Book Review

Review: The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter

The Rage of Dragons is a fast-paced solid fantasy novel and I really enjoyed powering through it. It offered a lot of the things that I really enjoy about fantasy – strong world-building, magic, something to really drive the characters, an outside threat and excellent fight scenes. That doesn’t stop me from finding a few criticisms of my own, however.

The Rage of Dragons

Title: The Rage of Dragons
Author:Evan Winter
Pages: 544
Publication Date: Self-published 2017, republished 16th July 2019
Publisher: Little Brown Books, Orbit

Let’s start at the beginning (hold on to your hats – this is a long review for a long book). The story has a fantastic strong start, with a battle on a beach that seems unwinnable, until the dragons arrive, with the kind of fire and destruction that would make Daenerys proud.

A Queen is leading her people, the Omehi, to a new land. They are out of options, they can’t return to the sea, so they have to repel the ‘savages’ that already live there by using the dragons that they control. But using these dragons comes as a price.

Nearly two hundred years later, we meet Tau, a young man of a lower caste. He is expected to past the intense test to join the Ihashe, the lower caste military, like his father before him. This will mean one year (a cycle) of training, compared to the three cycles that the Indlovu (the Noble class) receive. He will then be sent to battle the savages that still push against the Omehi’s borders. If he fails, he will become a Drudge, little more than voiceless workers. Tau isn’t particularly skilled with the sword, and lacks the motivation to wield it – what he really wants is to pass his year of training, and then spend the rest of his life with handmaiden Zuri.

When tragedy strikes, as a result of his own arrogance, Tau becomes determined to be the best to wreak vengeance on the Nobles. Even if he passes the Ihashe test, he knows his one cycle of training will never be enough to compete with the natural advantages of a full-blood Noble, so he must train harder and faster in order to take on their Champion.

Meanwhile, the hedeni raids continue, deeper into Omehi territory. A young Queen is on the throne and we learn more and more about the Gifted – the female-only magic system in this world that requires the user to draw power from Isihogo, the demon world and underworld.

What I loved:

The complexity – I love a complex political system, societal rules, magic casting system – all of these things scream fantasy to me. And I completely understand that some people might get quickly turned off by all of this – from the very start you are thrown into a world of complex terminology with very little explanation – castes, the Gifted, the Chosen, Ingonyama, Indlovu – there are lots of unfamiliar words and the caste system itself means that people are known by their caste, their subset, their honorifics … but seriously, stick with it. Once you’ve worked it out, you will be swept up in it all.

The world – Small group of people who have the colonial attitude of being ‘Chosen’ fighting to keep control of a land they never owned in the first place? Mysterious savages beyond the border (who we all know will not be as mindlessly savage as the Omehi portray them to be)? The closeness between the living and the world of demons? Where myth crosses into reality? Love it.

The pacing – these are some short punchy chapters and that really helped me to power through this story. Each mini-chapter seems to end on yet another cliffhanger or crisis, meaning that it is pleasurably exhausting reading and urges you on to the next chapter.

The action – I lost track of how many training sessions I read, how many skirmishes, how many melées, how many fights … this was some intense writing and every fight was different.

The politics – aside from the Nobles/Lessers and overall caste system, the political machinations in this novel sneak up on you, and the main characters, until they all become swept up in something that is bigger them all. I liked that.

What I didn’t love:

The action – I know, I just said I liked it. But seriously, there’s a battle or a fight every few pages. I applaud Winter’s ability to keep them fresh and engaging but there’s very little else happening – the majority of the rest of the story happens off-stage.

Tau – Tau, in many ways, is a great character. He’s also a Marty Stu of a character. He trains to become faster, better and stronger than anyone else. There are times when he’s railing about injustice as though he’s the only one to have ever both felt it and acted on it. Yes, he has to train to be the best, to sacrifice so much of himself. But it means that he loses his personality along the way. At the beginning he is young, inexperienced and yearns for a peaceful life. In one violent moment, all of that is forgotten and he is desperate to become the ultimate weapon, with no reflection on who he used to be. It feels a little too close to the revenge fantasy trope.

The POV – virtually the whole of The Rage of Dragons is told from Tau’s point of view. There are a couple of chapters where you get a new POV – Aren (Tau’s father), Jayyed (the commander of Tau’s fighting group) and one single solitary woman for a brief moment – a fighter from the hedoni – but these are single chapters, they don’t get another POV again. (Apart from those of the Queens in the Prologue and Epilogue). In reality, your only narrator and observer is Tau. Where are the women? I would have loved to get some Zuri chapters, or a character from the Queen’s palace. Just some variety. Cut out another trainging fight and replace it with something a bit more political to change the pace. It’s like having Game of Thrones from Jon Snow’s POV but without any Tyrion or Daenerys to balance it out.

Overall:

I really enoyed it – I did! But it was the last 30% of action that really cinched it for me.

4 stars.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and Orbit books in exhange for an honest review.

 

Advertisement

One thought on “Review: The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s