Published: July 16, 2019
Publisher: Orbit Books
Series: The Burning #1
Pages: 544 (Hardcover)
My Rating: 4.0/5.0
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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.
This book has been extremely well received by the bookish community thus far and I must say, it was a pretty great debut novel. The Rage of Dragons is an African inspired fantasy with, you guessed it, dragons! They actually didn’t play as much of a role in the first book as I had hoped, but I did get pages and pages of epic gladiatorial action and the urge to rise above my station and overthrow my oppressors – oh wait, that’s just the book a’ talking.
The main character, Tau, is of the lesser class and as such he will never become the most elite of warriors or rise above his class. His friend and training partner Jabari is a noble, though not a high ranking one and they will end up going in very different directions in life. After a series of terrible events, Tau’s father is killed by a noble and he sets out to get revenge on all those who played a part in his death, which ultimately leads him to enter the training academy. Once he’s a soldier he can legally duel those who’ve wronged him and he’s set out to become the best swordsman to have ever lived, gifted or not.
Initially Tau is a pretty standard – dare I say it – boring character. I wasn’t crazy about this book for the first few chapters but things suddenly pick up and it goes full on revenge story. Tau is CRAZY. This guy trains from before dawn until after dark and takes on incredible challenges. He’s completely focused on his goal and nothing will stop him. Tau is also a bit of an idiot from time to time but the rest of his scale (academy group) usually reign him in. There’s a smidgen of romance in this book but it certainly doesn’t take the center stage and disappointingly, the dragons aren’t center stage either. For something that was compared to Game of Thrones, I’m not really seeing the similarities. Yeah, there’s some political maneuvering, but it’s largely done off the page and like I said, the dragons aren’t featured prominently in the book. I definitely get the Gladiator comparison though! Plenty of swordplay and gritty, intense fighting.
Overall, The Rage of Dragons was an impressive and well-written debut but I wasn’t in love with it. I’ll absolutely carry on with the sequel because I found it to be a noteworthy beginning to what I hope is an epic series.