Book Review: Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa Is An Electric Start To A New Fantasy Series
Suyi Davies Okungbowa is a relatively new voice in the realm of genre fiction. The Nigerian author published his debut novel David Mogo, Godhunter just last year. And now he follows up with a brand new fantasy series. Son of the Storm is the first novel in The Nameless Republic series, and it is full of magic; politics, and adventure. Let’s dive into Son of the Storm and see what to expect from this new fantasy series.
Spoilers below for Son of the Storm, the first book of The Nameless Republic by Suyi Davies Okungbowa.
Stone Bone And Secret Magic In Son of the Storm
Image via Orbit Books
Danso is a scholar who is interested in the ancient history and secret magics of his homeland of Bassa. The only problem is that there are higher powers who don’t want him to obtain this knowledge. In the history of the book, it is established that in the recent past Danso found a text from a former Emperor. This book detailed the magic of the ‘bone-stone’ otherwise known as the mineral ibor. The history of Bassa is complicated, with stories of wars fought against foreigners who are referred to as “Yellowskins.” It was this mysterious group of people who could utilize the ibor magic to control the elements, change their appearance, and do all sorts of interesting magic.
When a “Yellowskin” woman named Lilong appears in Danso’s life wielding the magic of ibor, everything he knows will change dramatically. The two of them embark on a journey to escape Bassa. And uncover the truth of the strange red ibor that Lilong carries. No one in the history of her country has ever been able to activate the red ibor, although the other colors of the mineral are well-known to Lilong’s people. Of course this means that Danso – with his mysterious heritage that is unknown even to him – is the one who is able to use the power of the red ibor. This mineral grants Danso the power to reawaken the dead, animating corpses to do his bidding.
But Danso isn’t the only one who has discovered the secret of the red ibor. His ex-fiancé Esheme has also discovered a way to harness the magic of the stone-bone. And she will do whatever it takes to rule over Basso, and take Danso down.
Subverting Western Fantasy Tropes
Photo by Ian Kiragu via Unsplash
Son of the Storm is a fast-paced adventure, with memorable characters and intriguing magical systems. It is an epic fantasy on par with other series released in recent years. But it does subvert many aspects of traditional fantasy, and one of those involves centering blackness at the heart of the story.
Skin color is a big part of the caste system in Bassa. The elite are those whose skin are as dark as the soil. Anyone who has lighter shades to their skin (like both Danso and Esheme) are considered inferior and are treated as such. It is a big deal for Danso to be enrolled at the University, since they usually only take the elite. And of course the foreign “Yellowskins” are feared and hated, largely for looking different (and also for possessing powerful magic). These elements of race and skin color are naturally woven into the world and culture, and adds a lot of depth and complexity to the story.
The characters themselves are also richly drawn, with deep interior lives and motivations. Danso is smart, kind, and clever. But he is also sometimes a bit naive and clearly still has some ingrained bias from growing up amongst the Bassa. His friend and bodyguard Zaq is a native of the deserts outside of Bassa. Being a desert-lander means that Zaq has lighter skin than the elite of Bassa. So he must work to prove himself worthy of citizenship in Bassa, through indentured servitude. Zaq gets his own backstory and complex feelings about leaving Bassa behind in an effort to protect his charge. And it is through him that we understand the nuances of the caste system, and how unfair it really is.
Morally Complex Characters Bring Son of the Storm To Life
Photo by Jackson David via Unsplash
The women of the novel are also incredibly complex characters. The two major characters stand in opposition to one another, although they may have more in common than they realize. Esheme starts off as Danso’s “intended” but she chafes under the rules that says she must marry him in order for society to accept her. Esheme is smart, cunning, and fiercely independent. But she is also ruthlessly ambitious, and willing to sacrifice anyone to get what she wants.
In comparison Lilong is loyal and empathetic, but she still does not trust Danso or Zaq. This is to be expected after years of being taught that everyone in Bassa is evil and corrupt. She is fiercely committed to her cause, and also willing to sacrifice people to ensure that the red ibor does not fall into the wrong hands. But over the course of the book, Lilong learns to care for others and trust her companions. She is an excellent character, who stands on her own as one of the two lead protagonists of the book.
Character Growth Is Key In Son of the Storm
What is most important is that the characters all learn and grow over the course of the book, although some do so in negative ways like Esheme. As the characters learn more about the world itself and the complicated history between their nations, so does the reader. The journey itself is set up very much like a standard fantasy adventure with characters on the run, learning to master magical abilities, and learning to trust one another.
But there is nothing cliche or stereotypical to be found in Son of the Storm. The story manages to be highly original, while also following the familiar beats of a fantasy novel. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how beautiful Okungbowa’s writing style is. Every sentence serves to build the world, characters, or mood in a vividly imaginative way. The pace is tight, with plenty of action but there are also moments of intellectual or emotional complexity that feel earned and cathartic.
A New Fantasy Series For Genre Fans
Suyi Davies Okungbowa | Image via the Author’s Website
Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa is the first book of The Nameless Republic and will be out on May 11, 2021 from Orbit Books. Recommended for fans of The Bone Shard Daughter, and Black Sun. Even Game of Thrones fans should find something to enjoy with this new trilogy. We certainly look forward to future installments of the series, after this excellent start.
(Featured image via Orbit Books)
Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.