Genre: Adult Fantasy
Year Release: 2019
Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Vomiting, gore, blood, body horror, incineration
Since this book came out, many people whose reviews and tastes I respect encouraged me to read it. But they didn’t tell me why, and for that, I am miffed at them (not really, not at all).
In a world ravaged by war, Tau loses his father and vows revenge on those who betrayed him. To do this, he enrolls in a battle school to become the greatest swordsman who ever lived. The challenges along the way include battles against women who can call dragons from a demon dimension to Enrage warriors into becoming horrific beasts of battle quite literally and the nobility who sneer at him for his caste and underestimate him at every turn.
This book is an absolute treat for anyone who enjoys giant battles, big stakes, heart-wrenching personal tensions, and, of course, dragons.
I love Tau as our protagonist. He is incredibly badass, but also incredibly stupid. He has a singular focus and that is to kill the nobles who betrayed him and killed his father. The book starts with bloodshed and keeps going with the bloodshed. That being said, I wouldn’t call it grimdark because the violence is not just for the aesthetic. Each battle Winter includes highlights a moment of growth for Tau or a moment of world-building for the reader. They are quickly paced and do not linger. There were moments when I just slipped into the narration, where “one more chapter” turned into an hour of listening to the audiobook later and, oops.
The supporting characters are also incredible, with their own character arcs and complexities within the world. My personal favorites are Zuri, Tau’s childhood crush and a Gifted, and Udwak, his enormous brother-in-arms. Both reveal new things about Tau and the war-torn world he inhabits. The evolution of Tau from an angry young man bent solely on revenge to an enraged young man who actually considers consequences was endearing to watch through each spray of blood. These characters, I’d say, help him a lot on that journey.
In addition, without spoiling anything, Winter expertly explores caste and social structures in ways that remain consistent with the rest of the narrative. It is as intriguing as the physical aspects of the book, and I cannot wait to start Book 2 to see what new perils await Tau and the Omehi people.