The Burning 01: The Rage of Dragons

The Burning 01: The Rage of Dragons

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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.

Goodreads, Synopsis

Review

The Rage of Dragons is fast paced; it starts with an all-or-nothing battle and doesn’t stop to take much of a breath after that—there is always something going on. You might think that would sacrifice some of the worldbuilding or character development, but it doesn’t.

The story focusses on Tau, told almost exclusively from Tau’s third-person perspective. This permits the book to flow at the pace it does—you aren’t being redirected to a variety of characters and story arcs.  The development of Tau is excellent; his emotions and attitude to his circumstances are entirely believable—he’s relatable. Essentially, the book is a tale of a Tau’s thirst for revenge, his single-minded quest to become the greatest fighter among his people, at any cost—and boy is he willing to pay a high cost! At cost that would break the mind of almost anyone, if not everyone else.

The society of the Omehi people is caste-based, with Tau being a “Lesser Common”. A caste that puts him close to slavery if he is unable to qualify for a military role. The society is also martial; it has to be given they‘ve been fighting the same war for 200 years. A war that is unwinnable, despite the ability of the Omehi to call on Dragons. They were forced out of their own lands (something you learn about partially throughout the book—I’m sure there is much more to come in future books), across the sea and ended up on the peninsula of the land they no inhabit. There numbers are far smaller than the surrounding tribe, which is why they can win battles but not the war.

Given Tau’s ambition, the backdrop of a never-ending, unwinnable, war and a martial society, you can probably surmise that there are a lot of battle scenes, which there are. I don’t always enjoy reading battle scenes, but Winter does it brilliantly—I couldn’t put the book down and read it in one day.

“I can’t imagine a world where the man holding a sword does not have the last say over the man without one… I have felt the mercy of armed men, and they will never find me helpless again.”

Tau

The book is described as “Game of Thrones meets Gladiator”. It certainly has a Gladiator vibe to it, though I don’t see the Game of Thrones aspect much. Yes, there is some political manoeuvring, but nothing like Game of Thrones which has a wide cast of characters. Though, I can see the potential for that aspect to come to the fore much more in the sequel.

The magic system felt refreshing with power drawn from Isihogo—the underworld, littered with demons. It’s a balanced system, nobody is an all powerful being, with only woman known as Gifted able to access the power and for a limited time. There is a nice synergy between the Gifted and some warriors, where a warrior can be buffed, becoming a very powerful being known as an Ingonyama. It is also the Gifted who are able to call Dragons.

The only reason I haven’t given the book a full 5-stars is because parts of the story were a bit predictable. I don’t want to give away any story details or name characters in this regard to avoid mini-spoilers. That said, this is as good a debut novel as you are likely to ever read. It’s excellent, engaging and thoroughly enjoyable. It’s a must-read and I’m super excited for the sequel.

“The days without difficulty are the days you do not improve. The days you do not improve are the days the men behind you close the distance.”

Jayyed