Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tuesday #Review - Hope and Red (Empire of Storms # 1) by Jon Skovon #Fantasy

Series: Empire of Storms # 1
Format: Paperback, 544 pages
Release Date: June 30, 2016
Publisher: Orbit
Source: Publisher
Genre: Fantasy / Action & Adventure

In a fracturing empire spread across savage seas, two young people from different cultures find common purpose. A nameless girl is the lone survivor when her village is massacred by biomancers, mystical servants of the emperor. Named after her lost village, Bleak Hope is secretly trained by a master Vinchen warrior as an instrument of vengeance. 
A boy becomes an orphan on the squalid streets of New Laven and is adopted by one of the most notorious women of the criminal underworld, given the name Red, and trained as a thief and con artist. When a ganglord named Deadface Drem strikes a bargain with the biomancers to consolidate and rule all the slums of New Laven, the worlds of Hope and Red come crashing together, and their unlikely alliance takes them further than either could have dreamed possible. 

Hope and Red is the first installment in author Jon Skovron's Empire of Storms trilogy. Hope and Red tells the story of two characters who couldn't be more different. In the Southern Isles, an 8 year old girl lives with her family in a village called Bleak Hope. In a moment, her entire village is massacred by the Emperor's biomancers searching for the next bio weapon to use against its enemies. As the only survivor, the 8 year old girl, now known as Hope, is dropped off at a monastery of warrior monks where Grand Teacher Hurlo spends the next 8 years teaching the girl the art of being a Vinchen warrior. 

Even though it is against the rules, Hurlo sees something in Hope. Hope eagerly consumes knowledge like a sailor who has been at sea way too long. The one thing that is always on Hope's mind, is the desire for revenge against the biomancer who took her family from her. After 8 years of training, and a sword called Song of Sorrows given to her by her master, Hope makes her way to a ship called The Lady's Gambit. Captain Carmichael takes the young Hope aboard where she makes her presence felt quickly as the ships protector. Even though Hope and Red are on a separate paths, she later joins with Red, Sadie, Nettles, & Filler in an effort to save their home from Imperial Soldiers and biomancers.

Elsewhere, Red lives by the skin of his chin, and the sharpness of his wit every since his parents died. His mother was a brilliant artist, while his father was a prostitute. Red lives between worlds. He is book smart, but he revels in being with the men and women who live in squalor. Taken against his will to serve aboard ship, Red finds himself as Sadie the Goats protege. Red becomes an expert thief, brilliant con artist, and has very unusual red eyes which is where his name comes from. Red's home is Paradise Circle, and things are dark, dreary, and people are disappearing by the dozens. This is a place where a bartender takes the ears of anyone who slights her, and keeps them in a jar. But, it is also home for Red, and Nettles, and Filler, and even Jilly, aka Little Bee.

There is a third character who plays an important role in this story. The characters name is Brigga Lin. Lin is on a desperate search for a new weapon, but becomes something else entirely. A female biomancer. Like the Vinchen, The Book of Secrets forbids female biomancer's. Brigga later joins with Red and Hope in her desire for revenge against the Council of Biomancer's who dissed her very existence. This is a world where the biomancers have everyone in their back pockets, including the Emperor. They truly believe that the dreaded Aukbontar will be invading soon, and in order to stop them in their tracks, they need to build weapons by experimenting on people. 

One can mix up cult classics like Oliver Twist, Pirates of the Caribbean, Gangs of New York, and Kill Bill to come up with Hope and Red. Hope and Red really does hit everything that I love in Epic Fantasy novels. There is action throughout the book, moments of quiet solitude where the characters really have to piece together plans to survive a bloody battle, a hint of romance that doesn't take away from the darkness, and vulgarity of certain languages that I may not like, but considering the setting, I am willing to ignore it. The only down side is the heart breaking cliffhanger ending that had me eagerly requesting book # 2 from my library.

The Empire of Storms
Hope and Red
Bane and Shadow
Blood and Tempest

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