Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Rise of the Storm by Christina Ochs is an epic fantasy novel that follows the lives of several characters in an empire increasingly devastated by war and rebellion. With a full cast of characters, political intrigue, romance and a dash of violence, it has everything sword-wielding fantasy lovers crave.
In Rise of the Storm, the chapters rotate between the perspectives of four characters: Prince Kendryck, Princess Gwynneth (Kendryck’s wife), Braden (a military general), and Janna (a commoner). This structure allows the reader to see the empire and its battles from multiple perspectives, which works well for both delivering information and creating strong emotional experiences. The reader will be rooting for characters on opposite sides of the war, which elicits fantastic tension. Likewise, the chapters are rather short. Personally, I enjoy short chapters as a reader – it makes me feel like I’m moving along in the story and encourages me to read “just one more” before putting the book down.
All of the characters and their relationships are well-developed. Ochs provides enough background to give the reader a sense of the characters’ worldviews, while also allowing them ample opportunity to grow in the face of challenges. Seeing the characters develop (even when I don’t agree with what they’re doing) is satisfying. They feel like real people, flaws and all.
From a thematic standpoint, Rise of the Storm deals with several serious themes. Much of the driving force behind the war is related to changing theological views within the empire, and Ochs explores religious freedom, persecution, and religion as a reason for war. Moreover, Ochs deals with feminist issues, such as violence against women and women’s roles in this society. Obviously, this theme is explored from the society’s matrix, but Ochs does a great job of developing strong female characters and helping them overcome adversity. Last, Rise of the Storm introduces political themes as it shows where characters allegiances lie and why.
My only critique of the novel is that I feel like the reader is thrown right into the action without much explanation. For example, there are plenty of characters that are never met but that are mentioned by main characters. Often, the reader is left wondering who these people are and how they are connected to the characters. Similarly, I felt the governmental and theological structure of the world could have been better explained. While pieces were revealed throughout the novel (which is preferable to an information dump in chapter one), I still feel like I don’t fully understand who is in charge of what and how the hierarchy of power works. That being said, this confusion did not detract from my enjoyment of the novel or comprehension of its plot, but I do feel like I missed a little depth.
Overall, Rise of the Storm is a captivating epic fantasy that will transport the reader to an empire filled with rebellion. The characters are complex, the themes are thoughtful, and the novel is steady-paced and never dull. As I said in my introduction: with a full cast of characters, political intrigue, romance and a dash of violence, Rise of the Storm has everything sword-wielding fantasy lovers crave.
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