Hello everyone! I am beyond excited to invite you to my tour stop for Son of the Storm (#1 The Nameless Republic) by Suyi Davies Okungbowa 🙂 I honestly think I’ve found a new favourite fantasy and you all definitely need to read on to find out why.
While you’re at it, do check out the full blog tour schedule and the posts written by the lovely bloggers so far!
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.
TW: Ageism, Bones, Colourism/discrimination, Emotionally manipulative relationship, Fire, Misogyny, Pregnancy and miscarriage/abortion, Violence, blood and murder
Representation: Own-voices, author of colour (Nigerian author), POC representation (Black, African), LGBTQIAP+ representation (nonbinary, pansexual/polysexual), and disability representation.
Disclaimer: I received an arc of this book from the publisher, Orbit and Caffeine Book Tours. This has not impacted my review in any manner. All my opinions are unbiased and honest.
4 Reasons to Read Son of the Storm
A Breathtaking and Intricate World
Inspired by African culture and history, this book is set in the world of Oon, spanning mainly over the mainland city of Bassa which is where our story begins. We start in the busy bustle of the First Ward from where we get to explore Bassa’s various other wards, the rules that govern the society and the people that reside in it. I honestly fell in love with this whole world whether it was the city of Bassa and its markets, the Breathing Forest or the protectorate of Whudasha.
Okungbowa is able to breathe life into his world because it quickly envelops you and draws you in. It’s very rare that in a fantasy book instead of being slightly confused about the worldbuilding I was filled with a thirst to know more details. I actually took notes because I was afraid I would forget half the wonderful things about this world! It’s described so beautifully that you can immediately picture it and find yourself within the story. Again, no information dumps of any sort, the whole world just came together as the story progressed.
Characters to Root for and Against
I am absolutely living for all the characters in this book! A friend of mine told me that the beginning was slightly slow as the author set up the world first but I didn’t mind that at all because I was so vested in learning more about the characters from the very beginning. Yes, I’m one of those people for whom characters make or break the book.
To start off, we have Danso whom I immediately found to be a sort of adorable lost puppy. A barely accepted Shashi living amongst snub Bassais, Danso is of mixed race and struggles to find a spot for himself in Bassa. As a jali novitiate he’s curious and thirsty for knowledge, something he often finds he has to tame so as to not get into trouble. Danso is written to be a very likeable character in my opinion and I personally couldn’t help but relate with some of his struggles. Yet at the same time he does have certain privileges so it’s great to see him acknowledge that and develop as a character over the course of the story.
Esheme is something else. I don’t want to spoil anything but I feel like she’s a character many people will find themselves rooting against. Esheme looks like an upper Bassai and lives like one but she and her mother are looked down at in Bassa. Growing up with this knowledge only makes her determined and power hungry with ambitions as high as the sky. And usually I love and support females striving for power in a society made to crush them but Esheme’s morals or lack there of and her absolute ruthlessness makes you step back and question her. Add to the fact that she’s almost always opposing the lives of our other main characters makes her an unlikable yet very interesting character to read about.
I think my favourite of the whole lot was Lilong, the yellowskin warrior from the islands. Lilong has grown with distrust and hatred for anything and everything Bassai, the past of her ancestors ruling over her emotions. Yet when she finds help, kindness and support from some of the people in mainland it sort of upturns her world and makes her question her beliefs. Lilong struggles as she realizes that she cannot live her whole life fueled by rage for her people and her land. She’s so fierce and loyal and extremely vulnerable at moments. Lilong is quite straightforward and blunt, something I appreciate any time she is quick to remind any mainlander of their privileges and point out the true motivations behind their intentions.
Even the side characters are quite well-developed and I especially loved reading about people like Biemwense and Zaq but if I start writing what I love about every character we’ll be here for a long time. Just know that this cast of characters is absolutely unbelievable and one way or the other they will definitely draw you in with their stories.
Well-written Themes like Caste and Power Struggles
Again, Okungbowa seamlessly weaves in so many incredibly important and poignant themes reflective of our world today but if I were to mention my awe for each of them this review will take up all day. At its core though, this book talks about power and class at so many levels and in so many different ways.
