A Literary Discussion of ‘The Rage of Dragons’ by Evan Winter

Overall Rating: Recommended (How I Rate Books)

For Epic Fantasy Fans: Highly Recommended

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Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Dragons, African Fantasy, Military Fantasy, Grimdark(ish)

Similar books:

Previous books by the author/in the series I’ve reviewed:

  • None

For this review I’m going to do something a little different. I am going to be reviewing this book as though I were an alpha or beta reader of it. What is an alpha or beta reader, you ask? When an author is getting ready to publish their book they give the unfinished manuscripts to readers who will comment and critique the manuscript so they can be improved before being published. In this case this is published already, so my critique will be for the purpose of showing all of you how I, an (aspiring) author would critique the work of another author.

Spoilers ahead!


CONCEPT AND EXECUTION

What is the Rage of Dragons about? It is an Epic Fantasy novel, and it is a good one. Epic Fantasy is the subgenre known for sprawling worldbuilding, expansive plots and lots of characters (think the Wheel of Time as the apotheosis for this subgenre). It features a Bronze Age African inspired civilization, with matriarchal elements. It features sub-themes of military training, dragons, awkward teenage romance, revenge, environmental degradation, castes, multi-generational tribal war and genocide. It is a Third Person Close Perspective novel, told from the perspective of Tau the warrior with the occasional perspective from other characters.

The author did a good job of executing on the whole Bronze Age African aesthetic, creating a tense revenge story in the process.

PLOT

The Omehi people fled from their homeland 200 years prior to the events of this novel, when their civilization was wiped out by a great army known as the Cull. The survivors washed ashore on the peninsula of Xidda, where the Omehi used their ability to enslave dragons to wipe out the locals and claim the peninsula. The Xidda peninsula is desolate and not very fertile, so life on the peninsula is rough. What food is grown is rationed carefully, so the Nobility gets enough to eat while the Lesser and the Drudge castes frequently starve. The natives of the Xiddan continent, known as the hedeni, are engaged in a war of revenge/survival with the Omehi.

  • The author made a very intelligent choice in his worldbuilding by making the founding story of the Omehi being one of conflict and domination. The Omehi took the land of the hedeni, and the hedeni are angry about it. That conflict propels the plot. I like that the Omehi don’t seem like saints.

There are many different castes, but they are divided into three major types: the Nobles, the Lessers and the Drudge. The vast majority of the people are Lessers: they perform all the basic functions of society, from farming to teaching people to acting as a militia, with each role having a subcaste devoted to it. There is no moving up in society. The Nobles rule over the Lessers, but even the nobles live in a highly stratified system. There are Petty Nobles, Greater Nobles, Royal Nobles and more. Finally the Drudge is the lowest, untouchable caste. You cannot be born Drudge (I think), but instead become Drudge by electing to not participate in mandatory universal military conscription fighting off the hedeni. Being a Drudge is basically a slave. The mingling of these different castes and subcastes (I.E. sex between castes) is taboo.

  • The use of castes in this story did a lot to propel the plot and character interactions… but it could have been better. At the end of the book there was a minor Lesser uprising against Nobles, but I felt that it was not sufficiently foreshadowed. Additionally the hedeni’s ultimate plan involved the outlawing of castes. I think the author could have combined these two plotlines, and perhaps had the hedeni+Tsiora+Jayyed+the Lessers in the peaceful alliance instead of just the hedeni+Tsiora+Jayyed. The author missed this opportunity.

Tau is the axis around whom the narrative revolves. Tau is the only son of a Lower Common father and Upper Common mother, putting him near the bottom of the Omehi (Omehi= protagonist civilization) caste system as well as making his life taboo (he’s the product of a mixed marriage). Tau’s father is an Ihashe warrior (Ihashe= the best Lesser warriors).  Tau’s long-term girlfriend/betrothed is Zuri and his friend/superior is Jabari. Zuri was born Lesser but was elevated to Gifted(meaning she has magic and is now Noble). Jabari is a Petty Noble.

