Review Blog – Rage of Dragons (The Burning #1) by Evan Winter
What a fantastic start to a fresh new epic fantasy tale.
So let’s start with this. The blurb says Rage of Dragons is Game of Thrones meets Gladiator. Well it’s very like Gladiator in many ways, but to say it’s anything like Game of Thrones is doing a disservice to both parties. This book is nothing like GoT. Nothing.
I think this is my first African-inspired epic fantasy book. I certainly can’t remember reading another one. It has a distinct flavour to it from the beginning through to the end, and it really helps to focus the immersion. In a market still largely populated by euro-centric settings, this made the book very fresh to me and I loved it. It felt new, different, and unique.
The narrator, Prentice Onayemi, was fantastic. He really helped bring the characters to life and put a lot of heart into the performance. A narrator can make or break a book when it comes to audio and Prentice certainly helped make this one. It’s fair to say I’ll be continuing the series in audio when future installments release.
So RoD is the story of a civilisation at war with its neighbours. The Omehi people are refuges/invaders and have been fighting against the native population for two hundred years. The war is unwinnable. They’re also a people who have built their society around not only war, but a rigid caste system designed to benefit those of strong blood (basically people who are taller and stronger in this case). Oh, and 1 in every 1000 (I think) women are born gifted which gives them magical powers that can tear a person’s soul out of their body into the underworld, enrage a person to make them giant killing machines, or even call down dragons. Thrown into this world we follow Tau, a commoner with no gifts or special power, or any prospects other than being just another expendable soldier. But Tau has something no one else has… a singular purpose, a drive that makes him push himself beyond his abilities and beyond his station.
There’s a lot of fighting in this book. The world Winter has created revolves around war and we follow a young man training to be a warrior. The fighting is well done with a good balance between description and narrative flow. It works well.
We only really have the one character arc. Tau is our only Point of View (mostly) and he develops naturally. At times he is frustrating as the hells, but then you don’t want your character to be perfect. Still… I wanted to crawl inside the book and slap some sense into him once or twice.
There’s quite a few twists and turns throughout and though a couple are obvious, others are not so much. It also does a fantastic job of setting up the conflict and world for the next in the series. This one is epic fantasy and makes no apologies for it. I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes next.
I have a couple of gripes. There’s some single chapter point of view swaps that make no sense to me. The rest of the book is told through Tau’s perspective and swapping heads just twice was odd and jarring. There’s also a few turns of phrase that were so awkward they pulled me out of the story to scratch my head and in one case laugh… in the middle of a gruesome battle scene. Oh and a sexy-time shaving scene. Ok, that last one is a personal niggle because shaving scenes aren’t sexy, they’re weird and awkward.
I enjoyed the hell out of RoD and can’t wait to continue with the story. I’ve no idea when book 2 will be coming out, but I’ll be picking it up as soon as it does.
I’m going with 4.5 stars for this one so I can round it up to 5. 😀