I went into this book knowing nothing other than people kept raving and recommending it to me. I hadn’t actually read the reviews though. I saw them pop up on Reddit and on Goodreads, but I passed them over because I deliberately wanted to go into this blind. I’m glad I did because if I read that it was a coming of age story revolving around revenge for the deaths of people he cared about, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. I would have thought I had heard that story enough times that I wouldn’t enjoy it yet again. Oh, but I did. It’s amazing what effect telling the same story from a different perspective has for ‘freshness’.
It took a little while for this story to get going. The first 25% was an introduction to the world, its people and the various castes they belong to. Eventually, it starts to come together, and as it turns out, it’s a vengeance story. The nobles have taken from Tau everything he held dear in the world, and he was cast out of his village, the only home he’s ever known. He’s sworn to come back and to kill them all. There’s a secondary plot, a larger scale problem for Tau’s people as a whole. They have bitter rivals they’ve warred against for generations, and it’s commonplace for there to be raids on various villages. Raids used to be conducted by one of the many rival tribes they contend with, but, in one of the most recent raids, the bodies of those left behind were of multiple tribes suggesting an alliance never seen before.
There are demons, unique monsters, men that can enlarge themselves (like Hulk), women who can meld into dragons, which all feels very high fantasy. But, it’s also touched with familiarity. Tau likes avocados, the planet feels somewhat Earth-like but with more monsters and dragons, and there are strong Xhosa and of African cultures. There is a rigid caste structure that’s strictly enforced. It can mean death for you and everyone you love, your extended family, and possibly your friends too if you anger someone above your station.
At the very bottom of the social structure ar ethe “drudges”, people barely treated as human by the rest of society. From there, there are many other classes, commoners, petty class nobles, lower class nobles, nobles, high nobles, governor class, royal nobles, and The Gifted (I’m probably forgetting some as well). One in a few thousand women is able to bond with dragons and call them to the Omehi’s defenses and they are ont the same level as royal nobles. They are ruled by a Queen and there’s never a real “King”, instead, the Queen takes on a protector whose secondary job is supplying her with an heir. It’s a respected position, but it’s not on the same level of a Queen. There are interesting physical differences between the classes as well, governors are slender and tall, nobles are taller still and have natural warrior’s builds.
Tau is split class, his mother was a higher rank than her father, and technically your station in life is based around your mother’s caste… except Tau’s mother abandoned him and his father, leaving him in a lower class lifestyle and upbringing. He’s meant to be a warrior, his life has revolved around the fact that one day he will follow in his father’s footsteps and become a soldier. The problem is Tau despises fighting and is so desperate he wants to injure himself on purpose so he can come back instead of training. I found him to be a pretty likable, if naive, character.
The pacing slowed for me a bit in the middle while Tau was training, and there were a few things that landed a little too conveniently for my tastes. That said, I enjoyed myself enough to read this 550pg book in just a couple days.
TLDR: African influenced coming of age story complete with warrior training. Women can bond with dragons and men can go Hulk. A brewing war between tribes, a society steeped in rigid class structures, all of which surrounds a revenge story.
- Plot: 12/15
- Character: 12.5/15
- World Building: 13/15
- Writing: 12/15
- Pacing: 11/15
- Originality: 13/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 8/10
Final Score: 81.5/100