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.
“And, like that, there was no going back. A Dragon had been called and someone would have to die.”
Leah and I are back with our backlist buddy reads, and this time we picked up The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter. You can check out her review here! I’ll admit, reading the first 25% of this story, I wasn’t sure it would be for me. The story meandered a little, and I wasn’t too sure where it was heading, but the other 75% was absolutely outstanding and ensured this book would make my top reads of the year. I do think this story is seriously hard to sum up without giving away spoilers, so I wont even try except to say you should go in knowing as little as humanly possible because the plot twists and story line are simply epic.
The story is told predominantly from the POV of Tau, a lesser who is training to become one of the Ishash, a low rung on the ladder of the Omehi military. At the start of the story he fears war, fears the death it will bring and is determined to get himself injured so he never had to see it for himself. But then, as every great protagonist before him, he goes through a tragic, life changing event that opens up a new path before him. Instead of fear, he now finds himself fuelled by revenge, and on a journey to become the greatest fighter the Omehi have ever seen. He is an incredibly complicated character, someone who I loved and wanted to hit over the head in equal measure. His thirst for vengeance causes him to develop blinders in so many other parts of his life. He could become the greatest fighter ever and end the war between the Omehi and the Hedeni for good, but he is too focused on his vengeance to look at the bigger picture. He is neither a hero, nor an anti-hero, but rather someone who sits in the muggy place in between which makes for one interesting journey.
As well as Tau we do get the odd chapter from another POV, none of which I will mention for spoilers, but Winter brings them in at the perfect moment of the story to make an impact. These additional POV’s add tension, drama, emotion and everything in between and allow us to see the true strength of Tau’s progression through the story.
I think what first threw me about this story was the writing style. As a lover of descriptive, prose filled writing, Winter’s brash and simplistic style took a little getting used to, but after a few chapters I found it incredibly refreshing. There were no superfluous sections, rather every single paragraph, sentence, word added something to the story and, despite it being a fast paced story line, you find yourself going slowly, making sure you take everything in knowing that it will turn up or have a part to play in future chapters. With the addition of some truly epic and emotional plot twists, The Rage of Dragons is a story that starts at a fast pace and never truly lets up.
I think to really enjoy this book you need patience. Patience and trust in the author that he absolutely knows what he is doing. I mentioned above that the first quarter or so of the book meandered a little, but it’s only as you get further in that you realise just how much world building he put into this first section, something I was incredibly glad for because it meant that the story didn’t have to slow down in later chapters for things to be explained. I also adored how he used Tau’s interactions with the other characters, especially Zuri his love interest, to give us a greater insight into the spirit based magic system that runs through the story. For the Omehi people, it is only Women who can become gifted (use magic) and within them there are different levels of power, all linked to Ishigo, the Spirt World where there power comes from. There are no info dumps, instead any information we get feels naturally placed in the story and I loved learning about the history of the Omehi people.
There’s a real old-style epic fantasy feel to this story. Everything from the morally grey hero that, despite not being wholly good, you can’t help but root for, to the Dragons & magic system. But I think what I loved most about this book was seeing Tau develop his relationships both romantic and not. Zuri, his love interest was a fantastic character, she didn’t take any of Tau’s shit and tried to show him the error of his ways, but was always 100% on his side. And then there are the brothers Tau makes when he starts training to become an Ishago. It’s slow going, his thirst for vengeance means he has little time for anything else, least of all making friends. But he soon comes to realise that his fight is not his alone and the comradery and humour these characters added was truly special.
To say I loved this book would be an understatement, and Leah and I already have plans to pick up book two. If you like epic fantasy, with truly amazing world building and an epic magic system, a character you can’t help but root for and a story that packs a punch, as well as incredibly fast paced then look no further.
Great review! You nailed it and as always, touched on so many things that made me realize what I forgot to include in my review 😂 I loved buddy reading this with you because we had such similar reactions and I can’t wait to start book 2!
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Thanks, Leah! Cannot wait to start book 2… in fact I might already have it on the way 😀
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I’ve got a library hold 😂
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