To start with, Bassa is divided into fifteen wards and the amount of power and respect one commands lessens as you go down each ward. Even within the wards, power is donated by race and colour. The darker your skin, the more pure you are. There is a whole hierarchy of castes that can rarely be upturned with the indentured labor coming from outside the mainland being the lowest in the hierarchy. It’s so reflective of our world and our histories and that’s just the beginning.
“Power, Oboda had learned, was taken by force, not offered up on a platter.”
The further you move from Bassa the lower your status is, indicating that everything revolves around the glorious city of Bassa and its resources and everything outside it is trash. The book talks about how the indentured labor and literally everyone outside Bassa are lured in with the promise of living in a golden city but the truth is ugly and oppressive and costs them so much more than they expect. Everyone outside Bassa, especially those off of the mainland aka the islanders are villainified, shaped into monsters by their history. The empire of Bassa is weak with it’s own issues of rebellion and a coalition that demands for change but is quick to unite out of fear and aggression of the islanders. It’s a common strategy in our history to emphasize that different is bad. It’s so easy for privileged communities to come together as long as they’re given a purpose to defend themselves from outsiders when in reality the structure of their society is crumbling from the inside. That’s often what leaders of many countries and societies bank on and I love how that is reflected in this book.
“You can see your leaders are trying their best to keep us enemies, right? Stoking the fires of hatred? They know the Bassai need something to hate, and they have made it us, if only to obscure their own misdeeds. They have turned us into demons and murderers that we’re not.”
Another theme I’ll briefly mention is the one of history. It’s very important to ask who is writing our histories. Because oppressors and colonizers often write their own versions, villainizing the ones they obliterate and defending as well as praising their own decisions at every turn. The truth comes out when you start comparing histories with the oppressed, something that happens when Lilong and Danso start exchanging stories in the book. It’s so important to remember that our histories are crafted and molded by our ancestors to suit them and their people and the truth can often be so vastly different!
The Multiple POV Narration was the Cherry on Top
I can a 100% tell you that if we didn’t have multiple characters narrating Son of the Storm this book wouldn’t be half as good. I’m not a huge fan of multiple POVs because often authors write them for the sake of the book and many go overboard with the characters narrating the story which only ends up confusing the reader. But this was such an important decision for Son of the Storm because its characters come from different world and mindsets and follow such divergent paths that a single narrator would not have been able to show us the depth of their lives or even cover the plot as a whole. Okungbowa chose every character carefully and all their narratives and stories added so much to the story and furthered the plot.
I think it would have been impossible for us to go so deep into the characters minds and understand their thought processes and decisions. In fact this made it almost impossible for me to hate any character because I was given a window into their pasts and struggles and they were all so human. Not black and white distinctions of good and bad but mixed colours and emotions of being human.
Bonus: My Favourite Quotes!
“You think it is just lies that break lives? The revelation of truth, especially one that people would prefer not to accept, does the same.”
“Power in hands that couldn’t be fully controlled was always unsettling.”
“Sometimes, it is better to keep the truth of power a secret until people are ready for it, or limit access otherwise. This is better than revealing an unstable truth.”
“You say you want liberty, but you can never be free alone. None of us are free until all of us are.”
“If there was anything she knew about healing, it was that belief was just as good a salve if applied in the right doses.”
“We owe a responsibility to ourselves. To protect the truth. To protect our truth from a world that seeks to make us believe otherwise about ourselves.”
About the Author
Suyi Davies Okungbowa is a Nigerian author of fantasy, science fiction and general speculative fiction inspired by his West-African origins. He is the author of the highly-anticipated epic fantasy series, The Nameless Republic, beginning with Son of the Storm (Orbit, May 2021).
His godpunk fantasy debut novel David Mogo, Godhunter (Abaddon, 2019), won the 2020 Nommo Ilube Award for Best Speculative Novel by an African.His shorter fiction and nonfiction have appeared internationally in periodicals like Tor.com, Lightspeed, Nightmare, Strange Horizons, and anthologies like Black Panther: Tales of Wakanda (Marvel/Titan, 2021) and Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy (Saga, 2020).
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