Book Review: Hope and Red

Hope and Red by John Skovron, Empire of  Storms Trilogy #1 

In a fracturing empire spread across savage seas, two young people from different cultures find common purpose. A nameless girl is the lone survivor when her village is massacred by biomancers, mystical servants of the emperor. Named after her lost village, Bleak Hope is secretly trained by a master Vinchen warrior as an instrument of vengeance. A boy becomes an orphan on the squalid streets of New Laven and is adopted by one of the most notorious women of the criminal underworld, given the name Red, and trained as a thief and con artist. When a ganglord named Deadface Drem strikes a bargain with the biomancers to consolidate and rule all the slums of New Laven, the worlds of Hope and Red come crashing together, and their unlikely alliance takes them further than either could have dreamed possible. 

There are a lot of leading authors in the Epic Fantasy genre, breaking through is a challenge. One thing that piqued me was the name that John Skovron gave to his first book: Hope and Red, it must already promise something in an Epic Fantasy setting. Prior to writing Hope and Red, John Skovron focused more on writing Young Adult novels, Hope and Red is his first adult fantasy book.  Orbit the publisher of this book marketed it as the new Brent Weeks, in some ways I agree with this, but in others I have have to disagree, luckily so because who is waiting for a copycat. Hope and Red is one of those books that delivers and makes you wish you had the sequel on your shelves already!

Hope and Red focuses on the characters with the same name. When I read the first chapter of the book John Skovron won me over. This first chapter showed Hope in her home village that gets raided. Not by just anyone but by a biomancer. This was the first thing that piqued my interest. Being the sole survivor of the raid, Hope has a lot of things to do, for starters she has to find a new safe place which she finds aboard a pirate ship. Where she also receives her name Bleak Hope. But having a women on board is bad luck in every captain's eyes and Hope gets dropped of at the nearest Vinchen monestary. Just as with the pirate ship the monastery isn't a place for a young girl either and she gets shunned by most of the monks but there is one monk who believes in her and gives her a fighting chance... and lets not forget, Hope is hell bent on revenge!

Anyway after this brief but intense introduction of Hope the focus is put on Rixidenteron who has well to say the least a rough childhood. His mother was a gifted artist and his father was a prostitute. During the pregnancy, Rixidenteron's mother was addicted a drug and when Rixidenteron was born he had red eyes and hence his nickname of Red. After Red's mother and father passed away there was no other place to turn to then the streets and that is where he has been living. Right until the moment he crosses path with Sadie the Goat (yes that famous pirate, I have here as my legendary pirate at Plunder Pirates... anyway). So Red becomes the new trainee of Sadie and his adventure starts.

From this point of the book the story expands a bit linearly developing both Hope and Red separately. A change comes when the story all of a sudden shows the perspective of one of the biomancers, Brigga Lin, and this changes things drastically. This was also a moment that I had been awaiting rather eagerly. in the beginning John Skovron castes quite an illusive air around this sect. The chapters that focus on Brigga give a lot of clarification and shows just how dangerous these biomancers can be. Getting into the mind of the "enemy" is always something that I enjoy reading about. 

Where the story truly comes together is in the last few chapters of the book. As I already mentioned the first bit of the book is really getting the basis right for building the rest of the story on, just in the last bit both Hope and Red and Brigga meet each other to a most interesting confrontation. This story ain't over yet. 

When you look at the whole world building, there are a lot of different styles going on. Hope and Red takes place in the city of New Laven (could be New York of New Haven??) in this city John Skovron creates a bit of a mafioso - pirate mashup in terms of the whole setting. The bars are crowded with shady figures, and where a fight is more than daily business. Next to playing part in the city of New Laven there are also scenes that feature the ocean, the temple of the Biomancers and of course the Vinchen monastery. One scene that I liked and which reminded me a bit of a Jedi council session was when all the masters of the biomancers were in session. There was definitely a disturbance there, though nothing concrete was shown, there a lot of power that wanted to get loose... 

Hope and Red is definitely an exciting story. John Skovron's first venture in adult fantasy is a blast to read, with never a dull moment. I do have to be honest and say that there are some scenes in there that remind me a bit of a YA writing style. Looking in some the scenes that he describes, you don't want to give this to your teens. Hope and Red definitely left me with wanting more, I can see something big happening in the near future for our two or should I say three heroes?


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