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ARC provided by the publisher—Orbit—in exchange for an honest review.
Cover illustration by: Karla Ortiz
The Fires of Vengeance by Evan Winter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: The Burning (Book #2 of 4)
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Pages: 528 pages (UK Hardback)
Published: 12th November 2020 by Orbit (UK) & 10th November 2020 by Orbit (US)
The Fires of Vengeance is an excellent sequel. If Winter can keep this impressive quality up for the remaining two books, the series is guaranteed to be included in many fantasy reader’s lists of favorite fantasy series.
Two things first. One, can we first appreciate that cover art by Karla Ortiz? The cover art of this series is simply stunning. Just look at it, I thought the cover art of The Rage of Dragons was superb already, but Ortiz managed to create an even better one for The Fires of Vengeance. Second, I want to thank Winter for writing this novel; it appeared to me at the right time. Last month was one of—if not—the worst reading month I’ve ever had in my reading career. I’m not kidding; half of the total number of books I read last month received a 3-stars or below rating from me. Two books I read in September actually took me eight days of struggle to finish even though they’re about 700 pages long. For comparison, none of the books in The Stormlight Archives or Malazan Book of the Fallen ever took me more than a week to finish even though they’re like 500 pages longer. The Fires of Vengeance, though, oh my goodness, I must say, it felt so damn satisfying to read an epic fantasy novel that’s equally page-turning, intense, and emotional again.
“Keep fighting and I swear that before it consumes us, we’ll burn our pain to ash in the fires of vengeance.”
The Fires of Vengeance is the second book in The Burning quartet by Evan Winter, and it’s the sequel to the blazing debut The Rage of Dragons. In my honest opinion, The Fires of Vengeance successfully took the wonderful foundations established in the first book, and Winter ignites them to a new height. As the stories continue immediately from where the first book left off, Tau’s quest for revenge continues to be the main driving strength of the plot. However, at its core, I like to believe that The Fires of Vengeance is not only about revenge; it’s about resistance, it’s about finding and accumulating the collective strength to fight back against injustice. Enough is enough, and I loved reading about it. Plus, we also get to learn a great deal about the world-building and history of the series here, especially regarding Isihogo, the Caste, and The Cull.
“There’s more of us than them, and when we finally refuse to survive on the scraps they throw us, our numbers will make all the difference.”
Similar to the first book, most of the narrative is told from Tau’s POV. I have to say, the more I read about Tau, the more similar he and Darrow from Red Rising Saga by Pierce Brown became, and I loved it. I know Darrow isn’t a popularly well-liked character among many readers of the series, but there’s something extraordinarily adrenaline-pumping about his journey that compelled me insanely; that’s what I also get from reading this series. I highly enjoyed reading Tau’s inspiring determination; suffering and pain constantly visit him, but he won’t back down. One of the biggest improvements I found in this book, though, is related to fixing the small issue I had with the first book. In my review of The Rage of Dragons, I’ve mentioned that it’s a missed opportunity that the role of the female characters was close to non-existent despite being repeatedly praised as Gifted or powerful in the storyline. Thankfully, Winter has completely redeemed that issue with justice here. The addition of Queen Tsiora, Nyah, Esi, and many other strong female characters to the already great cast from the first book made the storyline more exciting, and more importantly, it made me care towards more characters than before. This is what I wanted and expected from the text in the first book, and Winter delivered them satisfyingly with incredible precision.
“Nyah told me that life, like love, is meant to be shared and that we are least linked to our own selves when we have no one with whom to share what we are. None of us are meant to go through this life alone.”
Speaking of characters, either I have forgotten how good Winter was in the first book, or he has tremendously improved his strength in characterizations here. It’s understandably easy to get caught up in Tau and his journey, but if you haven’t read this book, I want you to pay attention to the few non-Tau’s POV chapters when you get to this book. For example, there was this one short chapter told from a new POV character named Duma, and Winter managed to make me care about this character within a few pages. I’ve read books that take me two or three full novels to get me invested in a character. Winter, like many other fantastic authors, did it in a few pages; that’s something magnificent. I have always wondered how Tau looked like in the eyes of his villains, and when Winter put one of the villains as the POV chapters, his talent for characterizations truly shines. From the villain’s perspective, it makes you really wonder who’s the real villain here; Tau himself looked like a demon from their view. When it comes down to it, the conflicts could be boils down to the fact that both sides think they’re in the right.
“You call me a monster because I won’t let you treat me like my life is worthless, a thing to be used and thrown away?” it said. “You call me a monster because I refuse to live like you think I deserve? If that’s what you mean by monster, watch me be monstrous!”
It felt so effortless for me to submerge myself into Winter’s engaging writing and well-written action sequences. The pacing and momentum building in The Fires of Vengeance were impeccable. Winter has a talent for pacing his narrative and building the emotions within each scene gradually before finally exploding them in immersive violent confrontations. Oh yes, believe me, this sequel is a much more violent and bloody—with more dragons and demons—novel than its predecessor. The reminiscent-to-Dark Souls training montage made a return, the tension-packed duels were spectacular, and the scale of the violence in this sequel gets more brutal and destructive. Tau’s wrath left blood in his path, and who remained from the ruin will continue to do the same. Vengeance begets vengeance. Blood begets blood. Death begets death. It’s a never-ending loop of sorrow and loss. Maybe the price of war can be measured by the number of victims of atrocities. Reading Winter’s action sequences is a delight and gripping experience because they’re so well-written and vivid, but what made Winter’s action sequences even better was the empathizing emotional conflicts and intensely important themes attached to the battles.
“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.”
I’ve read and reviewed more than 400 fantasy books now, and my instincts scream that The Fires of Vengeance has efficaciously proven Evan Winter as a future big-name in the fantasy genre. This is, without a shadow of a doubt, an exceptional sequel that succeeded over its incredible predecessor. The characterizations are better, the stakes are higher, the scales of the battles are bigger, and the devastations inflicted are grimmer. The Fires of Vengeance is being released next month in November alongside other future best-selling books in the epic fantasy genre like Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson, The Burning God by Rebecca Kuang, Call of the Bone Ships by R.J. Barker, The Stone Knife by Anna Stephens, and several more. I’m confident in saying that you would be giving yourself a massive disservice if you decided to skip on this in favor of the others. Instead, here’s a better option, buy/borrow and read them all. Consider November as a celebratory month to treat yourself, and consume this absorbing story about war, resistance, camaraderie, and justice.
“Evil must be punished or it will continue undeterred until it consumes all that is good.”
Official release date: 12th November 2020 (UK) and 10th November 2020 (US)
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
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