The Rage of Dragons
by Evan Winter
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted February 23, 2020
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Evan Winter's debut novel, The Rage of Dragons, has been getting a lot of positive reviews. It's not the type of fantasy I would normally be drawn to, but I've also tried to broaden my reading horizons with different styles, as well as wanting to discover more diverse authors. Winter was born in the UK of South American parents with African ancestry. I haven't searched for more info, but I assume at least some of the story is based on African legends. A month or so ago Amazon dropped the Kindle price significantly, so I took a chance. One of the promotional blurbs calls it Game of Thrones meets Gladiator, but I think a better description would be 300 meets Spartacus. Unfortunately, and as I suspected, it is not the type of fantasy that interests me.
Too much brutality, too many fights, even though the majority of them are only training exercises. A very rigid caste society that has almost no redeeming qualities. The Omehi invasion of the peninsula of Xidda is briefly mentioned in the prologue, then the main action takes up some two hundred years later. If it was explained why they left their native country of Osonte I missed it. The defeated native tribes still outnumber the conquerors, but so far their raids have been thrown back by the more trained Omehi soldiers, as well as the fact the Omehi have Gifted who can summon dragons to their cause. The Noble class provides the elite soldiers, the Lesser class fights too, but it's clear they are merely fodder, pawns destined to be the first to fall in battle. Tau Solarin is a Lesser Common, whose father Aren has trained him since childhood in the ways of the sword.
I won't detail the reasons Tau vows revenge against certain Noble officers. He runs away from home and enters a competition which will select initiates for the Ihashe, the Lesser contingent of infantry. Aren taught Tau well, and he learns even more from his umqondisi (which I think equates to sergeant). On his own, Tau learns to fight with two swords, rather than the typical sword and shield. Tau's focus is so single-minded he risks alienating others he should be bonding with during training, and later disregards advice from those he should trust. All he cares about is making it to the combat trials, hoping he will be able to face one of the Nobles he has vowed to kill. He knows that if he is accepted into the Ihashe the rules allow him to challenge another officer to a blood-duel. But will that matter if their enemy invades at a time they think the Omehi are vulnerable?
It's puzzling why any of the Lessers are loyal to the system. Any Noble can kill a Lesser and suffer no consequences. Quite the opposite for the reverse. A Lesser injuring or killing a Noble risks not only his own life, but also the lives of his family, maybe his friends too, possibly his whole village. During Ihashe training, and in the combat trials, many are injured, some are killed. It seems a waste for a country that needs all the fighters it can muster. Tau might be the best fighter the Lessers have ever seen, but will that suffice against Nobles who have a Gifted to Enervate them with more strength and endurance? Sad to say, I didn't really care either way. I only finished to decide if I would be interested in the second book in the series. No. That's why I gave this page the first book's title rather than the collective for the series, which is The Burning. Once again I'm in the minority, it has a higher rating on Amazon and Goodreads than I can give it. Many will find it exciting, I found it tedious, and relentlessy depressing.
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