African-inspired Bronze-age fantasy with piles of caste based tensions, crazy sword battles, interesting magic, demons, dragons, and the distinct feeling that the ‘good guys’ might not actually be that good after all.
I’m reminded a lot of Ender’s Game (which I love and need to re-read at some point) in that you have a surprisingly good soldier that manages to train harder and break the rules, breaking down society as he goes. It’s a lot darker though and Tau (said soldier) is motivated almost entirely by vengeance. It’s… a lot to read at times, but it fits. Man he’s stupid at times for it though.
It’s a great book and worth the read.
My favorite part of the book is probably the worldbuilding and magic. It’s a culture I’m not as familiar with, so I’ve no idea which parts were adapted from real world beliefs and traditions and which Winter made up whole-clothe, but that’s exactly the point. It feels real (and terrible) all at once.
“The demons from Isihogo cannot harm you, but they’ll make you suffer,” the sword master explained. “Once enervated and forced into the underworld, you will be attacked by the things that exist there.” Jayyed had the men’s attention, and even Chinedu held his coughs. “In war, a talented Enervator will hold your spirit in Isihogo until the demons have torn it to pieces, forcing it out of their realm and back to ours. This is worse than it sounds. The victim feels the agony of the demon attack as if it were real, and the experience is incapacitating. It renders men senseless on the battlefield, where they can actually be killed.
The entire concept of the dragons and Isihogo is fascinating and dark–magic, but at quite the cost. Add to that how Dragons work in this world. Wonderful.
Conversely, the terminology and names did give me pause for a while. Once Tau starts the ’training montage’ the cast is small enough that it got easier, but I still am not 100% sure I know who everyone is. That’s as much if not more something in how I read and how my brain works as the book’s fault though.
Still, as I said. Worth the read and on to the sequel!