  • I liked how Tau/Zuri/Jabari interacted early in the book, a lot. I was disappointed when the three of them split up at the end of Act 1. The three met up again and worked together at the end of Act 3, but by then it was too late. I think the author should have merged their plot arcs so that Tau/Zuri/Jabari met up again and interacted in the middle of Act 2.
  • MAJOR SPOILERS: For example, when Tau attacked the Nobles in the middle of the book (p.288) the author could have included Jabari in that scene and had Jabari choose to side with the Nobles over Tau. Then at the end of the book when Jabari sacrifices himself to save Scale Jayyed that sacrifice would have even more meaning. This was a missed opportunity.

Tau’s life is thrown into chaos when the hedeni attack their tiny hometown. Tau kills someone to save his town, and is traumatized by it. Tau decides he doesn’t want to be a warrior. Tau wants to stay at home and marry Zuri, not fight. However society demands that Tau become a warrior. So Tau plans that once joins the military he’ll deliberately injure himself so he can get an honorable military discharge.

  • This is a great conceit for a character. Tau ends the book a great warrior, but starts the book as being sickened by the prospect of hurting people. A+ to the author, he pulled off this part of Tau’s character arc very well.

When Tau, Tau’s dad, Jabari’s brother Lekan and Jabari go to Jabari’s military initiation, things go horribly. A nobleman friend of Lekan tries to kill Tau in a fit of rage. Tau doesn’t die, and Tau is nearly executed for his impudence of defying a noble. Tau’s dad instead sacrifices himself so his son can live. Tau swears to get revenge on the four people who escalated the situation and caused his dad to die.

  • And thus the revenge plot begins. I loved this, the author handled these chapters very well. My one quibble is that in the chapter in which this happens the author introduces so many different people at once that I got confused (Okar, Dejen, Odili, Kagiso…). I wish he named fewer people in that chapter, so I had an easier time focusing on the villains of this story.

Tau and Jabari go home, Jabari’s initiation failed. Lekan insults Tau for causing this situation, and Tau punches the brother. One thing leads to another and Tau is banished. In revenge for Jabari’s brother’s part in killing his father, Tau kills Jabari’s brother then flees.

  • I don’t like the ‘Evil Aristocrat’ trope. All of the Nobles in this book basically fall into this trope to one extent or another. I would have liked if the author had more good nobles. All the villains seemed to have the same boring personality, ‘I’m the villainous rich guy’ attitude. I find it lazy writing because I see it so often.

Tau goes to his military initiation. It’s a contest, where he has to beat ten people to get into Ihashe school. The only problem is that Tau is shorter than average, weaker than average and not as well trained as others. Tau has to use his cunning to win. In his final round he’s paired against an unstoppable juggernaught, and there is no way to win. But instead of conceding and not going to Ihashe school, Tau refuses to give up even if it means being beaten to a pulp. That fight ends with a draw, with both Tau and the juggernaught going to school.

  • This section of the book was really well done. I wouldn’t change a thing. I liked that Tau had to think creatively to win some of his fights, such as for example willingly allowing his enemy to hit him on the head to disqualify his enemy and thus win the fight on a technicality. If anything, I wish the rest of the book was like this chapter. Later on Tau is such a badass he stops having to think creatively to beat his enemies, so something was lost after this point.
  • Also, I liked Tau and Uduak’s friendship as it started here. They had a GREAT arc together. Uduak starts as the stronger of the two and he hates Tau; they become friends as they work hard at school together; Tau gradually exceeds Uduak; in a fight Tau nearly kills Uduak; they fall out of friendship; Tau apologizes, and finish the book better friends than ever. That was some nuanced storytelling.

They go to Ihashe school, and the Training Montage begins. I’m not going to rehash the whole training montage because I don’t remember it all. They’re in Ihashe school from about p160 to about p375, which makes this the Act 2 of this book. I am of the opinion that this was the weakest of the three Acts of this book.

