The Rage of Dragons follows Tau in his nearly impossible journey to take revenge on the nobles who have severely wronged him. Being from a lower class, Tau's only chance at completing his mission is to advance in the military so he can challenge each of the three men responsible for his pain to a duel to the death. An unfortunate hiccup in this plan is that he isn't a large man. He isn't particularly strong or fast, and the nobles have all the good genes and training. He has all of the determination but none of the privileges. And that ever widening gap drives Tau to some truly stunning feats as he attempts to become the greatest swordsman in the land.
I suspect I know what you're thinking. A revenge story about a "farm boy" who wants to be the best swordsman? Yawn. Is he also the chosen one prophesied to save the princess and save the world? Next.
HOWEVER! This is why I told you not to read what the book was about. Because it is the execution, the subversion of tropes, and the aggressively brave choices Winter makes along that journey that makes this book SO DAMN SPECIAL.
The world is so full realized, the characters so beautiful developed, and the action is so precisely written that even if you're apprehensive about the general plot, you'll be hooked from the start. It combined everything I loved about the Poppy War, Best Served Cold, and the Way of Kings with a twist of classic fantasy to produce a unique story that stands head and shoulders above most everything I've read this year.
I don't know that I've read something that so aggressively ticks all of my boxes.
Social commentary? Check.
Fascinating magic system? Check.
Brutal fight scenes? Check.
Incredible characters? Check.
Bittersweet heartbreak? Check.
Subverted expectations? Check.
The list goes on.
This isn't just another fantasy novel that deserves it's place on a shelf and nothing more. The Rage of Dragons will be one I evangelize about for years to come. It will sit in my brain beside Senlin Ascends and Kings of the Wyld as books I need to have multiple copies of so I can lend them at a moment's notice.
The Rage of Dragons sets a new bar for fantasy, and I genuinely can't wait to sink my teeth into the next one.
I'm giving this one a Douglas Adam's type rating...6/5.