«The Rage of Dragons» by Evan Winter, the first book in the epic African-inspired fantasy, was one of the most intimidating books on my TBR last month. [Well… together with «A Time of Courage» by John Gwynne.] After reading one African-inspired fantasy last year that I didn’t love and had to DNF half-way through, I was rather apprehensive to try again. Besides, the first book is always the most challenging to dive in – there is a new world to get accustomed with, new words, new social and magic systems.
Who would have thought that I’d be able to finish an epic fantasy book with more than 500 pages in just 2 days?! I didn’t!
The Omehi people have been fighting an unwinnable war for almost two hundred years. 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.
Thank you NetGalley and Little, Brown Book Group – Orbit for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own and not influenced by the company or its affiliates in any way.
All the challenges I mentioned above were still there, but Evan Winter was able to captivate my attention from the very beginning – in fact, the Prologue is one of the most engaging I’ve ever read!
Let’s break this book down a little bit, as I have a lot of thought I’d like to share with you.
WHAT I LIKED:
1 – The world and social division were very interesting to learn about. The Omehi people had to flee their homeland from a powerful enemy [The Cull] and find themselves a new home. The book starts when the Omehi land on the shores of a new land and battle its natives to create a Kingdom of their own. The Xadeed [natives], usually referred to as savages and hadeen, protect their land at all cost, but the first battle is won by Omehi who call upon the Guardian [dragon] to turn the tide in their favor.
In chapter one we jump in time, almost 200 years after the initial invasion. Omehi conquered a large stretch of land, built cities and villages, but their battle with hadeen continues.
The Omehi population is structured upon a caste system. There are Royals, Nobles and Lessers. Each caste is also divided in classes. For example, for Lessers we have – Governors, Harvesters, Commons and the lowest of all are Drudges. Each class perform different duty.
Because of the constant, never-ending battle, this society is very military orientated. Everyone must serve their Queen and protect their nation. Therefore, the castes also have their own military structure, that is separated purely because of blood and physical conditions – Nobles are stronger, taller and bigger than Lessers, and that gives them an advantage when it comes to fighting.
As you can see, it’s not an easy social organization to grasp, especially when there are many new terms thrown in the middle. But you don’t need to worry about that because Evan Winter does a great job getting the readers accustomed with the terms and with the castes. If you would ask me right now what is the term for Lessers who are in the military, I wouldn’t be able to tell you, as there are quite a lot of words that start with “I” 😀 But when I see them on the page and in the sentences they are more than comprehensible now.
2 – The magic system was very unique. I’ve never read anything similar, and I think there is much more to learn in the following installments. Basically, the Omehi people is partly a matriarchal society. I say partly, because while only women can rule, only women can have Gifts and we have mentions of how women are the ones to choose their husbands and propose. But we also see how oppressed women are because they are weaker than man.
The Gifted women are cherished and protected. They are one of the most important elements and their intervention can decide the outcome of the battle. The Gifts are connected with their religion and they draw the power from realm of the demons. There are many little details here that I want you to find out for yourselves. 🙂
3 – Until this book, I didn’t know that I loved the martial academy type of stories! «The Rage of Dragons» was a lot of fun! Of all 544 pages, more than 80% were battles, skirmishes, training and simulations. There was so much action going on that it was difficult to put this book down even for a second.
This book is definitely gory, lots of blood, death and broken limbs. So be aware of that if you’re not a fan of violence in your books.
4 – Evan Winter’s writing style is very captivating and one of the main reasons why this books reads so fast. He managed to keep my attention for hours and hours and hours. When I had to put the book down and do something else, all I could think about was Tau [the main character] and what will happen to him next.
Also, I liked how the book was divided – we had different chapters and than smaller sections within those chapters, and as you know shorter chapters definitely make the book read faster. 😀
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:
1 – I feel like the book would have been better with at least one more point of view. [or two]. With Tau we learned what it was like to be a Common, to be on the bottom of the society scale. But I’d love to also follow Zuri during her apprenticeship, or Kellan as an example of what Noble’s life is actually like. Maybe we get more of this in the next book?
2 – There weren’t enough magic or dragons! While combats and skirmishes were fun to follow, I really wanted to more dragons and more magic. The book started with such a strong Prologue where we were thrust right in the middle of an epic battle, and than when we switched to Tau I was quite disappointed.
3 – Tau was not an “easy” character to cheer for. Don’t want to spoil anything here, let’s just say that Tau suffered a lot of losses and injustice in the very beginning of the story, and his motivations were always based on that. This often made him reckless and careless, and very VERY annoying!
This was an incredible first book in the series, and the way it all ended… Uff! I can’t wait to read the second book, because it promises to be just as epic and just as fast-paced.
Have you read «The Rage of Dragons»? Are you interested in picking it up? Let me know in the comments below!