World Building: The Kingdom of Imperium

Population: 102,000,000

Capital City: The Capital

Language: Imperium

Races: Imperium and Aon

Religion: The Church of Mater

Leader: Emperor Saevra Phaedra

Natural Resources: Iron, Brass, Timber, Farm Land.

It is said that Mater herself blessed the lands of Imperium. Bestowing upon them rich soil, an abundance of wild life, and many flowing rivers. To the north east of Imperium sits The Iron hills, rolling mountains of rock rich in iron and brass. Rich in natural resources, Imperium has thrived, quickly becoming what is arguably the most powerful amongst the known kingdoms.

Some scholars believe that the ancient Imperiums did not follow the teaching of Mater, but was once held beliefs similar to those of the Aon, a theory based in the finding of many shrines throughout the Imperium lands. There are only few scholars who believe this, however. Many of whom’s careers in academia has quickly ended, as this line of thinking is in direct contradiction to the Church of Mater’s teachings.

War has been a constant part of Imperium’s history. Three Great Wars have been recorded in The Imperium Archives. These wars have been raged against Haram, a kingdom across The Continental Bay. The first Great War saw Aon, an island kingdom to the north, ally with Haram. After the Imperium Army withdrew from the lands of Haram, retreat the only option remaining for the Army that had become exhausted in the desert, it made sure that Aon would never again be in a position to oppose Imperium’s will. After the Imperium Army was once again fit and resupplied, it set it sights on the closer kingdom of Aon. The conquest was short, Aon could not defend against the sheer number of Imperium soldiers, and led to the occupation of all Aon’s strategic lands. Still to this day, the Aon lands are predominantly ruled by Imperium. This occupation of Aon is what led to the mixture of both Imperium and Aon races that can be found today throughout the kingdom of Imperium. Although in some places, Aon are treated as second class citizens.

In recent years, the economy has seen drastic changes. Since the end of the second Great War, the financial gap between rich and poor has ever increased. Citizens exploit other citizens in the pursuit of wealth and riches. This is evident in the number of servants, all but enslaved to their masters, unable to leave due to debt. Those who do leave find themselves roaming the streets, becoming one of the many homeless that litter Imperium broken and defeated. In The Capital, the homeless have become so many that they have become an integral part of the architecture, blending into the gutters where they lie. A problem that no citizen, noble or common, is wanting to fix.

Review: We Ride The Storm

Rating: 9/10

Gripping from the start, We Ride The Storm is a face-paced grimdark adventure that plunges the reader into a complex world of diverse culture and politics. The opening chapters thrust the reader into the Madson’s world and it took me a few chapters to adjust to the three very different characters. Despite being thrown in at the deep end, the world building came across as effortless and never once felt like an info dump.

The novel is centered around three stories that quickly interweave into an immersive tale. The perspectives of these characters are wrote in the first person, and as a writer, I can fully appreciate how difficult this is to pull off well. Madson executes this flawlessly and the successful first person accounts give the reader a deeper understanding of the character’s thoughts that helps the reader sympathise with the character’s actions, even some of the more difficult and dark. Something I found particularly engaging was that each character has a different cultural background which effects their perceptions of the world.

Rah. A Levanti nomad and captain of a band of warriors who has been exiled from his herd for disobeying an order. Rah seeks to uphold his culture’s traditions while protecting those he leads. In the unfamiliar world he is thrust in to, upholding his own idea of honor becomes increasingly difficult. A stubborn character who I was constantly sympathizing with, as even in today’s world, it is difficult to do the right thing and often it can put the doer in undesirable circumstances.

Cassandra. A Chiltaen substance abusing whore and assassin has an unexplained second person living inside her head, whose thoughts are regularly expressed during Cassandra’s chapters. In contrast to Rah, Cassandra does not care for honour or pride and will do anything to relieve herself of the ever present voice in her head. This character quickly engaged my attention. As a psychology PhD student, I was unsure if this was a genuine second voice in her head, or if this character was suffering from a mental health condition as a product of her work as an assassin. It was soon revealed that the voice was actually a conscious being, but despite this, I think the second voice and issues with her mental health are cleverly written that kept me intrigued throughout.

