Book Review: SON OF THE STORM by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Title in white on a blurred image of a Black man with paint on his face
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: Yes - first book

Synopsis:

Book cover for SON OF THE STORM: title in silver below image of a Black man with a painted face

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.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

The marketing for this book claims it’s the start of a big, unmissable epic fantasy series – and it really does have impressive scope. This is a story set in a sprawling world, rich in cultures and mythology, without being told from a half dozen unconnected POVs. The characters are all linked from the minute they are introduced – which is what I like in multi-POV books.

It’s such a hard task, to create a story that feels epic while all the parts are deeply connected. Often, an “epic scope” book reads like separate stories that (if you’re lucky) link up by the end of the first book. Here, it’s one unified story made of interweaving threads. Some, like Esheme, are in a different location and with a different primary goal, but she is still part of their story. It’s so engaging because everyone is linked to everyone else, such that you want to keep reading to see how this character’s actions have affected the others.

There are a lot of POVs in this book, three main (Danso, Lilong, and Esheme) and a host of others who pop up occasionally. While it helps with the epic feel of the book, the early POVs never returning or late ones popping up well over 60% in was a little distracting. It meant there was this “oh, right, another character to understand. Oh wait, they’re only here for three chapters.” Lilong doesn’t even start narrating until the second act, and as her name hadn’t been introduced yet (though her character was), it took me most of her first chapter to work out that we were following events from the previous chapter rather than being somewhere else.

So many scattered POVs who popped up and then dropped out gave the book a bit of an unfocused feel at times. There are three in particular (Nem, Oboda, and Khartum) who felt like they weren’t adding anything, and that their chapters could easily have been told by someone else of covered in a line of reporting, but that’s the story telling style. It felt like it was deliberately encompassing so many people in the narration because it’s not so much a story about individuals as it is about communities.

The world was fascinating, vividly imagined with so many little details that helped bring it alive. There is a complex caste system at play, making for interesting dynamics in the city. The world beyond the city is full of danger in unexpected way (the Breathing Forest was such a cool location!)

I’m excited for the next book!

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