Book Review

The Rage Of Dragons

The Rage of Dragons

  • Author: Evan Winter
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Publication Date: July 16, 2019
  • Publisher: Orbit
  • Series: The Burning #1

CONTENT WARNING: violence, blood, murder, gore, suicide, mention of rape, death of a parent, grief

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Omehi people have been fighting an unwinnable fight for almost two hundred years. Their society has been built around war and only war. The lucky ones are born gifted. One in every two thousand women has the power to call down dragons. One in every hundred men is able to magically transform himself into a bigger, stronger, faster killing machine.

Everyone else is fodder, destined to fight and die in the endless war. Young, gift-less Tau knows all this, but he has a plan of escape. He’s going to get himself injured, get out early, and settle down to marriage, children, and land. Only, he doesn’t get the chance. Those closest to him are brutally murdered, and his grief swiftly turns to anger. Fixated on revenge, Tau dedicates himself to an unthinkable path. He’ll become the greatest swordsman to ever live, a man willing to die a hundred thousand times for the chance to kill the three who betrayed him.

After having this one recommended to me strongly, I finally got my hands on a copy and buddy read it with Becky @ Becky’s Book Blog. Neither of us quite knew what we were getting ourselves into, but boy was it a bumpy ride, and we really enjoyed every step of the way. 

The first quarter of the book was a little slow moving. We’re given a peek into the distant past during the prologue, when the Omehi first came to the land. Then we’re swept into the present, where they have a strict caste-based society that revolves around war. Tau is a Lesser Common, who is trained by his father along with a Petty Noble boy around his own age. He isn’t particularly interested in joining the military, and is much more interested in a girl from his village, Zuri. He has a solid plan to sustain an injury and return home to marry Zuri and live a happy life.

However, everything changes when someone he loves is brutally murdered in front of him, and his plans change from a happy life to one focused solely on revenge. He’s recruited, and spends every single moment devoted to training. His unit, or scale, is led by an unconventional man, one who tells his recruits that they can overcome the limits of their caste, and training harder can give them better results. 

“He was not the strongest, the quickest, or the most talented, not by any measure. He knew this and knew he could not control this. However, he could control his effort, the work he put in, and there he would not be beaten.”

But Tau takes it to a whole new level. The men he wants to kill to obtain his vengeance are Nobles, and the odds of him being able to beat them is practically insurmountable. The caste system is rigid, and Lessers are smaller and weaker and slower by nature. They simply aren’t able to overcome their limited abilities to beat Nobles, but Tau is determined to find a way.

“In training, Tau had taken himself to the breaking point every day. Every day he pushed further than the day before, making himself a little stronger, a little harder, a little faster. The sword was his religion and, a devout disciple, he sacrificed to it without end.”

As Tau continues through his training, he becomes ever more single-minded towards his goal, to the exclusion of everything else. But somehow he manages to accrue a small group of friends who become more like brothers. They live together, they eat together, they train together, and they support each other no matter what. I loved these guys, and enjoyed seeing all of their different personalities come out through the story. They try to guide Tau away from his self-destructive path, but he’s too focused on it to see anything else.

“Tau told himself this was why he trained so hard. It was for revenge. He told himself he didn’t love every span of it, because his path should not involve pleasure, satisfaction, or joy. It was about hate and pain and rage. But he did love it, the training, the sparring, the sword.”

Throughout the training, Tau finds himself questioning the caste system. As he gets stronger and faster, and starts to find himself winning matches more often than he loses, he starts to fight against the role that he’s placed into. Instead of accepting what he’s always been told, he decides to learn more about his world and start making his own rules.

“‘You won’t help your people if you don’t know your place.’

‘I don’t think I like the place they’ve set for me.’

‘It’s based on what you are.’

‘They don’t know what I am,’ Tau said, ‘but I can show you.’”

In any military fantasy, the society is completely based on war. They’ve been at war for nearly 200 years, and there’s no end in sight. So many of the children, both boys and girls, are drafted into military training, although there’s strict gender lines—boys are brought to martial training, while girls who are considered Gifted, or blessed with magical powers, are trained and incorporated into the scales to work with certain warriors. It was fascinating to see how this society functioned, and Winter did a fantastic job exploring the role of the religious and spiritual realm, especially how the spiritual realm becomes a tangible reality for these people.

The book is dense. At first, there’s a lot of information thrown at us, although it got a lot easier once I realized that there was a glossary at the end of the book. His writing style is Spartan—he doesn’t spend much time on descriptions, sticking to the basics, allowing us to get a feel for the setting and what’s happening before diving right into the action. His fight scenes are amazing, offering not only vivid blow-by-blow descriptions of the action, but also giving us insight into the emotional nature of what is going on inside the character’s heads.

One of the things I especially loved was the way that the perspective occasionally shifted into that of other characters. It let us see not only what else was going on in the world, but also how they saw Tau as he grew and changed throughout the story.

I was fascinated for so much of this book, and Becky and I absolutely flew through our read. There was a lot for us to talk about, and we made a few predictions, but there were so many more twists and turns that we never saw coming. The way that this story developed and built up was done masterfully, and we’re thrilled to dive into the next one as soon as we can. This is one of those books that shouldn’t be missed, and it gives off a kind of African Game of Thrones x The Poppy War vibes.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 20

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