Now I’ll get the good part out there first: I think this book has the best Training Montage I have read recently, if not ever. I liked it better than I liked Rin’s training montage in ‘The Poppy War’ or Nona in ‘Red Sister,’ two books which wound up in my Top 10 for their respective years. (NOTE: When I say this I am being entirely subjective, so don’t take my word as gospel.) Winter did an excellent job of gradually and visibly improving the power level of his main character. Tau started Act 2 usually losing fights, and gradually increasing his skill over the Act so by the end he was beating 1v3 matches. And it worked. My suspension of disbelief was never tripped up.

  • I liked Tau practice-sparring against demons. That was a brilliant way for Tau to keep on improving even after he exceeded his tutors. This was a great decision by the author. My one wish was that there would be more consequences for dealing with demons. The main consequence of this is that Tau is going insane and seeing demons everywhere. For me, that wasn’t enough. I wanted more.
  • For example, maybe Tau fighting so many demons started turning him into a demon… so Tau would be repelled by garlic/statues of the Goddess/holy water. I wanted non-psychological consequences for Tau’s choices. In the end nothing came of Tau seeing demons everywhere in the world, so I wanted more consequences.

This book had three plot arcs: Tau and Zuri’s romance, the hedeni war and Tau seeking revenge. In Act 2 Tau and Zuri’s romance advanced slightly, Tau seeking revenge advanced slightly, but the hedeni war didn’t advance.

  • The focus of this Act was on the training montage, of Tau sacrificing his free time and sanity to improve as a fighter. The montage was a great read, but in the end the author lost sight of what was important. Every minute the narrative focused solely on training was a minute spent not focusing on advancing the rest of the plot.
    • Ideally every scene in a book should advance multiple plot elements.
      • This Act 2 would have been more gripping if he trained against a captured hedeni warrior instead of against his fellow Ihashe acolytes
        • This would advance the hedeni plot and allow him to have the cool montage at the same time. We would learn more about the hedeni from their perspective.
      • Or if he trained against Kellan and the other Indlovu at the isikolo in single combat
        • This would advance the revenge plot and allow him to train at the same time. We would learn more about the nobles from the perspective of the nobles, getting their perspective on why they’re all jerks.
      • Another option for the author would be for the hedeni to attack the Ihashe school in the middle of this act, to advance the hedeni plot. As it was the hedeni weren’t major players for the middle 70% of the book.

And the Tau/Zuri romance. The bulk of it occurred in Act 2. I have to say that for me at least their romance was enjoyable. It was excellent when Tau was a bumbling, awkward teen who clearly is more comfortable around sharp weapons than around girls. It was excellent when Zuri behaved like a jilted lover when her teenaged Romeo stood her up on a date. It was at it’s best when they behaved like two hormone-fueled teenagers struggling with figuring out how to handle a relationship between someone in the highest of castes and someone near the rock bottom of castes. Thankfully most of the time their romance was like this, two bumbling fools who love one another more than either have common sense.

  • Why do I say I like their bumbling romance? Because it’s authentic. Sure, it’s not as mature as an adult romance, but the characters weren’t adults. The author did an excellent job of depicting their immature love, making it feel genuine and star-crossed.
  • Yes I had some problems with their romance. For example, the deus ex machina event when Zuri and Tau have a reunion on p.210 by bumping into one another on a city street. But overall the author did a good job of it.
  • Additionally I like how Zuri and Tau have such a hard time getting together, on account of the difference between their stations.

Unfortunately there were two occasions when Zuri became the mouthpiece for exposition. The author needed someone to talk about the magic system and talk about dragons, and Zuri (being a Gifted) was the best person to give answers. When Tau needed to learn about how to go to the underworld and spar against demons, Zuri was the one to explain to him the rules of how to do it. And later the audience needed to learn about the fact that there was a dragon in the basement of the Guardian Citadel, Zuri just mentioned it in casual conversation with Tau.

