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Today I am bringing you a review that I have spent a lot of time constructing. This is because I could not put into words how much I enjoyed and was impressed by Evan Winter’s The Rage of Dragons. Orbit has been amazing with its recent releases and it’s no secret that some of my favourites have been published by the company. If you haven’t I highly recommend pick up The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso and its sequel The Ikessar Falcon.
Now, without further ado, on to my review for The Rage of Dragons!
Cover designed by Karla Ortiz
published on July 2019
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.
The Rage of Dragons is so incredibly rich with history and emotions. From its opening chapter, any well-read fantasy fan can tell how well researched this book – from the pacing to character relationships to the worldbuilding. Evan Winter’s debut novel is worth all the praise it has received.
The Rage of Dragons explores the depth and consequences of vengeance. I have heard the book compared to Gladiator, and though I love that movie, I believe Rage’s exploration encompasses societal standing and caste. This is a difficult book to read because there really is no black and white morality to the story. Each character is driven by their caste in Omehi society – Noble, Lesser or Drudge. Determined by the mother’s bloodline, Nobles are at standing just below its royalty. Lessers are those who are, as their name suggests, are commoner relegates to positions of foot soldiers, governors and farmworkers. The people of Omehi have been at war with the Hedeni for two hundred years now. At a deeper look, this is also a story of colonialism and what people do to survive. The Omehi were driven out of their homeland by silver-skinned beings created by Ukufa. To survive, the Omehi fled, bringing the war to the Xiddeen, who are the indigenous people of the new land. This is a great narrative to explore, and knowing that this will be a four-book series, I hope that the author delves deeper into this.
“It’s a farce,” he said. “They use this to keep us in our place. They know we won’t win, that we can’t. They hold skirmishes, the Queen’s Melee, and we’re told Ihashe and Indlovu rise on talent. Noble, Lesser, they say it doesn’t matter on the fields of war.” Tau waved a hand across the grasslands, where men from the North were still being helped. “It matters. It matters in war as much as it does everywhere else, and everything they do is to remind us of that.”The Rage of Dragons, Evan Winter
In The Rage of Dragons, the consequence of being a Lesser can be a very thin line between life and death. We see this when Tau’s actions are considered disrespectful, and thus, he is punished with the death of someone he loves. The book explores what it means to be afforded lesser opportunities in life; to be set up for failure, and the consequences that can come from fighting the injstice.
Reading The Rage of Dragon after the brutality that was The Burning God, I believe I have found a new favourite fantasy setting: military academies. I enjoyed reading how Tau and his brothers trained, their emotional brutality and honesty, and how they had to build trust with others they had once competed against. Perhaps that’s what makes a military academy setting interesting in fantasy books. The relationships that one forms with another under such challenging environments was fascinating. And I love that Tau had to earn his place, his strength and his narrative. Nothing was given. He literally had to bleed for where he is now. So though we may disagree with his motivations, his determination and sheer will were admirable. You cannot help but root for him.
“He was not the strongest, the quickest, or the most talented, not by any measure. He knew this and knew he could not control this. However, he could control his effort, the work he put in, and there he would not be beaten.”The Rage of Dragons, Evan Winter
Despite the friendships, the book showcases how deep revenge can twist on a person’s heart and how it can influence their entire life’s path. Not only that, Evan Winter explores this adjacent to the cycles of violence on a larger scale. The war between the Omehi and the Xiddeen, the inequality between Nobles and Lessers, is something I really chewed on. As I am reading The Fires of Vengeance at the time of writing this, I know that this is an aspect that the author eventually addresses.
While I loved this book wholeheartedly, I want to mention that I was concerned by the lack of female characters. Considering this is a matriarchal society, I was confused as to why none of the warriors was women. In fact, the Xiddeen have women warriors, which the Omehi people somehow find surprising. It was a shame that the one notable female character in Rage was not adequately developed. Again, since I am reading book two, I know that this is bettered; however, I do wish it had been done in Rage.
Before I end this review, I want to bring attention to Evan Winter’s writing! The pacing is fast and explosive, the fight scenes are tense. The way the author wrote of the pain and grief that drives vengeance was incredibly raw. Yet, the author always gave us moments of warmth that helped explore the characters’ motivations, flaws, and personalities. The Rage of Dragons is not a story that you can easily forget, nor should it be.
🌸 Have you read The Rage of Dragons? Do you plan to?
🌸 Have you read a book with revenge at the heart of the book?
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