Son of The Storm – The Nameless Republic – Book One by Suyi Davies Okungbowa,
Orbit, P/B, £5.96
Reviewed by Steve Dean
This review is based on an uncorrected proof copy.
There are so many characters in this book it’s difficult to decide who the main ones are. Much of the story revolves around Danso, a scholar from the city of Basso, so we’ll go with him. The city is part of what the blurb says was ‘inspired by pre-colonial West Africa’. Danso is something of a dreamer, and instead of attending to his lessons, he prefers to seek out forbidden knowledge. He meets a mysterious warrior who seems to be able to use magic that shouldn’t exist. It seems the rulers of Basso and its territories are keeping secrets from the general populace. Meanwhile, beyond its borders, the forests are dying to some unknown disease. This is also being kept a secret. As well as this main thread, there are sub-plots involving political manoeuvrings and the battle for the power of the city’s elite.
The first section of the book, 80 pages or more, introduces all this. The characters, the background, the world-building, etc. All this exposition is probably necessary, but it’s quite dull. There are a few murders and other shenanigans to liven things up, but the story doesn’t really get going until Danso heads off into the Breathing Forest.
Unfortunately, that promising thread is soon snipped, and we’re back to the exposition. Countless characters come and go and say things we might need to know later on. This greatly slows the pacing, and it doesn’t help that the characters are all a bit similar.
The world-building is decent enough, certainly different from the pseudo-medieval setting of many fantasy novels. Many people like that kind of thing, of course. Not surprising when most people in the UK live within a short distance of a medieval castle. Different is great as long as the story works, but this one is too slow and is overstuffed with characters. If the section in the forest had been extended, some of the characters blended into one to reduce their numbers, and some of the exposition had been moved to book two, I think it would have worked much better.
Overall, I’ve read worse, and I would certainly give book two a try. The author shows some promise and perhaps just needs to cut to the chase, as it were.