The Fires of Vengeance
- Author: Evan Winter
- Genre: Fantasy
- Publication Date: November 10, 2020
- Publisher: Orbit
- Series: The Burning #2
CONTENT WARNING: murder, violence, grief, blood, gore, massacre, suicide
In order to reclaim her throne and save her people, an ousted queen must join forces with a young warrior in the second book of this must-read series by one of the most exciting new voices in epic fantasy.
Tau and his queen, desperate to delay the impending attack on the capital by the indigenous people of Xidda, craft a dangerous plan. If Tau succeeds, the queen will have the time she needs to assemble her forces and launch an all-out assault on her own capital city, where her sister is being propped up as the “true” queen of the Omehi.
If the city can be taken, if Tsiora can reclaim her throne, and if she can reunite her people, then the Omehi may have a chance to survive the onslaught to come.
I was dying to start this buddy read with Becky @ Becky’s Book Blog, and the two of us jumped right into this, reading it in record time. This is one of those books that the two of us wanted to savor, knowing that the third book isn’t coming out for a while, but it’s the kind of book that is impossible to take your time with. It’s meant to be devoured, and it felt like every single chapter ended on a mini-cliffhanger. Even worse, after discussing the last section of the book, the two of us basically decided that the best kind of review should basically just say, “read this book because it’s incredible” over and over again.
Winter makes use of his signature sparse writing style, avoiding flowery prose and focusing the readers attention on just what is essential, making every single word feel deliberate and important. The action starts relatively quickly, and readers are thrown into the aftermath of the chaos of the events at the end of the first book.
Much like in the last book, we are treated to the amazing way that Winter has of writing battle scenes, where it’s possible to picture every single move and countermove, which are described almost as if they’re in slow-motion. But we don’t just get to see battles, now we get insight into the strategy behind the battles, since you know Tau isn’t going to rise high without bringing his little found family along for the ride. Tau is well aware that while he is enormously talented at battle, he doesn’t have a head for strategy, and isn’t afraid to pass the torch to someone who does. He’s well aware of the strengths and weaknesses of his little group, and makes use of that to everyone’s best advantage, making him a highly effective leader:
“Tau shook his head in disbelief at Hadith’s insight. If he were to live forever, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to think about the world in the same way that Hadith did.”
This book also offers so much in the way of character development, including some newer characters. We get to learn so much more about what goes on in Tau’s head and see growth from him as he adapts to his new role. He struggles at times to function in higher circles of society, and learn how to behave when dealing with Nobles. One of the major issues throughout this series is the division between the Nobles and the Commons in this stratified caste-based society, in which Nobles not only view Lessers as beneath them, but also see them as less human. It’s what started Tau’s journey to vengeance, but also creates a major issue throughout this book:
“Nobles granted themselves a humanity that they did not extend to people like him, and because of that, they thought little of ruining or even ending a Lesser’s life.”
Since Nobles don’t see Lessers on equal footing, they’re obviously going to buck against being led by a Lesser, even in the military. Tau occupies the second highest position of power in the country, only surpassed by the power of Queen Tsiora, and when the position of Grand General goes to another Lesser, Hadith, who absolutely deserves it, it creates even more issues within the military. However, Hadith knows how to work the system and makes use of his brilliant ability to strategize to get around this.
“‘The only way to get as far as you have, considering what they think of us, is to become undeniable.’”
Throughout all of this, they’re facing a number of threats. Aside from having to fight Tsiora’s sister and the other Nobles trying to make a claim for the throne, there’s also the Xiddeen to worry about, and a potential new threat that could be even more problematic looming on the horizon. There was so much tension throughout the story, wondering which threat was the largest and what was going to happen first, plus, I was thrilled when the dragons showed up, because … dragons!
I loved seeing the connections deepen between our major players in the story. Not only do we get to know Tsiora better, we get to see the people around her. Nyah isn’t the easiest character to like, but she turns out to be a fierce mama-bear type. Her handmaidens are an incredible addition to the story, and they integrate into Tau’s friend circle of friends seamlessly, developing a beautiful group of bonds, both as a group and individually. There’s humor that I loved to see, and even a few surprises that made things all add up from the last book.
When this story is described as an African version of Game of Thrones combined with Gladiator, I couldn’t have described it better myself. It’s an intriguing story that I couldn’t keep away from once I picked it up, and I know that I’ll definitely be stalking the author’s social media (not in a creepy way), just to keep tabs on when the next book is coming out, because I need it in my hands as soon as possible.
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
Categories: Book Review