Sometimes a book doesn’t hit you like you thought it would. For some books that means you’re in for a grand surprise and it just blows you away in unexpected ways. For others it means it fell flat and you have to ask yourself is it the book or is it me and my personal tastes that are to blame. Son of The Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa is one of thse books that didn’t hit me like I thought it would, and unfortunately it was the latter example of it falling somewhat flat. There were some compelling elements I liked and others that just didn’t stir me in any way. I’ll try to be fair to what the book did and didn’t accomplish for me as a reader.
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.
“Everything I love in a fantasy novel. Damn good stuff!” —Jenn Lyons, author of The Ruin of Kings
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.Goodreads Blurb
- Slow Pacing
- Telling not showing
- Characters that didn’t grab me
- Compelling story
- Themes: Nationalism & Imperialism
Let me say at the outset that overall I liked this book. It’s an African inspired fantasy that has a number of things to praise including the overall thrust of story and the themes it explores. It’s easy to assume because someone doesn’t give a stellar review, or notes elements they didn’t enjoy that they in turn didn’t like the book. That isn’t necessarily true, and it’s where I’m at with Son of The Storm. So, I’m gonna start with what I didn’t like and then try to end on a positive note with what I did which I hope will cover my feelings about this read adequately.
One of the elements that was a drag for me was the slow pacing of the novel. It was well past the fifty percent mark before I felt like the pacing began to pick up steam and add excitement or tension to the narrative. Now, I’ll admit slow pacing doesn’t automatically equal “bad” because a good character driven novel is often one that has some very slow pacing and I love those. But this one isn’t really a character driven novel. And the pacing was slow, which can be fine yes, but it just didn’t seem to go anywhere for half the book. I stuck with it though and I’m glad I did because the ending really did get more exciting and I read the last 20 – 25 percent of the book in one sitting.
Related to the pacing was the fact that there was a lot of telling not showing in the writing style. Again, I admit that “show don’t tell” isn’t a hard and fast writing rule authors should follow. Sometimes telling is the best way to describe a situation in the story. I just felt Son of The Storm was a little generous with the telling and it felt a bit dry because of it. It meant I didn’t ever really feel immersed in the world and the narrative.
I also never really felt any connection to the characters. There was only one really that felt compelling to me and that was the one who becomes the antagonist, who to be honest isn’t a great person (I won’t say who to avoid spoilers) . That character to me was the only one who really seemed to have good development and growth over the course of their arc, and in the end I thought this one was well written. The other characters (we get like eight POV characters in the book) were OK, neither great nor horrible.
I know haven’t said much about other things like the magic system and world building. That’s because they just didn’t jump out to me either. Again, they weren’t bad, or poorly designed, they just didn’t wow me.
Now, after all that negativity I have to admit I still felt the story as a whole was compelling. It’s a story about rising up and fighting back against nationalism and imperialism (see below) and the lies that must be told and adhered to in order to keep such systems in place. It’s about the dream of actually treating people equally and the messy ways that people sometimes utilize to get there. It’s about how sometimes in our desire to topple such systems we end up replacing them with another similar system
- or worse. This is what really kept me reading and in the end made the book enjoyable for me.
As I just noted there are two themes that are very intertwined in Son of The Storm that make it for me. Nationalism and Imperialism. This is an African inspired fantasy (West Africa I believe) which might lead one to think at first that these themes would be looking back toward parallels with European colonialism. That isn’t the case. This instead looks at ways Imperialism exists within neighboring cultures and how nationalism and a caste system are used to keep a hegemony in place. I like stories that explore these themes because they still exist even in our own societies in ways we are often blind to, or just wish to ignore. Sometimes slapping us in the face with it helps to correct our bad behavior. I know…too often it doesn’t.
For me Son of The Storm is a classic example of the way our feelings about a book can be very subjective with some people loving it and others not so much. There are many glowing five star reviews for this book you can easily find online. So, it’s obvious that it struck the right chord with a lot of people. It just didn’t do so for me. I hope I’ve been fair in describing what I liked and what I didn’t and why. I do think if anything in my review makes you wonder if you should add it to your TBR, yes you should. Give it a try and see if you enjoy it. It may be right up your alley.
*I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from the publisher and Netgalley.
Author: Suyi Davies Okungbowa
Series: The Nameless Republic #1
Publication Date: May 11, 2021
Format: Kindle ARC