is the paragon of deliberate storytelling.
Its slow, calculated pacing, a delightful subversion of the rushing tempos typically expected of high fantasy, gave the novel time to explore the world as an explorer may traverse their surroundings and acquaint readers with its protagonists with the intimacy of a mirror.
Let Us Look at a Really Good Paragraph
In particular, this passage on the second page of the first chapter, told in the limited third-person perspective of Danso, excited me:
“He’d already been given two strikes: first, for repeatedly arguing with Elder Jalis and trying to prove his superior intelligence; then more recently, for being caught poring over a restricted manuscript that was supposed to be for only two sets of eyes: emperors, back when Bassa still had them, and the archivist scholars who didn’t even get to read them except while scribing.”
Through this text, traveler, what do we learn about Danso and his world?
- Danso is a scholar — and a rebellious one at that. He had been given two strikes already, establishing his insubordination to us, the audience. (And he’s not about to stop there, what a legend!)
- He’s confident in his abilities: he is firm in his “superior intelligence,” and is willing to fight on behalf of his skill with an older, higher-ranking person.
- The character is courageous enough to seize a restricted manuscript; this also adds to his natural inclination towards dissent and contemplation.
- Danso’s home, Basso, once had emperors. “…emperors, back when Bassa still had them…” What became of the emperors? you may wonder. How did they fall? Will the age of emperors return? (Read more to find out! 😉)
Throughout the book — in battles and skirmishes, monologues and conversations, arguments and confrontations — in moments of peace and moments of tumult — in every evocative description of the environment — not a single word goes to waste.
Each character contains multitudes.
The Ibor Duo
Danso is the Orpheus of this tale. He sees the world for what it can be, in spite of the way that it is. He is indeed a scholar of the highest caliber, acutely aware of his capabilities, but he is often unsure of himself. Danso may be defiant, but he’s also kind and empathetic, as evidenced through his interactions with Lilong, a warrior from the “Nameless Islands,” as they were called in Danso’s home.
Determined to avenge all that she has lost, Lilong is pragmatic and headstrong, an unknowable enigma (at least to Danso and the other characters) made known. I loved how clever and wry she was, and her expert proficiency of her world’s magic entranced me. Lilong’s critical eye and unshakeable resolve
Lilong’s mere existence overturns Danso’s understanding of the world: she challenges his misconceptions and serves as a foil to his naivety. Their dynamic was a highlight of the book.
“Why do you trust in the world so much?” Lilong asked. “Haven’t you been told enough lies?”
“I have.” Danso crossed his legs and sat on the floor, facing her. “But I still believe there is freedom to be found in truth.”
Traveler, I adored this pair, and wished that they could find everything they sought.
Now I am Going to Talk About My Wife
If Danso is Son of the Storm’s Orpheus, then Esheme is Clytemnestra. She is the epitome of blade-wielding women in fantasy: bold, cutthroat, and shrewd.
Esheme, dear traveler, can step on my face.
I worshipped her arc — for the sake of keeping this spoiler-free, I must contain my excitement for the way her story culminated.
In her prowess, she held an honesty and vulnerability which entranced me as it entranced her supporters:
“…in this moment, she realized she needed something she hadn’t needed in a long time: comfort. Warmth.”
Esheme conquered my thoughts in the way that she conquered her obstacles. In victory and anguish, she was my favorite person in the world of Son of the Storm.
Herein Lies the Brilliant Gale
These three characters stand at a crossroads carved by their birthrights — I have yet to mention Danso, Lilong, and Esheme’s designations as Shashi (mixed-race), yellowskin (please note the author’s explanation of the label via this link!), and a fixer’s daughter.
Their identities deeply shape their relationships with themselves, each other, and the world; they both stifle and strengthen the protagonists.
Throughout Son of the Storm, we truly come to understand these diametrically opposed individuals in the contexts of their identities. We witness their internal turmoil and gasp at the resolutions of their quests.
Danso, Lilong, and Esheme each desire survival, and whatever nebulous state lies out-of-reach beyond that. Who do we root for?
Dear traveler, I rooted for them all. Danso, Lilong, and Esheme were so deftly crafted (and their individual ideologies so well-scoured) that I could not help but cheer for their triumph — even if triumph in one character translates to defeat in another. That is the nuance of Son of the Storm.
I am excited to see what lies in store for this shining trio.
About The Author of Son of the Storm
Suyi Davies Okungbowa is a Nigerian author of speculative fiction inspired by his West-African origins. He is the author of David Mogo, Godhunter and his shorter works have appeared in Lightspeed, Nightmare, Strange Horizons and other periodicals and anthologies. He lives between Lagos, Nigeria and Tucson, Arizona where he teaches writing while completing his MFA in Creative Writing. He tweets at @IAmSuyiDavies and is @suyidavies everywhere else.
Traveler, thank you for stopping by at my tour location for Son of the Storm! 💛 I encourage you to read it and share in my enthusiasm for the story.
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