Author: Caitlin Sangster
In this atmospheric YA fantasy that is Wicked Saints meets There Will Come a Darkness, four teens are drawn into a high-stakes heist in the perilous tomb of an ancient shapeshifter king.
Long ago, shapeshifting monsters ruled the Commonwealth using blasphemous magic that fed on the souls of their subjects. Now, hundreds of years later, a new tomb has been uncovered, and despite the legends that disturbing a shapeshifter’s final resting place will wake them once again, the Warlord is determined to dig it up.
But it isn’t just the Warlord who means to brave the traps and pitfalls guarding the crypt.
A healer obsessed with tracking down the man who murdered her twin brother.
A runaway member of the Warlord’s Devoted order, haunted by his sister’s ghost.
A snotty archaeologist bent on finding the cure to his magical wasting disease.
A girl desperate to escape the cloistered life she didn’t choose.
All four are out to steal the same cursed sword rumored to be at the very bottom of the tomb. But of course, some treasures should never see the light of day, and some secrets are best left buried…
She Who Rides the Storm is a very captivating fantasy novel that initially appealed to me with its cover and compelling synopsis. When I began reading this novel, I believed it to be a standalone story. In reality, it is the first novel in a duology. For me, this did affect my reading experience as the pacing, plot, etc. all read differently as a duology compared to me reading it incorrectly as a standalone. While it did not affect my enjoyment and comprehension after finishing the novel, it did affect it during the actual reading process. That being said, this novel is a page-turner as there are multiple twists and turns to keep the reader guessing throughout the chapters.
Within the world of Chaol amongst the Commonwealth in the novel, there are people, the Devoted, blessed with powers by Calsta, goddess of sun and storm, and those that follow the nameless god, the Basists, who are natural born witches/healers. Followers of the first, due to fear of the shapeshifter kings of old, who were cruel and bloodthirsty, hunt the ones that follow the latter. The history of the two sides was explored in a lot of detail, so it was interesting to learn about the two different sets of followers and how their feud has existed over time. The story instantly captivated me as there are four main characters with two on each side, two Devoted and two Basists. The characters are all on the same quest to find the legendary ancient and cursed sword of the Shapeshifter King located in his tomb.
Our four main characters are Anwei, Knox, Lia, and Mateo. Anwei, a healer, is set on revenge for the death of her brother that she believes was at the hands of a shapeshifter. She is a thief to both make money and secretly find information to help her achieve this revenge. She eventually collaborates with Knox, a former Devoted, who is now in hiding from them and hears both the voice of Calsta and his dead sister in his head. Lia is a mind reader Devoted, who Knox thought of as a sister, who is sent to find Knox. A man set to marry her to his son, the fourth main character Mateo is blackmailing her. Mateo is an archeologist set on finding a cure for the disease that is killing him. Between the characters, two romances begin to form with one being a slow burn one that develops over time while the other begins as fake-dating/courtship. Anwei and Knox have a lingering distrust of each other yet they would protect each other at all costs. Mateo and Lia begin as acquaintances to potentially something more. Both sets of romances have a natural progression throughout the story and fit the different characters.
The story is multi-perspective with each character having their own story along with the main story. The four points-of-view are Anwei, Knox, Lia, and Mateo. While I tend to favor this type of storytelling, it did get a little confusing when the points of view would change mid-chapter. It could be a formatting issue and could look different in the final version, but I found the changes very abrupt and I would need to re-read certain sections, as I did not realize the perspective changed. Once I had everyone straight, then I could follow his or her development throughout the story and it was well done. I hope the formatting is updated or there are some transitions added as I would not have connected to the characters as much if I did not take the time to re-read some chapters.
Overall, the pacing at this novel is slow in the beginning as the characters and world are explored. Once the plot fully sets into motion, the novel was a quick read and the pages flew by. While there were moments where I preferred the pacing to pick-up sooner, I appreciated the initial set-up of the world as I could fully picture everything. One thing that I hope is in the final version, or, hopefully, the sequel is a map, as I would love to have a visual representation of the world. Based on the synopsis that makes it seem that the novel will be non-stop action, the novel was not what I expected; however, it was a very compelling read and I would be interested to see what happens in the sequel!
**I give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing, Margaret K. McElderry Books, for the opportunity to read this entertaining novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**