Suyi Davies Okungbowa
published: 11th May 2021
In the ancient city of Bassa, Danso is a clever scholar on the cusp of achieving greatness—only he doesn’t want it. Instead, he prefers to chase forbidden stories about what lies outside the city walls. The Bassai elite claim there is nothing of interest. The city’s immigrants are sworn to secrecy.
But when Danso stumbles across a warrior wielding magic that shouldn’t exist, he’s put on a collision course with Bassa’s darkest secrets. Drawn into the city’s hidden history, he sets out on a journey beyond its borders. And the chaos left in the wake of his discovery threatens to destroy the empire.
Galley provided by publisher
CWs: gore, immolation, violence
Son of the Storm is a book that grew on me. In part, it had to grow, because I was in the wrong mood for new fantasy worlds (you know how sometimes, the thought of paying attention to all that new information is just…a lot), but I stuck with it, read it in chunks, and ended up loving it just as much as I’d expected to, based on what I’d read of the author’s work previously.
The story follows three main POVs, with occasional chipping in from side characters: Danso, Esheme and Lilong. Danso is a scholar, but barely tolerated on account of the fact that his mother was an outside. Esheme, his betrothed, is the daughter of the city’s fixer, but who wants power for herself. Lilong is in the city to retrieve something stolen from her. Over the course of the story, their paths intersect and come to oppose one another.
Firstly, what I loved most about this book was Esheme’s arc. I say loved, I don’t mean I loved her specifically, because she’s kind of awful in the worst way, but I loved that she just. Got to be so awful. She’s entirely ruthless in her quest for power, and unapologetically villainous, and I loved that. The narrative definitely views her as the villain, I felt, so I’m not expecting a happy ending for her, but she had such a fun arc to read in that respect. Even as I hated her (but in a good way). And she’s sapphic, and I always want to read more villainous sapphics.
And then there’s Danso, aka the himbo of my heart. His were probably the favourite chapters of mine to read, in all honesty. He’s the one I’m most excited to see in the next book, what with his sudden…let’s say change in circumstances. And the undead beast he commands. Gotta be honest here, I love the trope of a character gaining some sort of familiar.
What I would say about this book is that it had to grow on me. As I said at the start, I took a little while to get into it, but then once I had, I binged the last two thirds of the book in just a few hours. The build up to the ending is as exquisite as the ending itself, guaranteed to make you gasp out loud, because Suyi Davies Okungbowa doesn’t believe in some kind of mercy for his readers. You think characters are safe, but they’re really, really not. It’s the sort of ending that makes you nervously anticipatory of what comes next.
So, overall then, if you’re looking for an adult fantasy to pick up in May, I would highly recommend it be this one.