By Devin Madson
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There are no gods. Only men.
Betrayed by her closest allies, Empress Miko Ts’ai is thrust from ruler to pawn. But she won’t suffer the whims of men. A string of dangerous gambles could win Miko her empire for good, but to take back the throne, she must become everything her ancestors failed to be.
Rah e’Torin leads a herd again. Now he seeks to honor a promise he made a lifetime ago—to safely bring his Swords home. Yet Rah’s loyalty to the past may be his ultimate undoing.
Cassandra Marius is lost. Ensnared by memories that aren’t her own, Cass must decide who she really is, but the answer lies beyond one final confrontation with Leo Villius.
And trapped in the heart of the Chiltaen army, Dishiva e’Jaroven is handed unexpected power. The dream of a new homeland is within her grasp—if she risks everything and trusts her former enemies.
"Imaginative worldbuilding, a pace that builds perfectly to a heart-pounding finale and captivating characters. Highly recommended." —John Gwynne, author of The Shadow of the Gods
"An exciting new author in fantasy." —Mark Lawrence, author of Red Sister
We Dream of Gods
Rah e’Torin—ousted captain of the Second Swords of Torin
Eska e’Torin—Rah’s second-in-command (deceased, Residing)
Kishava e’Torin—tracker (deceased)
Orun e’Torin—horse master (deceased, Residing)
Yitti e’Torin—the healer (deceased)
Lok, Himi, and Istet—Swords of the Torin
Gideon e’Torin—First Sword of the Torin and former emperor of Levanti Kisia
Sett e’Torin—Gideon’s second and blood brother (deceased)
Tep e’Torin—healer of the First Swords
Tor, Matsimelar (deceased), and Oshar e’Torin—the saddleboys chosen by Gideon to be translators
Nuru e’Torin—self-taught translator never used by the Chiltaens
Dishiva e’Jaroven—captain of the Third Swords
Keka e’Jaroven—Dishiva’s second, can’t talk. Chiltaens cut out his tongue.
Captain Atum e’Jaroven—captain of the First Swords of Jaroven
Loklan e’Jaroven—Dishiva’s horse master
Shenyah e’Jaroven—the only Jaroven Made in exile
Ptapha, Massama, Dendek, Anouke, Esi, and Moshe e’Jaroven—Dishiva’s Swords
Ezma e’Topi—exiled horse whisperer
Derkka en’Injit—her apprentice
Jass en’Occha—a Sword of the Occha
Captain Lashak e’Namalaka—First Sword of the Namalaka and Dishiva’s friend
Captain Yiss en’Oht—First Sword of the Oht, fiercely loyal to Gideon
Captain Taga en’Occha—First Sword of the Occha and Jass’s captain
Captain Menesor e’Qara—captain of the Second Swords of Qara
Jaesha e’Qara—Captain Menesor’s second
Other captains—Captain Dhamara e’Sheth, Captain Bahn e’Bedjuti, and Captain Leena en’Injit
Senet en’Occha, Jakan e’Qara, Yafeu en’Injit, Baln en’Oht, Tafa en’Oht, and Kehta en’Oht—imperial guards
Nassus—Levanti god of death
Mona—Levanti goddess of justice
Miko Ts’ai—bastard daughter of Empress Hana Ts’ai and Katashi Otako
Emperor Kin Ts’ai—the last emperor of Kisia (deceased)
Empress Hana Ts’ai—deposed empress of Kisia (deceased)
Prince Tanaka Ts’ai—Miko’s twin brother (deceased)
Jie Ts’ai—Emperor Kin’s bastard son (deceased)
Minister Tashi Oyamada—Jie’s maternal grandfather and minister of the right
Minister Ryo Manshin—minister of the left, chief commander of the Imperial Army
General Kitado—commander of Miko’s Imperial Guard (deceased)
General Ryoji—former commander of the Imperial Guard
General Moto, General Rushin, General Mihri, General Yass, and General Alon—southern generals of the Imperial Army
Captain Soku—one of General Moto’s men
Lord Hiroto Bahain—duke of Syan
Edo Bahain—duke of Syan’s eldest son
Captain Nagai—one of the duke’s men
Governor Tianto Koali—governor of Syan
Lord Ichiro Koali—count of Irin Ya
Lord Nishi (Lord Salt)—a wealthy Kisian lord who believes in the One True God
Cassandra Marius—Chiltaen whore and assassin
The hieromonk, Creos Villius—head of the One True God’s church (deceased)
Leo Villius—only child of His Holiness the hieromonk
Captain Aeneas—the hieromonk’s head guard (deceased)
Kaysa (She)—Cassandra’s second soul
Mistress Saki—Torvash’s silent companion
Kocho—Torvash’s scribe and servant
Lechati—young man in Torvash’s service
THE STORY SO FAR…
After her failure to destroy the deserter camp, Dishiva is named Defender of the One True God, separating her from her people. With Gideon under Leo’s control, she finds allies in Empress Sichi and Lord Edo Bahain and fights to ensure Gideon meets with Secretary Aurus to discuss a peace treaty with Chiltae. Despite the negotiations coming to nothing, she finds a potential ally in the secretary of the Nine.
