The Rage of Dragons (The Burning #1) by Evan Winter
Published by Orbit Books
Adult, Grim Dark, Fantasy
Release Date : September 7th 2017
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.
“Do you bleed?”
TW : violence, gore, war, mutilation
The Rage of Dragons is a African-inspired epic fantasy debut by Evan Winter, and the first book to a four part series, The Burning. This book was originally self published in 2017 and by 2019 it is picked up by Orbit in a major 4-book deal, establishing Evan Winter as one of the up and coming fantasy authors to look out for. With a gorgeous cover art to boot, this book screams “BUY ME HUMAN” and I finally caved in.
Prior to reading this book, I was in a month long reading slump during the month of October. Slowly, I finally restored my interest in reading and I craved for a gritty fantasy book to liven up my reading mood. It was perfect timing that the book came in the mail so I dove straight in. Accompanied by a few of my friends Raf, Ash, Sasha, Zah, and Arias (from Twitter) we decided to have a buddy read. I’ve read many reviews raving about how good it is from YouTube, to Good Reads, and so on. My expectations were high for this book and as you can see from my rating above that the book did not disappoint.
The Rage of Dragons is a book centered around the Omehi people that is in the middle of a 200 years long war and the story revolves around the life of Tau Solarin, a young low caste and ‘giftless’ man. Being a man of the Omehi, Tau’s life is heavily influenced by his father’s job in the military. His father trains him with the sword and expects Tau to follow his father’s footsteps. Tau only wants a life away from war, to get married, settle down, and have a stable job with less chances of killing or being killed. His first taste of a battle had shaken him and made him even more determined to do whatever the cost to avoid such a life. All of his plans fall apart, after a series of unfortunate events lead him into a path of anger and revenge. These unfortunate events becomes his primary fuel in accomplishing his only motivation that is to kill everyone that’s responsible of killing his father.
“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.”
Revenge is the core of the story. Each action that Tau does is based of his blinding rage. This blinding rage is what I love about Tau, he is very explosive when it comes to retaliating and proving himself to everyone. Tau doesn’t seek glory or fame, his tunnel vision motivation is solely on revenge. As a main character, I understand that some readers would not like Tau as a main character. Some of his decisions and actions are reckless and he is much more inclined in his own voice than the collective voice. There are many instances when he is in battle and he charges into the fro like a blazing bull. He ignored his sword brothers that are clearly scrambling to keep up with him. And this is what makes him such a compelling main character. Tau’s unbending will and determination to achieve the unachievable fueled by his fury and thirst for vengeance is truly remarkable to witness. He completely sheds his old self, the Tau that only wants a peaceful life is gone and in its place a weapon is born.
“In a small way, the world changed that day, when the Nobles of Scale Ozioma broke and ran, scattered by a new and horrible creature, born in Uhmlaba but bred in Isihogo.”
This book is incredibly hard to put down and incredibly engaging for readers. The story is told in a third-person narrative, with a variety of battle scenes that covers from duels to a full on army battle. I’ve read some reviewers said that if you’re a fan of Joe Abercrombie the action sequences are as gritty and suspenseful. It will leave you floored and breathless for more. With each battle the stakes get higher and higher, its heartpounding and intense that it left me shaking with excitement. The plot is easy to follow and slightly predictable; but the predictability wouldn’t distract you from overall story. I love the escalation of battles and when it reached the climax, I was screaming! I am a sucker for raging barbaric characters. The wrath that Tau brings into the battlefield is infectious and he is a beast. He trained with blood, sweat, and tears to reach his full potential. Tau’s development is believable because it achievable for any other human if they commit fully. The way Evan Winter writes battle scenes is effectively done with incredible cinematic scenes and emotion that bleeds through the pages. No character has dead eyes and fought like a puppet. Each one of them fought for their life until the very end.
The world and magic system Evan Winter created is unique and refreshing. There are deities that are incorporated into the magic system which adds an aspect of a dimension separate from the world. This dimension is called Isihogo, the place where the demons exist and in contrast to it is Uhmlaba, the place where humans exist. The way Evan Winter designs his magic system isn’t necessarily pure power with no consequences as there are draw backs from using magic in this world. There is balance in the world which makes it more believable and adds a twist for magic users.
One thing I’d like point out is that women in this world are valued and respected especially if they are ‘gifted’. Once a woman is discovered to be gifted they are trained to serve in the military as a Gifted and in the hierarchy of power they hold a very prestigious place. Ignoring their previous caste or origins. Sadly, we didn’t get to see any other note worthy female characters in this book. The are only two prominent female characters that made an appearance. One of them is Tau’s main love interest and the other only made an appearance during the last few pages of the book. But I am sure we will see more female characters or maybe a possible female POV judging by the way the book ended things.
I highly recommend for anyone to read The Rage of Dragons if you’re looking for a fast paced and intense epic fantasy with lots of gritty battle scenes. I will never stop raving about this book. It might be one of the best books I’ve read this year. Evan Winter is an author to look out for and I hope he writes more books in the future. Me impulsively buying this book at 2AM definitely paid off. With every page my love for this book grows and I am so happy I read this book. It is such a serotonin boost that I needed from a month of stressing about moving. Thankfully I have the ARC for the second book, Fires of Vengeance, ready to read but by the time I post this; the sequel is already released.