The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter

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The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Wilson
Reviewed by Ruth Wilson
Summary: The Rage of Dragons is one of the best, most absorbing fantasy books I have read in some time. It is rich and powerful, with complex, deep characters and an intriguing and intricate plot. Set in a fantasy land with a wealth of history and culture, this beautifully written book ticks all the boxes for a magnificent fantasy series: magic, battles and dragons. What more could a reader ask for?
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 544 Date: July 2019
Publisher: Orbit
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0356512945

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Every so often, as a reader, a book comes along that is utter and complete perfection. This book is one of those. Utter and complete perfection. Winter has created an absolute masterpiece of a novel, set in the fantasy land of Uhmlaba the reader is instantly thrown into war, a battle for survival for the Omehi people. Fleeing their homeland, they have to fight to remain on the only scrap of land they can reach. The culture of the Omehi people is rich and deep but not perfect, not sanctimonious. They have villains, they have faults, they are the invaders after all, but Winter creates a realistic and honest portrayal of a people desperate to survive, to save themselves and their culture for future generations.

This book is so fascinating because its focus is almost solely on Tau, a boy who has just gone through the ceremony to become a man. He is born and raised as a Lesser, at the bottom of the pile in a strict caste system, destined to join the military to become fodder for the ongoing war against the native Hedeni. Tau is kind hearted, gentle and honest and has no wish to fight. In fact, he is a relatively poor fighter; his heart is simply not in it. He wants to love and be loved. He wants to be happy. But then a catalogue of disasters and injustices befall him and he transforms into the Tau that finds himself determined to find vengeance for those he has lost. This is the Tau we follow through the novel, and this character, and the plot that accompanies him, is astounding in its uniqueness and inventiveness.

Firstly, Tau is both hero and villain in this plot. His determination to seek vengeance turns him into a figure that is both worshiped and feared in equal measure. His single mindedness and extremism makes him both admirable and dangerous, and he has to battle, not the villain he is seeking for revenge, but his own increasingly dark impulses. Winter, however, does not allow Tau to turn into a stock vengeance character, Tau is level headed enough to take advice, to make sensible decisions, to follow the lead of others, so he is a fabulous character to follow. As a reader I had absolutely no idea what would happen from one chapter to the next, simply because neither did Tau.

Secondly, the plot is cleverly constructed so that the reader does not know what to expect next. The plot should be formulaic, as a reader we know the course of Tau's training so know what should happen next, but Winter constantly mixes things up. Sometimes the reader is thrown into the middle of a battle, into utter confusion mirroring the confusion of those around you, on other occasions the fight happens elsewhere, so the reader is constantly unsure what will happen next or where the plot will take you. The reader also witnesses the extremes Tau is willing to go to, to improve, to exceed, and the darkness he faces by trying.

This is the first book in the series, and I cannot wait for the next book to be released. This book did not end the way I thought it would when the story began, but it is testament to Winter's skill that I was not disappointed with any twists and turns taken to get to the books finale. Winter was raised in Africa near the territory of his Xhosa ancestors. He wanted to create a fantasy series that captured this wealth of culture and history. This book is an absolute triumph, it is rich and powerful, with complex characters and an intricate plot and battle scenes that will blow your mind. Please do read it! For something similar, fantasy and action but with a Latinx twist, try Nocturna by Maya Motayne.

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