Still in the body of Empress Hana, Cassandra returns to Torvash’s house with Captain Aeneas and Septum, the lifeless seventh twin of Leo Villius. Leo follows, and Captain Aeneas and Cassandra barely escape. When Leo catches up with them, he kills Aeneas and takes Cassandra and Hana captive along with Kaysa and Unus, one of Leo’s twins, and another failed assassin, Yakono, whom Cassandra gets to know through the adjoining wall of their cells.
With an army behind her now, Miko makes strategic attacks upon Grace Bahain to weaken Emperor Gideon’s support, but when she takes Syan by stealth, she is hemmed in by the city’s governors and in danger of being routed. A successful night ambush puts an end to Grace Bahain, but to get out of the city, Miko has to kill the governors and cut her way through her own citizens.
Injured, Rah is left to die by Whisperer Ezma when Gideon’s Levanti attack her camp. Saved by one of his old Swords, he convinces the Levanti not to fight one another, with the help of Minister Manshin, who takes them to regroup at Syan. Forced to lead together or risk splitting the remaining Levanti, Rah and Ezma march their people to Kogahaera with Miko’s army.
When she returns from negotiations, Dishiva is powerless to stop the execution of Yitti e’Torin and the remainder of Rah’s former Swords, a moment that marks the final collapse of the dream that was Levanti Kisia. With Sichi’s help, she tries to get through to Gideon, but although they kill Leo, Gideon is a broken man. They have to face the approaching Chiltaen army without him. During the battle, she and Sichi are pursued by another Leo Villius, only for the tower they are retreating up to collapse. Dishiva wakes to find one of her eyes is gone, while the other is damaged. Ezma tells her it was meant to be because she’s Veld Reborn, destined to build a holy empire in the name of the One True God. Dishiva refuses, but upon hearing that half a dozen Levanti have been captured by the Chiltaens, she goes to face Leo and save them. But with the death of his father, she is now the hieromonk of Chiltae, and Leo claims her as the false high priest he must kill to complete his prophecy.
The night before the battle of Kogahaera, Rah gets word that Gideon has been broken by Leo Villius and leaves, but while getting Gideon out of the city, they get stuck in a tunnel collapse and have to be rescued. Unwilling to let Ezma lead any longer, Rah calls a Fracturing and takes half the Levanti with him, planning to take them home.
Growing clashes with Minister Manshin over her alliance with the Levanti come to a head when Miko orders her army to march on Kogahaera. Although successful, Miko has to navigate impossible political waters, and when both Rah and Ezma leave, Manshin takes power, leaving her a puppet on her own throne.
When every one of Cassandra’s attempts to escape Leo’s clutches fails, Empress Hana moves into Septum’s body in one final, desperate attempt to turn the situation to their advantage. But Hana’s body gives in to her illness and Cassandra dies with it, only to waken inside Septum’s mind with Hana. With their final attempt to escape having failed, they dive off a balcony to kill Septum, thus ruining the timing of Leo’s prophecy. Before they fall, Kaysa pulls Cassandra back into their shared body, but Empress Hana dies with Septum.
