MY ⭐️ RATING: 5/5
Format: Kindle Whispersync
The Omehi people have been fighting an unwinnable fight for almost two hundred years. Their society has been built around war and only war. The lucky ones are born gifted. One in every two thousand women has the power to call down dragons. One in every hundred men is able to magically transform himself into a bigger, stronger, faster killing machine.
Everyone else is fodder, destined to fight and die in the endless war. Young, gift-less Tau knows all this, but he has a plan of escape. He’s going to get himself injured, get out early, and settle down to marriage, children, and land. Only, he doesn’t get the chance. Those closest to him are brutally murdered, and his grief swiftly turns to anger.
Fixated on revenge, Tau dedicates himself to an unthinkable path. He’ll become the greatest swordsman to ever live, a man willing to die a hundred thousand times for the chance to kill the three who betrayed him.
This is actually a re-read for me, however, the first time was audio only back in 2019 and I only left a rating without a review. I’ve also read like 200 books since then, and what I’ve come to realize is that I don’t retain a lot of information when it comes to audio only, so when I did this re-read with Whispersync it honestly felt like I was reading it for the first time… and now, I’ll definitely retain information on this incredibly beautiful and bloody story.
This is described as a Game of Thrones meets Gladiator story, and with a comparison like that, you really need to hit on all cylinders. Winter does just that, it’s treacherous and exciting with a ton of action that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat to see what will happen next. Winter’s prose is also something to behold, it just flows like butter. I saved so many lines and quotes that I could fill a short story with, it also made it very hard to choose a quote to use. I almost just put every single one on here just so they can be witnessed in all their glory.
“I can’t imagine a world where the man holding a sword does not have the last say over the man without one. If you’re not prepared to fight, you place yourself and everything you love beneath the blades of others, praying they choose not to cut. I have felt the mercy of armed men and they will never find me helpless again.”
The prologue does such a fantastic job of setting up the rest of the story by showing the consequences of battle and the history of the world being set 186 cycles ahead of the rest of the novel. From this moment, Mr. Winter never lets up on the action as we meet the main character, Tau. His development of who he was in chapter 1 to who he is in the final chapter is nothing less than a masterpiece of story telling. His development was done incredibly well and even had a minor tinge of progression fantasy in it as he progressed through the story.
The world that Mr. Winter built was nothing less than incredible. Steeped in African culture and it’s setting, the world and the stakes felt very real. The magic system was one of its many high points, the realm of Isihogo is probably one of my favorite parts of the magic system as it is very spiritually based and makes up some incredible scenes within the story. This is definitely one of my favorite reads of the year and I’m so so glad that I decided to do a re-read of this to refresh my memory. This might be one of those that I read every year just so I can revisit the world. I am VERY excited to continue this series now. I also believe there may be a Princess Bride reference in there, might be coincidental, but it felt like a reference.