Serena’s Review: “She Who Rides the Storm”

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Book: “She Who Rides the Storm” by Caitlin Sangster

Publishing Info: Margaret K. McElderry Books, September 2021

Where Did I Get this Book: Edelweiss+!

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: 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…

Review: Honesty time: this book has been languishing on my Edelweiss+ TBR pile for quite some time. Mostly it’s just because I’ve been intimidated by the length and never felt confident that I really had the time to slot this one in. But then I strayed across the sequel that is coming out next month, and I knew that if there was ever a time to make this one happen, now what that time! So let’s dive in to this beast of a book!

History does and will repeat, even in the most diligent of societies. So it is in the Commonwealth where once terrible shapeshifters plagued the land with their disturbing magic that fed on souls. And now when a tomb of one of the most powerful of these shapeshifters is discovered, one would think it would be wise to leave it alone. But the Warlord is determined to dig up the past, and so an unwise venture begins. However, four others are determined to gain the treasure rumored to be hidden in the tomb for themselves, each with their own motives and means.

So, as I mentioned above, this book is definitely living up to the “epic fantasy” standard, coming in at a whopping 608 pages. Now, this can often go two ways. Either that page count is necessary and utilized to its full extent to create a vivid, complicated, lived-in world. Or…it can be squandered and leave the reader slogging through pages of exposition. I’m please to say that this is definitely the former. It is slow moving, however, and takes its time showing its hand. This isn’t a criticism, per se, but a warning to readers who make like a faster plot. The book simply begins, plopping readers down in the midst of this world and only revealing facts about it as they come up naturally in this story. As we have four characters’ POVs to get through, the reader really has to be ready to sit back and let these details slip through slowly.

I also liked all four of our main characters. They all had distinct-sounding voices and very different ways of looking at the world. I particularly enjoyed when we jumped from one character’s perspective directly to another’s and seeing how they interpreted the same event in completely different ways. They weren’t all likeable all the time either, making each feel like fully developed individuals. That being the case, however, I also felt a bit detached from them all at times, as well as frustrated. As a reader, we are primed to expect certain things and to look for certain narrative cues. That being the case, it’s hard to not want to shout at characters when they make decisions that we, the reader, know are going to end up going badly! But I will say, to this book’s credit, at least these bad choices made sense based on each character’s priorities and approach to life and were generally coming from a place of wanting to do good, as frustrating as it was to read at times.

This book also ends with a bang. For all that it can be a bit of a slower read (and those 600 pages are no joke), it did manage to keep up a pretty steady pace throughout and then ratchet up right at the end. Indeed, there were several twists and turns that came right at the end that I definitely wasn’t expecting. And this is one of those situations where my delay in reading this has paid off as I now get to go straight into the second one. I’d say this book is probably a good choice for those fantasy fans who enjoy large amounts of world-building, but the heist plot itself was definitely more of a back-burner element than the description implied.

Rating 7: A solid fantasy novel that manages to balance its four characters and sprawling world deftly, though it’s long page count and slower plot could prove challenging for some readers.

Reader’s Advisory:

“She Who Rides the Storm” isn’t on any Goodreads lists, but it should be on Archeology in Science Fiction and Fantasy.

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