Book Review: The Rage of Dragons (The Burning, #1) by Evan Winter

Let me preface by saying I am not the target audience for this book. Black men who enjoy fantasy and military strategy novels are probably the intended audience.

And I’ll admit, I was reluctant to read it for the book club I joined. I read contemporary, literary fiction and science fiction. I hardly ever read fantasy… with the exception of urban fantasy and shapeshifting type fantasy. General Magic, demons, kingdoms, politics, hero’s journey in a fantastical land… and dragons, most especially dragons. I always specifically avoided dragons in books.

Epic fantasy conjures visions of Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. Oh, and Game of Thrones, which I couldn’t get past the first half of the first episode. I am not an epic fantasy lover. Too much violence. Too many characters. Too much of everything.

After reading Rage of Dragons, however, I realize it is the Europeanness of it all that I disliked about “traditional” epic fantasy. Old Europe, white kings and queens, and their subjugation of the poor, indigenous, and racial/religious minorities. Completely unrelatable, caucasian characters.

Don’t get me wrong. Magic is cool. But since Black people never have it in most epic fantasy novels, I wasn’t interested.

This book changed all that. Rage of Dragons is written by a Black author. The characters are Black and the society is a matriarchy. Everything “traditional epic fantasy” is not.

Rage of Dragons is about a Lesser, Tau, the pacifist, who seeks revenge for the murder of loved ones. The trials and tribulations he goes through to obtain the skills to exact his revenge. The book, however, opens with a scene from the past where we are thrust into the action of a high stakes world. Then we enter Tau’s world. Which will not remain mundane for long at all.

The Goodreads summary:

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.

Throughout the whole book, I felt like I was watching the most bada** fighting television shows while reading this book. Like The Badlands type fighting. The whole book was action-packed. Back to back. Nonstop. Can’t put it down even though it’s almost 500 pages.

I don’t know if Evan Winter is an anime fan or not, but I would guess he was inspired by some pretty awesome fighting anime. If he wasn’t, Rage of Dragons might employ common themes/tropes (tropes ≠ bad, tropes are frequently seen elements) of other fantasy stories. Either way, I enjoyed the familiar themes and elements I’ve seen in fantasy television very much. If you like Naruto/Naruto Shippuden, Attack on Titan, and Sword Art Online, you’ll like this book.

The B2Weird book club(@b2weird on IG) had the pleasure of hosting Evan Winter at our book club meeting back in November. We did learn that he has some fighting training (martial arts I believe). He wrote the fighting scenes in a very accessible way—someone like me can follow the action—as I can rarely follow the action of fighting scenes or visualize them in my head, especially in books.

Another feature about this book that I was grateful for and particularly enjoyed was the predominance of one point of view. Most epic fantasy gets carried away with the viewpoints of side characters who don’t matter. But Rage of Dragons was done right. We got to know Tau, and care about him. Rage of Dragons does switch to another point of view for a short while, but it only enhances the narrative rather than detracts from it

I loved it. Have nothing but positive words for the book and the author. Read it.

5/5 stars

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