Going into this book I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know much about it other than the fact that it was rooted in African culture and there would be dragons (which was more than enough to get me interested). Evan Winter’s choice to set this book in African culture sets it apart from just about anything else I’ve read in the fantasy genre and works great for the story. The only downside I saw from the setting is that I feel like I was never pronouncing any of the names correctly, but that’s completely a fault of my own.
Another choice he made with the story I thought gave it a fresh spin was how he gave women so much power in the world. In the world of The Rage of Dragons women hold much of the power, the Queen holds the highest rank, all of the Gifted are women (and once tested as Gifted are given treatment equal to Greater Nobles), and women are the reason they are able to use the dragons to attack. It’s refreshing in the genre to see women in a position of power and not just as the main heroine but throughout the society as a whole. Too often do we see women being empowered only through the eyes of the main character, I think this story is much more interesting because the women in the story are long established in their positions.
Speaking of the main character I really enjoyed Tau’s journey through this story, however he did frustrate me at times with his brashness and inability to think certain situations through. His story is one of revenge and personal justice and it drives every decision he makes throughout the book, for good and bad. On one hand it drives him to train harder than anyone else and it makes for satisfying fight scenes in which we see the fruits of his labor. I found myself cheering Tau on in his fights as he more often than not brutalized his opponents. On the other hand this line of thinking leads him to make poor decisions and go after people when he has no business doing so. I was pleading with Tau not to attack Greater Nobles when it was clear he would have no chance against them in his present state. The fact that I was even having these reactions is an indication of the wonderful writing style Evan Winter brought to the story.
The way the training and battle sequences were written gripped me and kept me as engaged as Tau. It is a good thing too, since the fight/training scenes make up a good amount of the book and the detailed scenes can last for chapters at a time. If you aren’t looking for a story chock full of battling this is probably not the book for you, but if you enjoy a well thought out and full fight scene you need to run out and make the purchase right now. I lost myself in this book when Tau was in the heat of battle and didn’t want to stop reading until I knew he would make it out of the skirmish safe.
One of the other main aspects of the book was in Tau’s love interest Zuri. She has an interesting arc in her own right and would have made for an intriguing protagonist alone. Although we don’t see everything that she does throughout the story, she is well written and provides Tau with a reason for living besides his training and steadies him at his most desperate times during the story. She is a strong character and she pushes Tau to become more than he thinks he could be. I wouldn’t mind getting a retelling of the story from her perspective at some point down the line, even though that is probably a bit too much to ask.
The other relationships Tau grapples with are his relationships with sword brothers and Jayyed. Watching the way he grows from an angry soldier who wants nothing to do with the others in his scale and becomes someone who can fight alongside them and even become friends with them is great to see. He doesn’t make the complete progress I was hoping he would but the changes he undergoes are significant enough to make me feel satisfied with his journey. Jayyed is his commander and sets him on the path to glory by teaching him how to become a better fighter and get more out of himself despite being a lesser. He tries to guide him to not only become a better fighter but a better man as well, even if Tau doesn’t want to hear it for the most part.
Jayyed grapples with Tau and the rest of the scale as he tries to make them into men they will be proud of, but he also has a bigger role to play in the overall war. The war going on between the Omehi and the Hedeni is a long running one and is the overarching story stretching beyond what Tau is dealing with during the majority of the book. The way the war plays out and the politics that come into play with it are some of the most interesting things in the book. I want to see more of the way the political side of this world runs and all of the different things that come into play regarding this. The details of the political side of the war and the way they play with the peace talks were something I wanted to hear more about, but I understand that it wouldn’t have made much sense from the viewpoint of our protagonist.
There were times throughout the book I wished the writer would go into more detail. During some of the battles later in the book it felt like we would jump through the battles to only the major points, but I would’ve liked at least some of the build-up or smaller fights that made up the bigger match. I understand that this probably would have pushed the book beyond the scope he was looking to encompass but I couldn’t get enough of this world and any extra details I could get would be welcomed. The biggest compliment I can pay to an author is not wanting to put a book down and this book is one that engrossed me from start to finish, and left me longing for book 2 to come out as soon as possible.
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