  • Now there’s nothing wrong with using Zuri as the source of knowledge about magic and dragons. The problem is that I felt she used stilted dialog to do so.
  • For example, when she brought up the fact that there was a dragon in the basement of the Guardian Citadel. (p. 350 of the hardback edition) One moment they were talking about their relationship, then they randomly change subjects to talk about Gifted shrouds for a paragraph, the hedeni for a paragraph, entreating men for a paragraph, entreating dragons for a paragraph, and then finally the fact that there’s a dragon in the basement. All in a page and a half.
    • All of this was important, plot-relevant worldbuilding which needed to be discussed. All of it felt unnatural in the context of the romance scene it was set in.
    • It felt to me, the canny reader, like the author was forcing exposition and foreshadowing into a scene where it seemed out of place. The author needed to provide this information, but he could have done it without just stuffing it in there.

While at military school, the author focuses so much on the training montage for Tau’s 1v1 combat skills that he neglects talking about the army vs army strategy and tactics. I got the impression that Ihashe standard military tactic was inspired by the Zulu ‘buffalo horns’ formation (aka a pincer movement). The author needed to do more than the vague allusions that we got if he wanted me to believe the military tactics in his novel (yes, I’m a military tactics guy so I’m picky. But having 1v1 fighting skills wins battles is delusional).

  • The author missed the opportunity to have Tau lose fights because he got cocky and thought he was invincible, and proceeded overextend and get his team killed (aka classic Reinhardt syndrome). Tau basically was invincible towards the end of the book, so having his ass handed back to him for not being humble would have advanced his character arc significantly and added nuance to his character.

Act 3 was an extended series of battles, which is a strength of this novel. The author did a good job of making his fight scenes carry weight. People get hurt, both good guys and bad guys. Too often I read books where the heroes don’t get wounds in pitched battle. Not here. Characters regularly get concussions, broken bones, burns, cuts and worse (demon-death is YIKES).

  • Indeed, at times I feel as though the characters get TOO wounded. We have characters who explicitly have broken bones, but they keep on fighting. They get stabbed, but keep fighting. They get hit over the head, but keep fighting. Honestly I had a little trouble suspending my disbelief that so many injured people can keep on going. The book happens over the course of a few months, and in that time the characters are injured so many times that they should be a walking ball of injuries by the end of the book. It would have helped my suspension of disbelief if the Omehi had healing magic or something similar to explain how these people can keep on going.
  • Additionally, IRL sword fighting is exhausting. More, fights often don’t last more than a few seconds, even for swordmasters. It seemed like Tau et. all could just keep fighting for hours, which dampened my suspension of disbelief. In the end I just decided that this book was based off of Hollywood logic and stopped caring.
  • MAJOR SPOILERS: Also, characters die. My complements to the author, he doesn’t hold back. The good guys do not have plot armor. The author’s willingness to knock off named characters upped the ante for the survivors. (See Wash and Shepherd syndrome from ‘Serenity’ for another example. Also RIP)
    • Honestly, in my personal subjective opinion I think the author went too far. By the end of the book basically all of Scale Jayyed was dead. The author won’t have Scale Jayyed as characters to rely upon in future books in the series. He could have killed only four or five named characters and still driven the point home without wiping out the entire Scale.
  • I wish Tau used cunning to defeat his enemies more often. I like that Tau is a brash, reckless young man, but in the real world brashness can get you only so far. He was cunning when he deliberately allowed himself to be hit on the helmet to DQ his opponent. If he used that cunning more often it would have made the combat more spicy.
  • The final battle against the KaEid +Dejen went a little weird. The KaEid did not Enervate Tau, instead she Enraged Dejen. Why didn’t she Enervate Tau? She didn’t know he was immune to Enervation, she just skipped Enervation entirely and went for Enraging. I wanted to see a bad guy try to Enervate Tau, but that didn’t happen. The narration even hung a lantern on the KaEid not Enervating Tau! (hang a lantern= to call attention to an inconsistency in the story) She could have Enervated Tau, failed in stopping him, and then Enraged Dejen. This absence was just… weird.