There are no gods. Only men. Emperor Kin had told me so that night in the throne room, lessons spilling unexpected from his lips. What he hadn’t said was just how literally he had meant it. No gods. Only men.
My divan had been draped in crimson silk, while still more had been gathered behind me, twisted into the shape of the crimson throne. A poor imitation of what had been lost when Mei’lian burned—a loss as hard to swallow as the extra effort Minister Manshin put into my throne now that it was his power I displayed.
“I swear on the bones of my forebears. On my name and my honour.” Lord Gori had just arrived from the north, possessed of little beyond his name in the wake of the Chiltaen conquest. I would have been glad to have him on my side, but it wasn’t me to whom he swore his oath.
Minister Manshin stood at my side, close, towering over me in a way that crushed my authority more than his usurpation of my power already had. In his shadow I truly was just a puppet seated on a false throne. A pretence. A farce.
Lord Gori finished his oath and, bade to rise, looked to my minister. “Your allegiance is welcome, Lord Gori,” Manshin said. “Her Imperial Majesty fights for all Kisians, but especially for those who fight for her.”
Fights for all Kisians. It was all I could do not to scoff at so great a lie. I wanted to, often, but whenever I thought to denounce his claims, I remembered Sichi and Nuru and our precarious position, and smiled instead. Smile. Always smile. The display of a submissive, non-threatening woman, under which I hid my promise.
I would destroy them all.
“Thank you, Your Excellency. Majesty. I…” The man squirmed, pain and troubles on his tongue. All in the north had suffered through the conquest, and a few words of empathy would strengthen his loyalty, yet Manshin said nothing.
“I know,” I said when the man seemed unable to finish. “It has been a tough few seasons, Lord Gori, but we will find our way out of the darkness. Together.”
Simple words, yet when he was dismissed, he strode toward the doors straight-backed, lighter than when he had entered despite the mud-stained, frayed hem that danced about his feet.
“Well,” Manshin said once he was gone. “Not a very worthy addition to our cause, but an addition nonetheless.”
How I wished to tear at his idea of what was worthy, but I took that anger and buried it with the rest.
“He may yet be more useful than he appears,” he went on. “That is, if you cease your… attempts at sensitivity. Saying such unnecessary things only displays weakness, Your Majesty.”
With my hands in my lap and my back straight, I channelled my mother’s impression of the perfect imperial statue.
“Ah,” Manshin said with a breathy laugh. “You are giving me the silent treatment, I see.”
The urge to clench my hands was almost overwhelming.
“You may, of course, be childish if it gives you joy, Your Majesty, but it is hardly the act of an empress.”
I turned to look at him. No scowl, just a stare into which I poured my promise.
I will destroy you.
He looked away. He could have acknowledged my anger, have tried to convince me again of his reasons, but why bother when he had already decided how things would be? All he needed was for me to accept and obey.
“Any others?” he asked of Chancellor Likoshi—his choice for the position, of course.
“No, Your Excellency,” the man said from the doorway. “A few came with petitions for Minister Oyamada, but he has seen them all.”
Minister Manshin grunted. Annoyance? Wishful thinking. My ministers didn’t like each other, but that was a far cry from Minister Oyamada being my ally.
“Let the council know we will meet in an hour,” Manshin said, dismissing Likoshi and stepping from my side. Without bowing to me, he crossed the floor as Lord Gori had, though his steps were slow and assured, owning the space with ease.
When at last the door slid closed behind him, I slumped, letting out a long breath. Only guards were present to witness my head sink into my hands, two at the door while at my side stood Captain Kiren—General Ryoji’s choice of replacement while he was away. The days dragged by and still he hadn’t returned. Every day the fear I’d sent him to his death pressed closer.
Needing to move, I got to my feet and strode for the door, leaving Captain Kiren to scurry after me.
Beyond the doors the manor bustled. It was always bustling. People came and went at every hour, my court more alive than Emperor Kin’s had usually been. There was an energy, a need to be present for what felt like the building of something new. Old powers sought to retain their positions, while new ones sought opportunities to rise. In different circumstances I would have revelled in it, but instead I walked numb through the halls though people stopped to bow, though they spoke with reverence, though they were, ostensibly, here for me.
