Desperate to delay an impending attack by the indigenous people of Xidda, Tau and his queen 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 reunite her people, then the Omehi might have a chance to survive the coming onslaught.
“The lie isn’t that we can’t be their equals. The lie is that they were ever anything but our equals.”
Leah and I managed to wait a whole 2 weeks before picking up The Fires of Vengeance and I think it’s safe to say that we loved it just as much, if not a little more, than book one. You can check out Leah’s review here and, similarly to book one, I’m just going to jump straight into my review because these books are impossible to sum up without giving away spoilers! Please note this review will contain spoilers for the first book!
Tau… Tau may just be becoming one of my all time favourite MC’s ever. He is such an incredibly complicated and relatable character. He thirst for vengeance, though somewhat tempered in this book, is what initially drives him to become the best fighter the Omehi have ever seen and, after the events of book one, he now finds himself as the Queen’s Champion, something no one of his ‘lesser’ status has ever managed before. He quickly finds himself facing multiple battles on multiple fronts, not all of them the physical kind, and I loved seeing Tau’s character growth, realising that depending on those around him wasn’t a weakness, acknowledging his own strengths and weaknesses. Winter brings back the majority of our side cast from book one, all of whom get to play a larger part in this story, but I think the character I enjoyed seeing more of was Queen Tsiora. She is someone we spent very little time with in the first book but, with Tau now being her champion, he spends the majority of the book by her side. Her inclusion not only gives us an insight into the political climate and scheming of the Omehi people, but also a deep dive into the history of their people. She’s feisty, more than willing to fight for what she believes in and, although I don’t think she necessarily tells Tau the whole truth, I enjoyed seeing their bond develop.
While book one took a bit of time to get going, this story started at a sprint and never once let up the pace. It’s a story that you want to savour, but also one you want to fly through, especially because every single chapter seems to end on some kind of plot point or cliff hanger. Something that makes it the perfect series to buddy read, because that forces you to stop, to talk about everything that’s happened, throw out your wild theories, vent and rage . Winters writing style, while sparse in detail, definitely packs an emotional and atmospheric punch in places. There are no lengthy descriptions of places or people, no flowery prose or lyrical writing. Instead his writing style is blunt, aggressive and no word, line, paragraph is superfluous, they all play their part in the furthering of his story and I found it so refreshing to read.
While The Rage of Dragons focused primarily on Tau and his development as a fighter, The Fires of Vengeance delves a little more into the political and historical elements of his world. We get to learn a lot more about the history of the Omehi people, more about the Cull (the elusive army they originally fled from), as well as how the caste system came to be in place and, while I’m not usually a huge fan of politics in my fantasy, Winters makes those scenes almost as brutal as the fight scenes. Full of sharp tongues and threats, I thoroughly enjoyed these scenes, especially because they allowed us to spend more time, and get a better understanding of characters that had previously not had as large a role to play. But don’t worry, there were still plenty of epic and brutal fight scenes if that’s your jam. In fact Winter gets the blend of the two down perfectly and I loved seeing the overlap of them blending together, and the character growth that comes from that. We also spend more time in Ishigo, a world filled with Demons where Tau went to train in book one. I have SO many theories around this place, but it is super creepy and deadly and the scenes when our characters went there were easily some of the most brutal of the book.
I know I said there were no superfluous parts to this story, and there aren’t, but Winter does spend a little more time in this book building on all the relationships in Tau’s life, and I loved all the time we get to spend with them, seeing those relationships flourish, learning more about them outside of their battle skills. He creates an almost found family, albeit with the most bizarre group of people ever, but it just seems to work. Strong and silent Uduak, strategist extraordinaire Hadith, Noble Kellan whose sense of honour allows him to follow a ‘lesser’ into battle, Jabari who has a thirst for revenge and Themba who doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut. The sense of camaraderie that these people share is something special and I loved getting to delve more into their characters.
Tau and Tsiora are two idiots in love and I honestly laughed so many times at their antics. Being the Queens Champion historically means more than simply protecting her life, Omehi Queens do not marry, instead their children come from the Queen and her Champion getting down and doing the dirty, something that they are both overly aware of, but neither really want to acknowledge. There was tension, drama and plenty of emotions flying around them both and I just loved seeing their relationship develop over the story, especially with little digs and hints from our side characters that added a humorous side. But my favourite relationship, which I’m so happy was made canon, is one I wont mention for spoilers, but I loved how subtle it was. Especially considering it was m/m and Winter had never openly acknowledged any queer relationships or people in the world before.
In case you couldn’t tell, I adored this book. Winter’s writing style is so incredibly refreshing and I need to find more books written like this because I love it (always open to recs!) My only issue is having no idea when we are getting book three because I need it asap. This series just gets better book by book and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us next.