Hope and Red (Empire of Storms)
by Jon Skovron
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Orbit Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780316268110
Date: 28 June 2016 List Price $9.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
An empire is at risk, but most don't realize it. The emperor's biomancers experiment in order to create a weapon that will protect the land from foreign foes. One of these experiments starts one of the protagonists on a quest for vengeance. One that will cover many years and bring many people into the fray.
Bleak Hope was a little girl when the Biomancers visited her village. She was the only survivor of that visit. Rescued by a passing trader, Hope is taken to a Vinchen monastery. There she serves as a maid, but is trained in secret. Her training will prepare her for ultimate quest.
Rixidenteron, the child of a painter and a whore, is lost to the streets when both of his parent die. Called Red by his companions, he is shanghaied and ends up learning the sea and the way of life on the streets from his companions.
Brigga Lin is a Biomancer. He is willing to do anything to achieve the power needed to succeed. He goes to an ancient temple to find knowledge. In it he finds an opportunity, but the cost is great, one that may not be acceptable to his fellow Biomancers.
This is the start of a new series, and as such is accessible to new readers. The world is no utopia. Life is hard and people are constantly at risk. There is a definite chauvinism in the world. One that can be seen by the exclusions set in the various orders. I hope the basis for this chauvinism is more deeply explored in future volumes.
This is a tale of adventure, with revenge as part of the ultimate goal. But it is also a tale of hidden pasts. Red slowly learns about his family. As well the secrets of the Biomancers and the Vinchen order are also revealed, although I believe there is more to come.
The big thing going forward is learning about the enemy that is awaiting. In some respects this is the same technique that is used in Game of Thrones with the Others. They are out there, they are dangerous, but you don't get to learn to much about them too soon.
This is Skovron's first foray into adult fantasy. He spins a pretty classic tale of love, loss, and revenge. The bonds of friendship and family are important in this world. Although, the family bonds chosen are often stronger than the bonds of blood.
I like the biomancer angle. Is it magic or science? Maybe a little of both. The adventures of Hope and Red will continue, and you should plan to sail with them.