Now about the meta-plot of war vs peace. Tau sides with Queen Tsiora and Jayyed over the nobles in desiring peace with the hedeni, which is well and good. However I think this plotline could have been handled better. The secret marriage alliance was introduced as a plot point 2/3s of the way through the book, by which point I thought it was too late.

  • The second Act was entirely hedeni-free. To be quite honest I forgot about them. THIS IS BAD. YOU DO NOT WANT YOUR READER TO FORGET ABOUT YOUR VILLAIN.
    • I think the author could have had the hedeni attack the isikolo. Such an attack would remind me, the reader, that the hedeni are the big picture threat compared to the small picture threats of Kellan, Dejen and Odili.
  • There’s an old writing truism which goes as follows: Show, Don’t Tell. We were TOLD repeatedly by the various characters that the Omehi were losing the war against the hedeni. We were never SHOWN it (until the climax, but that’s too late). The author needed to SHOW the hedeni winning the war early on.
    • This could be done by featuring the aftermath of battles or burned villages, for example. Show, don’t tell.
  • As mentioned previously, I felt as though the Lessers could have been brought into the peaceful alliance with Tsiora, Jayyed and the hedeni. The Lessers would have benefitted from peace, just as the Nobles benefited from war. This was a missed opportunity to increase inter-caste conflict between Lessers and Nobles, adding more tension to Omehi society and further justifying Tau’s hate for the nobles, thus making the truce at the end between Tau and Jabari/Okar more meaningful.
  • I don’t think the marriage alliance should have been secret at all, but a well known peace process. (Bonus points if Tsiora and Kana were actually in love with one another, so when they are separated at the end of the novel it hurts the reader more.)

The revenge plotline felt slightly unbalanced. Tau wants to kill four people in revenge for his father’s death: Lekan, Kellan, Odili and Dejen. He kills Lekan in the Act 1 climax. He kills Dejen in the Act 3 climax. He doesn’t kill anyone in Act 2. This leaves Act 2 feeling slightly plot-lopsided.

  • I’m not even sure this lopsidedness must be fixed, the book works fine even with this ‘flaw.’ Take this lopsidedness as more of a personal opinion sort of thing.
  • I do like how Kellan’s redemption arc. It could have been done better (more on this later), but I liked that the author attempted it.

MAJOR SPOILER: And about the elephant in the room, Zuri’s death. On one hand the author did a good job of making me not want her to die, on the other hand the author did a good job of foreshadowing it. I’m torn on whether I liked this trope. I’m not sure if Zuri was Aerithed, of if Zuri was Fridged.

  • Aerith was a character from Final Fantasy 7, who famously sacrifices herself partway through the game to advance the plot and pluck the player’s heartstrings. ‘Fridging’ is a derogatory trope used for when the loved ones of the protagonist are killed to advance the character arc of the protagonist. Fridging is derogatory because usually female characters are killed to advance the character arcs of men. Aerithing is basically the same thing as Fridging, but not tacky. Aerith’s death was meaningful for the player as much as it was for the protagonist, which makes it acceptable. Fridging basically serves only to motivate the plot (think the deaths of the Punisher’s family. We never met them, so we don’t really care about them. They were Fridged), and thus is bad.
  • In this case, Zuri sacrificed herself to save the Omehi people. I’m inclined to think her death was on the Fridging end of the spectrum. Zuri needed more character development and agency to make her death an Aerithing. A few POV scenes from Zuri’s perspective would have addressed this issue.

The Last-Minute Hedeni War felt… abrupt. The explanation for why the hedeni were attacking occurred in Chapter 15: CONCLAVE. CONCLAVE occurred after the war started, not before. That scene should have happened before the war so the protagonists had the opportunity to try(and fail) to prevent the war.

