Book Review: Hope and Red by Jon Skovron

A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Hope and RedHope and Red by Jon Skovron

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 1 of The Empire of Storms

Publisher: Orbit (June 28, 2016)

Length: 544 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Meet Hope. At the tender age of eight, she became the lone survivor of a massacre on her small southern fishing village after watching everyone she has ever known and loved die horribly in an experiment by the emperor’s biomancers. Rescued by a merchant ship, she was then taken in by the ancient order of Vinchen warriors and taught their ways by Hurlo, their grand master who went against his order’s rules and trained the girl in secret.

Meet Red. Not long after being orphaned and left alone in the slums of New Laven, he woke up one fateful day to find himself held captive aboard a ship alongside the infamous Sadie the Goat. Together, the two of them made their daring escape, and Sadie was so impressed by the boy’s talents that afterwards she named him her sidekick and protégé and the spot.

Under the tutelage of the female pirate/con-woman, Red grows up to become one of the greatest, most quick-fingered thieves in the criminal underworld. Hope, on the other hand, has dedicated her life to becoming an honorable and disciplined Vinchen warrior, dreaming of one day avenging her murdered village. Aside from losing their families at a young age, the two of them have very little in common. However, it appears that their separate paths have ultimately led them to a shared purpose and enemy, and it’s not long before we see Hope and Red joining forces for the biggest fight of their lives.

From the very start, I was completely taken by both Hope and Red. While the two of them don’t even meet until nearly halfway through the novel (and that’s when the fun really takes off) I nonetheless had a great time getting to know each of them on their own. The beginning of the book is mainly focused on their early lives, detailing the children’s experiences growing up with the respective mentors. To me, this section almost reads like an in-depth character study for both Hope and Red, delineating their qualities and showing how their personalities were shaped by the different ways they were raised. Characters are one the most important aspects of a story for me, so I was beyond pleased at such an intimate portrayal of our two protagonists.

Jon Skovron has also created a massive, fully-realized world filled with countless nations and cultures. We get to set sail with Hope to visit a great number of these locales after she departs from the Vinchen order and takes a bodyguard position on a ship’s crew. In the north is a different dynamic, where society may be more built up and urbanized, but it is not without its problems like abject poverty and the disparity in living conditions between the rich and the poor. Red has always found himself caught between two worlds, disowned by the upper class but also not fully accepted by his fellow street gangsters and wags. Despite introducing his readers to a large number of sights and sounds, people and places, maritime slangs and street lingo, I thought the author did a marvelous job uniting Hope and Red’s individual storylines into a tightly woven plot.

Speaking of which, there was never a dull moment. Mixing grit with light humor, the writing style was incredibly easy to get into, helped by the story’s smooth flow and quick pacing. As well, Skovron’s experience with writing in the Young Adult genre can be seen in some of the character actions and plot elements, giving Hope and Red some crossover appeal (albeit reader discretion is advised given the strong language and graphic violence).

Truly, the only criticism I have is the pacing in the last one hundred pages or so, where I felt the solution to Hope and Red’s dilemma was presented too neatly, and the book was also wrapped up too quickly. Compared to the intro, where our protagonists’ lives were so lovingly and painstakingly described in all their particulars, the ending felt somewhat scant and haphazard, almost like Skovron was in a rush to finish. Beyond this one gripe though, I can really find no other major faults.

If you prefer character-driven tales and world-building that gives you the full picture, then you should definitely check this out. Hope and Red is the perfect escape for fantasy fans looking for a fun, entertaining and action-packed adventure. I can’t wait to read the next book in the trilogy.


Mogsy 2

More on The BiblioSanctum:
Guest Post: “What Lies Beyond Grimdark” by Jon Skovron

22 Comments on “Book Review: Hope and Red by Jon Skovron”

    • Yeah, I had my reservations when I started, because I heard that sometimes the story felt “too YA”, but I ended up really digging it!


    • Yeah, I’d debated long and hard before requesting this one, since my TBR was already so big. But I loved the sound of some of the reviews I was seeing, so I went for it. Glad I did! 😀


  1. This is one of those rare cases in which I feel I can overcome my distrust of YA-oriented characters, because the story seem more oriented toward a forward journey rather than the usual tropes found in the sub-genre. Your review just confirmed those initial impressions, and this is indeed a book for my list 🙂
    Thank you!!


    • I had my initial concerns that the characters would be too YA-oriented as well, based on some of the things I’ve heard. But I really didn’t feel it too strongly, I think the author struck a great balance!


  2. HOLY BALLS this sounds amazing! I’ll be adding it to my tbr shelf as soon as I finish writing my comment here XD The action sounds intense and the characters and plot sound brilliant too! Too bad the pacing went off a bit at the end but I can deal with that since clearly, everything else makes up for it!!


    • I really enjoyed it! If you enjoy character-oriented stories, then I can’t recommend this one enough. You get to know Hope and Red very well, following them as they grow up over the years. I felt like I really connected with both of them.


  3. I have this – and should have in fact have read it already. Gods I’m so busy in work though everything has gone to pot! Currently reading the Wesley Chu book which I thought got off to a great start. Really looking forward to this one. Away for a week next week so hoping lots of travel = lots of reading.
    Lynn 😀


    • Yes! I can’t wait to hear what you think – of both Hope and Red and the new Wesley Chu novel 🙂

      Hope you have a great trip and get lots of reading done!


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