Tau has been taught two things from birth; that he must fight to safeguard his nation and that he should know his place as a Lesser. But when his skills shame a young noble, it sets off a chain of events that will lead to him devoting himself to a life lived only for revenge.
“The only path to becoming what others cannot is to suffer what others will not.”
My favourite read of the year, so far.
The Fires of Vengeance is the second instalment in The Burning, by Evan Winter. So far, this series is what I would call a masterpiece. I enjoy most books, but rarely do I have no complaint at all. The Firs of Vengeance accompanies The Rage of Dragons in providing a perfect reading experience for me.
When I started reading this, I expected to love it. But, The Rage of Dragons was so brilliant and had so many unique plotting points that I thought this second instalment would not quite reach its predecessor. I am happy to say that I was wrong. So, so wrong.
Before I continue, this is a spoiler-free review, but there might be a few references to The Rage of Dragons. If you have not read the first instalment in this series, I urge you to stop reading right now, and rather, go and buy it both of these books!
“Keep fighting, and I swear that before it consumes us, we’ll burn our pain to ash in the fires of vengeance”
Whilst The Rage of Dragons is one of my favourite books of all time, I had forgotten some of the intrinsics of the ending, and the roles of some characters as well. But Evan Winter subtly provides a summary throughout the first chapter that immersed me back into this world and had the plot up and running without leaving the reader in confusion. This brilliant crafting of pace would set a precedent for the rest of the book.
The Rage of Dragons was described as having aspects of Game of Thrones and Gladiator. In contrast, The Fires of Vengeance does not revolve so much around arena combat as its predecessor does, but it still maintains the well-crafted dynamics between the members of Scale Jayyed. Whilst they are maturer now, it is still similar to Anthony Ryan’s Blood Song and Mark Lawrence’s Red Sister in continuing the always enjoyable tale of a group of friends forged through adversity.
Tau’s desire for vengeance is a driving force for this tale, but I love that Winter has provided extra layers that make this more than just a story for revenge. It shows the rifts in friendships, combats social constructs and offers a multifaceted story that is not simply good vs bad. Tau now has increased responsibilities as champion of Queen Tsiora. He continues to seek revenge, but must make compromises to maintain his role. He is faced with a whole new set of trails and tribulations, as he must either prioritise his duty, or his revenge. He continues to be a fantastic central character who acts as the almost continuous perspective.
I read a while back in Petrik’s review of The Fires of Vengeance that he found the rare chapters attributed to other characters to be a brilliant implementation from Evan Winter. I completely agree. It really showed that whilst I love Tau, from other perspectives he can be seen as a fearsome, monstrous figure. It added another layer of authenticity that showed that there are no clear-cut ‘right’ sides, and rather that each force has their own justifiable motivations.
“Rage is love...twisted in on itself. Rage reaches into the world when we can no longer contain the hurt of being treated as if our life and loves do not matter. Rage, and its consequences, are what we get when the world refuses to change for anything less.”
Overall, I think it is clear that I loved this story. It is paced perfectly, with a wider array of enjoyable characters. It is punchy, intriguing, thought-provoking and really just everything I yearn for in a read. Epic fantasy at its best. It incorporates the right amount of characterisation and small scale interactions and partners it with shocking action sequences of a massive scale that are written beautifully, conveying the confusion of battle but keeping the reader in the loop at the same time.
The Rage of Dragons tells the story of Tau Solarin’s oppression at the hands of the Omehi people’s ruling class, and his ascent into utter badasshood on his quest for revenge. If you are a fan of the ‘training montage’ or ‘leveling up’ tropes, I don’t think I have ever read a fantasy novel that did a better job of portraying a warrior’s advancement; from novice to skull-crushing fucking juggernaut that you had better pray hard you don’t piss off.