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Game of Thrones meets Gladiator in this debut epic fantasy about a world caught in an eternal war, and the young man who will become his people’s only hope for survival.

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.

Title : The Rage of Dragons
Author : Evan Winter
Series : The Burning (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 544
Genre : adult fantasy
Publisher : Orbit
Release Date : July 16, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 

Hollis’ 3 star review

If the pitch of Gladiator meets GAME OF THRONES drew you in, you’ll probably be very happy with THE RAGE OF DRAGONS. Because in addition to those things, it’s also as not-white as you can possibly be. This is a world that I guess would be the fantasy version of Africa, or fantasy-inspired version, and the “savage” people are no less dark than the “Chosen” people.

This is a pretty long book, clocking in at almost five hundred and fifty pages, but if you love battle scenes, or long arduous periods of training, you probably won’t notice the passing of time. There’s a whole lot of worldbuilding that we don’t really get at the beginning, though we definitely get some, and that Winter actually sprinkles in along the way and, surprisingly, this worked really well for me. It’s not overly complicated but there are complexities to this world and I found easing us into it made it much easier to digest.

You won’t help your people if you don’t know your place.”
I don’t think I like the place they’ve set for me.”
It’s based on what you are.”
They don’t know what I am.”

Think RED RISING, if you’re familiar with that series, as far as this caste system goes. There are Lessers, and Nobles, full bloods and not, and then Gifted. Crammed in there are also various rankings of military people, too. Also similar to RED RISING, Tau, our lead character and the main POV (we do get brief chapter interludes with three other characters, I believe, but they are single-shot snapshots), is very much like Darrow, like all lower-born men who rise to become more, or to represent more. There’s also shades of The Princess Bride as he does get a little Inigo Montoya along the way.. (+10 points if you understood that reference). But don’t get it twisted, this isn’t an African RED RISING, there’s so much of this world that stands alone. There’s a spirit world at play, demons, and, of course, the dragons.

Despite how long this book is, I won’t say that it felt long until.. the sixty percent mark. By this point it was all Revenge Time, all the time. And the training and battle scenes (though maybe more the training than the battle) were, well, proving a point. The time was definitely taken to show Tau becoming better, stronger, faster. I think this is a hard balance to maintain; too short and it’s not believable, too long and it can get boring. I wouldn’t have minded a few time jumps with convenient flashback or summary paragraphs though..

That said, when I was reading it, I was invested. But if I put it down, I never thought about it or felt any burning desire to pick it up. It’s good but I would say the weakness, beyond the drawn out moments, was definitely the dialogue. It felt either kind of cheese or just weak. The storytelling, though, felt pretty solid which, thankfully, helped to bolster some of those moments where I side-eyed the words coming out of the characters’ mouths.

Overall I was surprised by one or two characters along the way, grew to enjoy some of the others (not Tau but that’s mostly because I think he’s the driving force, the change, not so much a personality) but the plot itself didn’t wow me or blow my mind. I will still read on in the series because I think there’s a lot of backstory and worldbuilding to explore, and I have questions about what happened prior to the opening chapter of the book that started everything that lead to this particular place and time. I think, ultimately, I’m hoping for more GAME OF THRONES plot twists and less playing-with-swords or ruminating-on-my-revenge montages. Fingers crossed for that!

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

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