This is part of my Indie Book Review series. For more information about this series and what my background is, go here to the first indie book review. Indie Reviews are tagged as such on my blog. Without further ado, here is my review of Rage of Dragons!
Rage of Dragons – Book One of The Burning
- Genres – Dark Fantasy, Sword & Sorcery, Epic Fantasy
- Contains: one sex scene, lightly detailed. Large amounts of highly detailed violence.
I first found this book while perusing the fantasy subreddit. The author, Evan Winter, had just released it and was excited to show the cover off. It is a fantastic cover. He described the book as Game of Thrones meets Dune/Gladiator. While I don’t really feel this is an accurate description (the Gladiator part is about right), it nevertheless had me curious. I picked up the book and decided to give it a read. I’m glad I did.
Rage of Dragons opens up like a lot of epic fantasy, with an event that happened years before the story and with people who will not be characters in the main story, but will lay the groundwork for the setting. The prologue begins with a battle, which in many ways will never end. The battle quickly immerses the reader in the world of The Burning: there are dragons – which shouldn’t surprise anyone with that cover; there is magic; and there is an endless war between two nations.
There’s a lot to process even in the prologue. Names, ranks in the military, titles of leaders – all will be thrown at you in the prologue, but don’t fret if it’s a little confusing. You’ll have more time with all the titles and ranks as the story progresses.
In the first book of this series, we’re introduced to the main protagonist – who I imagine will be the main character throughout the series – Tau. Tau is a young man close to coming of age at the start of the story. His life is spread out before him. While his choices are slim, he still has them, and makes plans to start out his own life in his own chosen way. His plans are quickly dashed with a tragic event, and he is left with little in his life to aim for, aside from vengeance.
At this point, the book becomes all about Tau’s attempt to achieve his goal and avenge those he loved. He joins the military and trains like no one has ever trained before. He takes steps that no one dares to take. He’s not the biggest, or strongest or even the smartest fighter, but he does have more drive than most of his fellow soldiers put together.
Rage of Dragons is Tau’s story. Throughout the book, we follow as he works toward his goal. With every stumble Tau makes, and he makes a lot of them, we cringe at his mistakes. Tau is a deeply flawed character, so much so it can grate at times how stupidly he behaves. Fortunately, Tau does grow somewhat before the story ends. I genuinely am looking forward to reading book two, and hope that Tau’s newfound growth will inform that book and make it an even better read than the first.
Tau isn’t the only character in the book. There are a host of other characters who color the landscape of Tau’s life as a soldier. There is a love interest, a mentor and a smattering of comrades as well as the targets of Tau’s ire. The characters are nicely fleshed out and lend balance to Tau’s intensity.
The setting of the book is highly detailed and easy to become lost in. In the rich landscape, you get the feeling there is a deep lore waiting to be unearthed. The magic system is intricate and revealed over the course of the book, though the explanation comes in rather large chunks and it would have been nicer to have it revealed a little more slowly.
What is done exceptionally is the slow examination of the caste system in Rage of Dragons, and how it effects the lives of those trapped in it. Everything from who you marry to what you get to eat is determined by your blood in this world. The ramifications of how this effects the people of the book is handled very well. It’s a thoughtful and thought provoking examination of caste systems in a fantasy setting. In many ways, the book is less about Tau’s revenge, and more about Tau’s lot in life, being born a lesser and having to cope with that and overcome its restrictions.
Rage of Dragons is well written and highly polished. It’s an excellent entry into a new epic fantasy world. I was quickly drawn in by the story and was up late into the night to finish the book! I’d highly recommend it to people who enjoy lot’s of sword fighting and magic, and of course dragons. And while I wouldn’t describe it as Game of Thrones mixed with Dune, I would very much describe it as Rudy mixed with Gladiator. Tau is Rudy, the not very impressive soldier with so much ambition and drive, he makes up for the lack of skill in every way possible. Instead of a football, he carries two swords. What’s not to love about that?