I added more anger to my raging core. Manshin had stolen this triumph from me, leaving the only joy that of rebellion.
A circuitous walk through the passages discovered Lord Gori in conversation with one of the chancellor’s men, whose sharp shake of the head seemed to refuse what was being requested. Before I could catch a word, the chancellor’s man saw me and bowed. “Your Majesty, is there something I can do for you?”
“No, you may go. I require a word with Lord Gori.”
A moment of hesitation, then the chancellor’s man bowed again, glanced at Lord Gori, and walked away. Once he was out of earshot, I turned a smile on the fidgeting lord. “Lord Gori,” I said. “Join me for tea. Captain Kiren? Have tea sent up immediately.”
Not waiting for acceptance, I swept Lord Gori toward a nearby sitting room filled with old imperial grandeur and a fine layer of dust.
“This is an unlooked-for honour, Your Majesty,” Lord Gori said, managing to bow three times between entering the room and kneeling upon the cushion opposite. “I must also apologise for being so importunate just now; it is below my dignity and—”
“You mean it ought to be below your dignity, but desperation makes beggars of us all.” I smiled as his eyes widened. “What was it you requested from my chancellor just now?”
Lord Gori swallowed, sending a fleeting glance at Captain Kiren by the door. “I… uh…” The man deflated with a sigh. “Food, Your Majesty. We lost our harvest to the Chiltaen army, and now my people are starving before winter has even begun. Without supplies, I fear much of the north will not make it to the spring.”
“Have you spoken to Minister Oyamada?”
“I have not yet had the chance, Your Majesty. It seems he is too busy to see me for the next few days. But I will wait and put my case to him; it’s not something you should—”
“It is exactly what I should trouble myself with, Lord Gori. Minister Manshin’s only interest is in continuing to steer us toward war and destruction, but I serve my people. That is an empress’s job.”
Lord Gori frowned, and began words only to swallow them. By the door, Captain Kiren cleared his throat. Time was up.
“I must go now,” I said, rising from the table. “But a warning for you, Lord Gori. Minister Manshin is no friend to you, as he is no friend to me; if the time comes to fight, remember that.” As he hurriedly scrambled to his feet to bow, I added, “I will tell Minister Oyamada the granting of emergency food stores to you and the people of Hotai has my full approval.”
“Th-thank you, Your Majesty.”
I was at the door before he finished speaking. Captain Kiren slid it open, and I almost collided with a maid bringing the tea tray. She bowed and apologised and asked if I wished the tea taken elsewhere, while Captain Kiren’s eyes bulged with warning. “No,” I said. “The tea is for Lord Gori. I must go.”
I pushed past, sending the tea tray rattling. A glance both ways along the passage and my heart leapt into my throat. Manshin stood with General Moto at the corner, speaking in a low voice. He’d seen me, but at least he wasn’t alone. I spun away, hasty steps propelling me the opposite direction along the passage, Captain Kiren in my wake.
Manshin neither called out nor followed, and slowly my heartbeat returned to normal, though a sick dread kept churning in my gut. I’d been so careful about my meetings with those who came to pledge support, but this time had been too close for comfort.
Forcing a smile for every courtier that halted to bow, I made one more stop on the way to my apartments—a small shrine on the upper floor. My frequent visits there hadn’t gone unnoticed, but Sichi’s skill for gossip had everyone talking about how admirable it was that I paid my respects to Emperor Kin and Empress Hana so often.
As always, Captain Kiren waited outside the door, leaving me to step alone into the small, dimly lit space filled with guttering lanterns and stubs of incense. A basket of freshly folded prayers sat beside the altar. I took a handful, and laying them out one by one, I lit a fresh candle and rolled back onto my feet. Eyeing the narrow cupboard in the far corner, I took off my sandals and crept toward it, making no sound. Removing the key from its hook beneath was more difficult, even more so to slide it into the lock without scraping the sides. A cough covered the click of the lock, and with a satisfied smile, I eased the door open upon a waft of stale incense. The cupboard was full of candles and incense cones, prayer paper and sashes, and at the bottom beneath the basket of discarded candle stubs was a stack of letters. I drew them out and stuffed them inside my robe before carefully closing the cupboard and locking it again, returning everything to where it had been.
