The Fires of Vengeance
Tau continues his journey in the second book of Evan Winter’s unbelievably well-paced series. If you’ve read RAGE OF DRAGONS then you already know what I’m talking about. Somehow, that book ...
- Blackness Present5.0
Tau continues his journey in the second book of Evan Winter’s unbelievably well-paced series. If you’ve read RAGE OF DRAGONS then you already know what I’m talking about. Somehow, that book managed to maintain nearly non-stop action without sacrificing any characterization. It’s a feat that I remain intensely impressed by. I watched a talk Winter had with Brent Weeks about pacing and in it he stated that he made a choice to have Tau as the primary POV and people would either ride with it or put down the book. I think that firm decision has paid off quite handsomely during these two books.
In Rage, Tau is the ultimate underdog. He does absolutely whatever is necessary to become what he needs to be to accomplish his goals. Pushing himself to battle literal demons (which also cleverly work as a metaphor for the internal demons he must confront), Tau becomes mythic and saves the day. But in this book, Tau now must reckon with the consequences of his accomplishments. He’s moved from a foot soldier to the general, from a Myrmidon to Achilles. And for a man on a quest of vengeance, having to be a leader isn’t an easy path to walk.
That serves as the primary struggle in this book. Tau must find a way to hold space in his soul for both leadership and vengeance. And as he finds his way to that balance, you can see him becoming more and more of a hero and less of the tragic man seeking vengeance. It’s a clever and skilled bit of writing on Winter’s part that he can keep Tau relatively the same, but still give him these incremental moments of growth. On its surface, it might be easy to dismiss FIRES OF VENGEANCE as just a mere extension of the first book but there’s a lot of craft growth in it.
Perhaps, the single largest area of that growth occurs in the romantic arc of this book. While Rage’s romance was acceptable and did its job, the one in this book just sings. It feels real, earned and complicated enough to produce a suitable yearning in the reader. Tau and Queen Tsiora are completely meant for each other and the obliviousness of Tau to this for most of the book is so hilariously well-played. I love that the reader can figure out long before him that Queen Tsiora cares for him far beyond matters of politics. Tau may be mythic on the battlefield, but he is certainly human in affairs of the heart.
And the few places in this book where the POV deviates from Tau immediately catch your attention as a reader because you know Winter has been so dedicated to Tau’s POV that someone else getting the chance to speak must be important. It’s what I meant earlier by his choice of sticking to Tau paying off because when he does choose to veer from that, the reader has been trained to understand that it must be for a purpose. And usually, it’s done to show us how the world views Tau’s ascendance and how he sometimes has left the people he cares about damaged.
THE FIRES OF VENGEANCE isn’t a wildly experimental book, but it shouldn’t be. This is mythic storytelling in the tradition of so many other epic fantasy tales before. We talk a lot on the internet about BIPOC getting to indulge in the fantasy tropes that white audiences have been able to for so long. Well, Tau and his grand adventure is such. But snuck in the mix of it all are commentaries about privilege, how complicated true change is and the things we sacrifice when blindly pursuing a goal. These are ideas central to the Black experience, especially when filtered through a colonial setting. I look forward to seeing how Tau keeps pressing forward with all the horrors still facing him.