  • Chapter 15: Conclave also contained some stilted expositional dialog (in my opinion).

The plot overall was well constructed. All of these criticisms are small ones, and weren’t enough to take away from my enjoyment in a major way.

PACING

Act 1 established the characters and worldbuilding slowly, Act 2 provided a kickass Training Montage which sometimes got repetitive, and Act 3 was a thriller railroading the protagonist to the story’s conclusion.

The book was really well paced. It began slowly, with Tau as a civilian dreaming of marrying the love of his life. At the end of Act 1, with his father dead and on the run for killing a guy, the pacing ramps up fast as Tau’s desperation and drive for revenge takes over.

Act 2 is mainly a ‘going to military school’ Act, and the pacing suffered slightly, the narrative feeling like we were treading water because Tau’s life focused so much about repeatedly training. The treading water feeling passed when Tau started dueling demons. I still liked the Training Montage overall.

Act 3 was fast paced, almost too fast. This Act had too few tender moments of characterization, relying instead on violence and combat to drive the reader to the end. Overall the author did a good job of creating a cohesive story pacing-wise.

CHARACTERIZATION

Tau has a great character arc. As mentioned, he starts with few ambitions besides love, and he ends the book a kinda-demonic embodiment of war. Tau’s character arc is what makes this book special: he put this story up on his back and carried it to victory. I’ll waste no more words in his regard.

Zuri needed more agency. She appeared and acted as Tau’s love interest, and the source of exposition for the setting’s magic system. I liked their romance, but Zuri needed to have an independent existence from Tau. I wish she got a POV section or two so she got the chance to be more fleshed out, making her sacrifice more meaningful. As she will not be reappearing in future books, she won’t get that fleshing out.

Jabari was the Ace to Tau’s Deuce at the beginning of the book, and then he disappeared. I wanted him to appear again in Act 2, so we could have an Ashe Ketchum vs Gary Oak sort of vibe of him versus Tau. But he didn’t appear again until the end of the book, and when he did reappear it felt sort of like an afterthought.

Jayyed and The Scale. What an interesting concept! A bunch of halfbloods who have to prove themselves to the world. Uduak was my favorite of the scale, because he had his own character arc. The rest of the scale was pretty good, most of them seemed to have their own unique personalities, but none were up to Uduak’s level. Jayyed was a perplexing character: raised Lesser, but at the same time genetically Noble. He aspired to prove that the Lessers greater than people believed, but was too jaded to actually think he’d succeed in changing the world. Great character for his nobility and flaws.

Kellan needed more time in the oven. I get that the author wanted to do a redemption arc for him, but the groundwork for it just wasn’t there for the Heel-Face-Turn. Again Show, Don’t Tell. Zuri told us that Kellan was a good guy. Jayyed told us that Kellan was a good guy. So Tau just… sort of… forgave Kellan? I didn’t buy that Tau, the guy fueled by a demonic bloodlust for revenge, could forgive Kellan that easy.

  • I feel as though that the author tried to change our minds about Kellan in Chapter 13- KELLAN OKAR (p. 410 hardback edition). I didn’t like when the narrative did this, because the author pauses in the middle of a killer fight scene to give us three pages of boring introspection from Kellan. We were in the middle of a pulse-pounding fight, but it was interrupted for three boring pages of introspection? That abrupt halt to the enthralling combat frustrated me so I skipped the boring bits to get back to the fight. It was the definition of out of place.

Odili, Dejen and the hedeni warlord didn’t seem like 3D people to me, more generic bad guys. Odili was a generic evil snooty noble, Dejen was a generic evil proud warrior, and the warlord was a generic genocidal maniac. A lot of the nobles were generic bad guys, including the random one who stabbed Oyibo. The Nobility as a rule seemed like halfbaked villains.  But honestly 75% of the villains in the fantasy genre are halfbaked so this isn’t a devastating critique (it’s a devastating critique of 75% of the genre, but not this book in particular).

