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.
Son of the Storm is the first installment in Suyi Davies Okunbowa’s The Nameless Republic series, and if it is any indication of how the rest of this series is going to go I have a feeling it is going to be quite a hit. In my opinion, this book has many elements that make it a really good read.
For starters, to me, this book is very narrative-driven. There are two main storylines the reader follows: those of Danso and Esheme. What makes this story so intriguing is that, while each has their own issues they are going through, the two are also betrothed – so their storylines intersect at times. I love that this story was written that way, because it feels almost like a suspense multiplier: they live dramatic lives separate from each other, but when they are together it just compounds. Truthfully, they are not on the page together all that much in the book, but even the chance of their storylines entangling at any point creates a lot of suspense. We also get chapters from Lilong’s point of view, but not nearly as many.
The way the characters connect with the narrative itself is what really drove the story for me. Danso’s constant curiosity. Esheme’s forcefulness and ambition. Lilong’s untrusting and secretive nature. These aspects of their personalities intertwine with the plot is one of the biggest tension-building aspects of the book. Danso’s continuous questioning of everything around him culminates in an unexpected journey. Esheme’s eagerness to succeed leads her down a dark path. Lilong’s guarded temperament sows distrust and animosity. Every one of them is forced to make difficult decisions and accept the consequences. This leads to constant suspense and tension, and I honestly could not get enough of it.
The magic was interesting, also, with a substance called ibor as the main actor. While it was not explained in granular detail, the best aspect of the magic system is that it is so secretive no one knows exactly how it works – not even the magic users (though, admittedly, they know more than the people who thought it did not exist). The reader learns how the magic works right along with the characters, and that is such a cool concept. This was a very unique situation that gave the book another level of intrigue.
The setting was really interesting, as well, with three very distinct areas. The two mainland areas, separated by an nearly impassable forest full of monsters (more on that later), and a secret island that no one is sure still exists. I think the way the boundaries are very clear-cut and created by geographical features fits in well with the themes of the book. There was a lot of “otherness” in the story, and it all comes down to different territories and locations. Almost everyone feels as though they are the other, which heavily influences their actions and feelings. It was really nice world building, and I enjoyed that aspect very much.
There are a couple of things I want to mention that I found to be drawbacks of this book. Too many chapters ended with one of the characters passing out, only to wake up and have to figure out the context of what happened to them. I do not normally mind this as a way of creating suspense in a story, but if it is done too often it loses its panache. I felt that way reading this story. Also, there was a time or two that I was not buying certain circumstances. One example is that there is supposedly a forest that is nearly impassable (one of those “of all who have come here, none have returned” situations), yet somehow an inexperienced group of people can stumble through. These are not huge shortcomings, and they definitely do not overshadow the good.
Son of the Storm is a book built on tension, with the characters, setting, narrative, and themes all contributing their part. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it for fans of fantasy. Definitely looking forward to book 2 in the series.