There was no sign of Manshin when I stepped back out into the passage, yet I couldn’t but feel watching eyes everywhere. The feeling remained until I stepped into the only safe place I had left. My apartments were grand rooms fit for Kisia’s ruler, yet like my mother’s apartments had been, they were a finely wrought prison.
Sichi and Nuru sat upon the window seat, their fingers entwined as they talked. The sight was so reminiscent of Edo and Tanaka that a lump of grief swelled, halting my steps abruptly in the middle of the floor. Nuru yanked her hands free, cheeks reddening around her defiant glare.
“I’m sorry, I…” But how could I explain? How could I express a grief that wasn’t only about loss but tangled with the pain of always being an afterthought to two people who loved each other? “I just had a thought,” I said, the lie so much easier. “Oh, and I’ve got the letters.”
Whatever questions Sichi might have asked, the mention of letters had her up and sweeping toward me, hands outstretched. “How many? From whom?”
“I haven’t had a chance to look yet,” I said, reaching into my robe. “But it’s quite a stack.”
Sichi all but snatched them from me as I drew the bundle free. “Lord Iraki,” she said, eyeing the seals as she flipped through them. “Governor Uhi, General Raan—”
“Lord Raan,” I corrected. “He isn’t a general anymore.”
“No, you’re right, but I assume that’s why you wrote to him.” She handed it over, along with the other two, sniffing in what I could only take as disapproval. “Ah! Look! Both Lady Zin and the Countess of Hurun have written back!”
Abandoning the rest of the stack, she hurriedly tore open the first of her letters.
“You think I shouldn’t have written to Lord Raan?” I said.
“What? No, I mean…” She sighed, lowering her own letter. “No, given what I know of his allegiances he’s a good person to court, I just… There are other strengths besides military might.”
“Of course there are, but we’re in the middle of a war. If we do not soon rid Kisia of the Chiltaens, Kisia as we know it will be gone.”
“Yes, but we’re also in the middle of social and political change. At least, I hope that’s what we’re fighting for.”
She spoke softly, but I bristled at the hint of censure. “We are, but we can’t change anything if we lose the battles.”
“And we won’t be able to if we fight the wrong way.”
I looked down at Lord Raan’s letter. “The wrong way? Unless I marry Leo Villius, what other way can we win but by fighting?”
“It’s not that I don’t think we need to fight,” Sichi said. “Just that if we want anything to change, we need to consider other allies as well. Politicians. Priests. Powerful speakers. Women intent on defying history.” She lifted her letters with a flourish. “Like Lady Zin and the Countess of Hurun. With the right people on our side, we could rebuild Kisia to be something greater. A society where war isn’t the sole ideal we build our identity upon, where culture and learning are valued over division and death.”
The words sucked the breath from my body and I stared at her, wrangling with an uncomfortable squirm of emotion. She spoke with such fire, and I couldn’t tell if I was more envious of her mind, ashamed of my own failings, or grateful for her guidance. What an empress she would have been to Tanaka had history taken a different course.
“Oh, there’s a letter from Edo here,” Sichi said, breaking the awkward pause that had followed her impassioned speech. “And there’s one sealed with plain wax. It’s for you.”
Someone had written my name but in a childish hand, and I couldn’t think who it could be. Glad to escape our conversation, I broke the seal and unfolded it, sliding my gaze down the page of ragged Kisian to the bottom where breath hitched in my chest. Tor.
Please forgive my not good writing. I am learning. I write when I have watched the camp of the Chiltaens and Leo Villius after retreat. They have remained not leave. If you want them not in your land you are lacking time to be gone of them. Many more are coming. Your army is largest now. Not later.
And that was it. What more had I expected? Some acknowledgement of the awkward way we had parted? Some sentiment? Truly it was kind of him to write at all, considering how much I had demanded again and again.