PROSE AND STRUCTURE

I liked the Chapter-Subchapter structure the author used. It was unique and cool, and made for frequent places to put your bookmark. I hope more authors use this innovative structure going forward.

On the stained glass window/windowpane glass spectrum of prose beauty (stained glass= beautiful prose for the sake of beautiful prose, windowpane glass= lucid and simple prose for the purpose of not obstructing the reader), I felt that this book was on the windowpane glass side of the spectrum. The author didn’t go out of his way to write beautiful words a la Guy Gavriel Kay or Patricia McKillip. The author occasionally had some nice turns of phrase, but overall the book was not ostentatious.

One problem I did have was how this book was told from 95% Tau’s perspective, 5% random other people’s perspective. I feel like the author should have either done 100% Tau or 75% Tau/25% everyone else (including some Zuri bits to give her more to do).

SETTING AND WORLDBUILDING

Reading this book reminded me of when I read ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe years ago, as well as ‘Who Fears Death’ by Nnedi Okorafor. Specifically, Act 1 in the village where Tau has to grow up, pass initiation rituals and train with his father and Jabari. I’m not very well read in modern African literature and African SciFi so maybe I’m just imagining things, but I did get some African vibes while reading this book. So good job to the author.

Ordinarily I don’t like books which go overboard on weird words. If a book has a glossary at the end of it, I’m prone to not liking it. This book was an exception. I felt like all the weird words fit the world naturally as outgrowths of their society, not as outgrowths of the author’s imagination. Similarly, the African-inspired names served to bring me into the world. The world just clicked into place. Well done to the author.

I liked the magic in the setting. Anyone can access magic, but it comes at the cost of risking being ripped to shreds by invisible demons. Spooky! I also liked how summoning dragons inevitably results in at least one sorceress dying as a result of the conjuring. It made the dangerous magic system feel that much more dangerous.

I did have a problem with the worldbuilding, though. It’s a personal problem and I could totally see why no one else would have it, but here it is: the hedeni are winning the war. Why is this a problem? The hedeni are suffering from a universal disease as well as suffering from a lack of resources. A society in which EVERYONE is sick and who’s land is in the middle of a fertility crisis really shouldn’t be able to engage in a two-century long war of conquest against a technologically superior civilization (I assume the Omehi are superior tech-wise because they have bronze swords while the hedeni use spears seemingly near-exclusively. The presence of so many bronze swords suggests advanced metallurgy.).

  • All hedeni suffer from a dragon-disease. The Omehi dragons spread a mystical plague upon the hedeni, blighting people and the land so both are less fertile. Under these conditions the hedeni should be on their back foot, weakened. By all rights the Omehi should be the ones engaged in a war of aggression against their weak neighbors.
  • Now it was hinted in the text that the disease has been cured. Was it cured? I needed details.
  • How do the logistics of the hedeni invasion work? The lands surrounding Omehi territory are all blighted and infertile thanks to the dragon-disease, so no one can live there. The hedeni must launch invasions from beyond that infertile land, importing food along with them as they go. They can’t invade by sea, thanks to the Roar. The logistics of this overland invasion would be a nightmare for a strategist. But the hedeni are somehow doing it, bringing armies in the thousands by foot overland. Thousands of sick, undernourished people marching through hot, blighted lands. Why aren’t they dying of heat exhaustion while marching to the Omehi valley?
  • Is this a plothole? I don’t know. Maybe the author will reveal some secret explaining this weird detail of worldbuilding.

 

 

Overall, great book. All my criticisms don’t mean I hated it; far from it. I’m a guy who’s read thousands of stories, which gives me some perspective in pointing out little niggling bits which could have been changed. My opinions aren’t gospel, and indeed might be wrong. These are my thoughts. I hope you enjoyed them.

And if by some chance Mr. Winter finds this and reads it, I want to say thank you. I had a great time reading your book.

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