Ahoy there me mateys! I wanted to read this book as soon as I saw it because it was marketed as African-based fantasy with dragons! Cool right? Well I have to admit that I struggled with this book for many reasons:
The dragons – I adored dragons and there just weren’t enough of them in this book. The dragons are important to the culture but most of the page time of this book was war training and demon fighting. I have no problem with either usually but with dragon in the title I expected way more dragons! And how the dragons are used is a bit lame and was a disappointment.
The culture – I liked the African influences that I did see like names and descriptions of landscapes but have to admit that it felt very surface level. I think this was because of the focus on the military stuff and not on other areas of the culture. I believe this could have been remedied by other pov characters – like a female perspective.
The women – The women are said to be important to the culture but I didn’t really see concrete evidence of it in the book. With the focus on the male military training, the women did not really get much page time. The Queen and the female sorcerers all seemed to have no real power and be dominated by the whims and rules of the men. And outside of Zuri (the love interest) many times the powerful female sorcerers had their magic fail because they couldn’t handle it. Also if I remember correctly, most of the women’s magic only works on men to support them in battle. As for the common people, one of the main non-sorcerer women was a rape victim who died. Where are the strong females? Really Zuri (who was me favourite character) was the only fleshed out female character who also showed real girl power. The exception to the rule it seems.
The Colonization – I understand why the Omehi people have fled and are looking for a new home. I sympathized with their wishes for survival. But it did seem rather sad that the goal of the Omehi is to kill off the native people and steal their land. That makes me feel squidgy. And because the Omehi people’s culture itself has problems with caste and politics, I kinda didn’t like them and did sometimes root for the “savages.” I am not sure if this will be addressed in later books but it’s hard to read a book when ye aren’t really cheering on either side.
The military training – I did actually like the combat training between the castes and a lot of Tau’s training. I like the combat style he ends up with. I just felt that there be too much emphasis on the details of day to day training and not enough on the characterization. With the exceptions of Tau and Zuri, everyone else felt rather flat.
The plot – I really loved the set-up and introduction of the book. It was much stronger than the rest of the novel. Once the main character, Tau, begins to work towards revenge the book became less original and less compelling. And I really wasn’t a fan of the climax or ending.
So this book ended up being a disappointment. I think it be because the bones of the story seemed strong and it did not meet its potential. And just enough time has passed that I know I have no urge to read any of the other books in the series. This may just be the case of the wrong book for this reader cause many of the crew are giving it lovely reviews. I would be interested in giving the author’s work another chance but this debut series doesn’t work for me so it must walk the plank!
Goodreads has this to say about the novel:
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.
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