Miko. A Kisian bastard princess forced into dealing with the intrigues and politics of the Imperial court. To me, Miko felt like a mixture of both Rah and Cassandra as her motivations lie in her want to lead and protect the people of her kingdom, and she will not shy away from dirtying her hands in order to achieve this. Despite this character’s sense of entitlement, I found Miko to be the more relatable of the three characters, as she was merciless towards those who deserve it, yet merciful to those who are innocent. Her story follows her struggle as she attempts to gain power and sit upon the crimson throne in order to protect her kingdom from tearing itself apart.

We Ride The Storm was one of the faster paced novels I have read this year. Towards the end of the story each chapter seems to throw more conflict and challenges at the three protagonists. Combined with the first person perspective, this often left me unsure how the character would deal with the difficulty that lay ahead. It was satisfying too when my guesses were often wrong.

We Ride The Storm is a novel that combines fast paced writing, contrasting view points, and well written characters that lead to an immersive world and very enjoyable story. I would recommend it everyone who is a fan of fantasy and particularly those who enjoy a darker tone to their fantasy reading.

Find the book on amazon

A Very Grim(dark) Start

This is an extract from my prologue for my current work in progress. Too grim?

“I drained the remaining foam from my tankard. A familiar dizzying euphoria rolled through my head. I had lost count of how many I had drank, it was more than yesterday I’m sure. I didn’t mind, however. This was the only way I could feel. I had become numb. I remember hearing stories as a boy of soldiers who would wake in the night screaming. I was prepared for that. I had personally experienced several night terrors of that kind. What I wasn’t prepared for was the stripping of all human emotion. Anger, happiness, sadness, love. All fled, leaving a hollow shell.

It is true what they say. That once a man enlists, he seals his own death. If he is not felled in battle, the demons of the mind will soon finish the job. I had seen many a man lose to such demons, demons that are willingly accepted by young soldiers. It is hard to explain the reality of it to the young. I remember myself, eager to fight. Had I known what I knew now, I would not have gone. I was a naïve fool.

The tavern keeper had long since given up on speaking with me. At first, he would try to tell what he thought were funny stories of his recent days working the bar. One was about a tavern boy who slipped on his way to deliver a tray of tankards to a table, the beer spilling all over the patrons. As far as small talk goes, I suppose this would have been one of the more amusing conversations. But after years of living with death only a wrong step away, stories like this just seem pointless.

‘To the emperor!’ I heard merrymakers cheer from opposite end of the bar.

To the emperor. What a joke. If only they knew the true nature of the war and Imperium. There was little point in me telling them, they wouldn’t believe me even if I did. I threw some coppers on the bar and unsteadily rose to my feet.

As I made my way towards the exit, a voice called over to me. ‘Aren’t you the Rabasan’s kid, the soldier?’

I turned to see a small crowd looking at me, patriotic appreciation in their eyes. I despised that look.

‘It is him!’ One voice said. ‘It’s great to see you back safe and sound from the front’

‘The hero’s return!’ Another voice. ‘It’s brave men like you who keep the Haram from ever reaching our shores.’

A small laugh burst from my lips. Hero? I had always strived to do good in the world. A good deed can go along way. But during those years at the front, I had never felt more like a villain in my life. A heavy burden that I will take with me to the grave.

Much has changed over the past years. I had gone from a young boy, eager to serve his kingdom and to prove his worth to the world. To now, a man who needs to drink himself into a stupor just to feel alive.

Outside, the air smelled crisp. It sent my head to spinning. I propped myself by the wall of the tavern and vomited into the dirt. Money wasted.

I will soon be posted again. I am told my next campaign will be less bloody. I imagine it no less cruel though. I had considered leaving, running far away. But the reach of Imperium is far and wide. I wouldn’t get far.

I staggered back up the track, to my unavoidable fate.”

Let me know what you think in the comments!