Review: The Fires of Vengeance (The Burning #2) by Evan Winter

Rating: 9/10

Synopsis

Desperate to delay an impending attack by the indigenous people of Xidda, Tau and his queen craft a dangerous plan. If Tau succeeds, the queen will have the time she needs to assemble her forces and launch an all-out assault on her own capital city, where her sister is being propped up as the ‘true’ Queen of the Omehi.

If the city can be taken, if Tsiora can reclaim her throne and reunite her people, then the Omehi might have a chance to survive the coming onslaught.

Review

A brilliant continuation combining Evan Winter’s excellent prose, characterization, world building, and edge of your seat action.

Thank you so much to Orbit Books for giving me this eArc. Receiving this advanced copy did not affect my review in any way.

This was my most anticipated read of 2020. Book 1, The Rage of Dragons (review here) was my favorite book of 2019 so being able to get an early copy was like a dream come true. I really enjoyed this book.

“Keep fighting, and I swear that before it consumes us, we’ll burn our pain to ash in the fires of vengeance.”

The first thing I want to focus on is our main POV character Tau. Tau was my favorite part of the first book. His relentless determination, single minded focus on revenge, and incredible drive made him very compelling. For all that Tau was very compelling in the first book, he also felt somewhat one dimensional at times because how extreme his focus was. I don’t mean this as a criticism of The Rage of Dragons. It made complete sense that Tau would be who he was in the first book. His wounds were fresh and he was a very broken, hurting character. In The Fires of Vengeance we get more nuanced character development from Tau. He is still very driven, but he developes other motivations throughout this book that make him even more interesting to follow. He even begins to heal a little bit throughout the narrative as he grows close to those around him and begins to believe in something greater than himself and his own revenge.

“This is the choice you need me to make?” Tau asked, choking up. “A choice between woe and wrath?”

It was great getting to know the side characters more in this one as well. Queen Tsiora was a huge highlight as we get to see the weight of the crown on her head, while also getting to see the real personality behind the monarch’s mask that she is forced to wear. Hadith, Uduak, Themba, and Yaw are great as usual. Watching this band of brothers struggle together, grow along side and support each other was another one of the highlights of this novel. Each has their own distinct personality that adds value to the story and their loyalty and love for one another is moving.

I think the last series that I read that had me this emotionally invested was The Faithful and the Fallen by John Gwynne. In The Fires of Vengeance, there was not a single moment I wasn’t engaged in the story. The prose creates a raw, visceral feel to the narrative that can’t help but suck you in and make the reader feel as if the characters you are following are family. You feel their pain as they go through loss. You feel their rage as they face injustice, death, and betrayal. You feel their joy as they band together and find moments of intimacy and love in the face of all that opposes them. You can tell that Evan Winter poured his heart into this story and its characters and in my opinion, that is a huge part of what makes him a great writer.

“I can smile and talk as sweet as cane sugar. I can follow every rule you’ll ever make, and it will never be good enough for people like you, because people like you don’t see me as people.”

Tau and his friends’ continue their fight against the Nobles who have kept the Lessers and Drudges down, deeming them less than and unworthy of even basic human rights. There are new players vying for power and new circumstances to navigate. The stakes are heightened by the never ending hedeni threat, looming portents of the Cull, traitors multiplying among the Omehi, and a war coming that could cause the extinction of the Omehi race. If The Rage of Dragons was a fast paced thrill ride all the way, The Fires of Vengeance is a methodical, tension filled build up to a cliffhanger of a climax. The curse of reading this early is that I will now have even longer to wait for the next installment. I need to know what will happen!

“The powerful, in Tau’s experience, kept seeing the loss of their desires as being world ending without ever once stopping to realize that for people like him, every day held that potential already.”

This story is epic in every sense of the word. The world expands organically as our protagonists are forced to find new and creative ways to defeat their enemies. I loved learning more about the Cull, the history of the Omehi people, and the realm of Isihogo. Every snippet, every single piece of information that was given had me more intrigued and invested in the story as I went along.

I love this magic system. More and more I have been recognizing the value of a magic system with costs, realistic progression, and high consequences for failure. This one has it all. The magic is used in unique ways which brought even more uncertainty and tension to the plot. And of course, there are dragons. Enough said.

This was a fantastic continuation of the tale of the Omehi people and their struggle for justice and survival. I cannot wait until book 3 comes out so I can see where this story will go next! You can preorder The Fires of Vengeance at the links below the cover. Release date is November 10th!

*Quotes were from an advanced reading copy and therefore might not be in the final product*

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