That the Chiltaens remained was not news, but that more were on their way? Did he mean the men coming with the secretary of the Nine to sign the treaty? Or others still? Warning Manshin would be admitting I had contacts outside what he controlled and play right into his hands.
I lowered Tor’s letter to find Sichi watching me, a small crease between her brows. “What is it?” I said, suddenly breathless. “What’s wrong? What’s happened?”
“Oh no, nothing, I just…” She held out a letter. “Edo wrote to warn of his impending arrival, and I’ve… I’ve had a thought, Miko. You don’t want to marry Leo, but marriage can make strong alliances, and marrying someone else would ensure my father can’t marry you to Leo—”
“I don’t want to marry anyone, Sichi.”
“Hear me out, Koko. To marry someone else now while promised to Leo Villius, you would have to marry someone who isn’t afraid of my father.” Sichi grimaced. “Or of Chiltae. Someone who wouldn’t shrink from spitting in Dom Villius’s face and risking further war.”
My thoughts slid toward Rah. He always did what was right no matter the cost and cared nothing for our power structures, but marriage to him was as impossible as marriage to a songbird. He’d made it clear his heart lay with his people.
“And I cannot but notice,” Sichi went on with a brief smile, “that Edo meets every one of those criteria.”
“Edo?” I stared, her words not fitting together in my mind.
“My cousin Edo,” she said, speaking more slowly. “He meets all of the criteria and is probably the only man who wouldn’t try to usurp your power or your position once you were married.”
I had dreamed of marrying Edo for a long time, of keeping us all together, of being wanted. Seen. But he had loved Tanaka, and Tanaka had loved him, and all my childish hopes he would one day look at me had fallen somewhere along the way.
"An incredibly satisfying finale. None of the characters are lost in the action, each coming to an ending that feels entirely right for their arc. Madson sends the series out on a high."
- "With prose that rises above most novels, Devin Madson paints evocative scenes to build an engaging story. Highly entertaining, We Ride the Storm is certainly worth your attention and Madson is an exciting new author in fantasy."—Mark Lawrence, author of Red Sister
- "A tale that hits all the right spots. Imaginative world building, a pace that builds perfectly to a heart-pounding finale and captivating characters. There's a lot to love here. Highly recommended."—John Gwynne, author of The Faithful and the Fallen series on We Ride the Storm
- "A complex tale of war, politics and lust for power."—The Guardian on We Ride the Storm
- "Intricate, compelling and vividly imagined, this is the first in a new quartet that I am hugely excited about. Visceral battles, complex politics and fascinating worldbuilding bring Devin's words to life."—Anna Stephens, author of Godblind on We Ride the Storm
- "Fans of George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series will appreciate the feudal political maneuvering, shifting alliances, and visceral descriptions of combat and its aftermath in this series starter."—Booklist on We Ride the Storm
- "An utterly arresting debut,Storm's heart is in its complex, fascinating characters, each trapped in ever tightening snarls of war, politics and magic. Madson's sharp, engaging prose hauls you through an engrossing story that will leave you wishing you'd set aside enough time to read this all in one sitting. One of the best new voices in fantasy."—Sam Hawke, author of City of Lies on We Ride the Storm
- "A brutal, nonstop ride through an empire built upon violence and lies, a story as gripping as it is unpredictable. Never shying away from the consequences of the past nor its terrible realities, Madson balances characters you want to love with actions you want to hate while mixing in a delightful amount of magic, political intrigue, and lore. This is not a book you'll be able to put down."—K. A. Doore, author of The Perfect Assassin on We Ride the Storm
- "Madson has built a living, breathing world of Empire and fury. We Ride The Stormgrabs you by the throat and doesn't let go."—Peter McLean, author of Priest of Bones
- "Darkly devious and gripping epic fantasy boasting complex characters, brutal battle and deadly intrigue. We Ride the Storm is breathtaking, brilliant and bloody -it grips you hard and does not let go."—Cameron Johnston, author of The Traitor God
- On Sale
- Mar 21, 2023
- Page Count
- 624 pages