Today on The Tattooed Book Geek I am pleased to be taking part in the blog tour for The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter by featuring an exclusive interview with Evan Winter.
The Rage of Dragons is published today (yes, I’m honoured to be part of the blog tour on publication day) so before the interview, I would just like to wish Evan Winter and The Rage of Dragons a happy publication day and say that I wish you huge success with the book as it truly deserves to be a hit, do well and be read and loved by many.
My thanks to Nazia Khatun for the tour invite, Orbit Books and Evan Winter.
I have already read and loved The Rage of Dragons, describing it as:
“The Rage of Dragons itself is a blood-soaked revenge tale with added depth and a whole lot of heart”.
Instead of just linking my review to this blog tour post I am going to include my review after the author interview. So, if you missed it when it was originally posted then you can catch it this time and well, it is a fantastic book, it deserves to be shouted about and my review is pretty cool too.
The Rage of Dragons.
- Hardcover: 544 pages
- Publisher: Orbit (18 July 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0356512940
- ISBN-13: 978-0356512945
- Amazon UK / Amazon US / Book Depository
The Omehi people have been fighting an unwinnable war for generations. The lucky ones are born gifted: some have the power to call down dragons, others can be magically transformed into bigger, stronger, faster killing machines.
Everyone else is fodder, destined to fight and die in the endless war. Tau Tafari wants more than this, but his plans of escape are destroyed when those closest to him are brutally murdered.
With too few gifted left the Omehi are facing genocide, but Tau cares only for revenge. Following an unthinkable path, he will strive to become the greatest swordsman to ever live, willing to die a hundred thousand times for the chance to kill three of his own people.
Interview with Evan Winter.
1 – Would you please tell us about The Rage of Dragons?
I grew up reading Epic Fantasy and it’s still the main thing I read. I love its wonder, magic, its tales of heroism and, especially, the questions it asks about humanity, society, and the world.
So, given all the things I love in our genre, The Rage of Dragons is exactly the Epic Fantasy that would keep me up all evening turning page after page without any concern for the next day of work or the loss of an entire night’s sleep.
My main hope when I was writing, and now, is that there are enough readers out there who enjoy the same things I do.
2 – If you had to summarise The Rage of Dragons in one sentence, what would it be?
The Rage of Dragons is the Spartacus TV show with magic set in bronze-age Wakanda.
3 – Where did the idea for The Rage of Dragons come from?
It’s my attempt to tell myself the perfect Epic Fantasy story (for me). The story came out of that. I kept asking, what would it take for a fantasy to be something that I would have no chance of putting down? And now, because Orbit bought the series, I have to hope RAGE will be that kind of story for at least a few other readers.
4 – What was your favourite part of writing The Rage of Dragons?
You know, it might have been the prologue. It flowed out of me effortlessly. It seemed to exist on its own apart from anything I was doing and it came through full-formed in a single writing session. Meanwhile, the rest was… sooooo not that at all.
5 – If you had to make a music playlist to accompany The Rage of Dragons what songs would be included?
Heh! I do have a playlist that I listen to occasionally while drafting (sometimes I have to write in silence though). I named the list HERE’S WHAT I FOUND (inventive, I know), and here are a few choice cuts:
- All The Stars by Kendrick Lamar & SZA
- The Greatest by Sia
- Tiimmy Turner by Desiigner
- Burn It Down by Daughter
- Freedom by Steve Angello ft. Pusha T
- Underdog by Banks
- Lost On You by LP
6 – If you had to choose the ideal drink and snack combination for a reader to enjoy whilst they are reading The Rage of Dragons what would you choose?
I wanna say that you should go with your favorite soft drink and a big bag of popcorn cause who doesn’t want to think of their book being experienced like an IMAX movie? When I’m writing, though, I often default to either coffee or bourbon (Woodford Reserve or Maker’s Mark) and my favorite treat are Fuzzy Peaches.
7 – Do you have any hints at what we can expect from the next book in the series?
The world opens up a lot more. In The Rage of Dragons, Tau goes through some crazy things, but he only catches at the edges of the larger game that’s at play. In book 2, he becomes part of the game.
8 – When did you decide to become a writer?
I laughed when I first read the question because it’s such a good and tough one. When did I decide to become a writer? I did at around 7 years old when my primary school teacher asked us all what we thought we might want to be when we grew up. I did again in high school when I wrote plays that were performed competitively in North America’s largest drama festival. The third time I decided to become a writer, I was in my 20s and working in film, hoping to become a writer/director. The most recent time, this time, is the one I hope that sticks, and it’s the time I thought of myself the least as a writer. I just had a story I needed to tell before something took me from this life, so I started telling it. Now, considering the surprising good fortune I’ve had, I hope I get to tell it and many more. I love getting to do this. It’s everything you imagine writing all day to be and more, and also it’s so much worse. It’s hard and draining and glorious, and living inside my head in the world with these people speaking their stories and truths to me is endlessly fascinating and the purest joy I’ve ever experienced. It’s also stupid hard to make myself put the words on the page and I honestly can’t tell you why that is.
9 – Why do you write/What inspired you to become a writer?
As a writer, I’m motivated by the search for truth. In every word I put down, I try to understand, a little more clearly, this life, this world, and the multitudes with whom I share it. I’m not necessarily seeking some objective truth (if it exists at all) but, instead, I’m searching for anything that rings true and speaks to me deeply. I’m searching for the moments in narrative that give me pause or elicit strong emotion. I’m searching for the things that make me human and unique, and individual, while also unmistakably connected to everyone who has come before me, lives alongside me, and will come after me. It can feel selfish, because I write to understand and calm myself, but I do sincerely hope that there will be readers for whom the stories offer some small truths, understanding, or launching points to much greater things as well.
10 – What do you find to be the most rewarding part of writing?
The moments where the things that are happening in the story or the things the characters are saying ring true to me. The most rewarding part is when I hit those moments. And, when I say that, I don’t mean that I’m finding any sort of objective or permanent truth. It could be that the thing that feels so right will be wrong for me in a few years, but I can’t control or know that. All I can do is be as honest with myself in the moment as is possible, and I think I can feel when those moments come and that’s immensely rewarding.
11 – What do you find to be the hardest part about writing?
12 – If you were asked to give one piece of advice to an aspiring writer what would it be?
Writing advice can be troublesome because it’s often said that everyone needs to find their own way and that we should all focus on doing what works for us. So, to kinda get around offering direct advice to others, I’ll tell you the most important thing about writing that I learned for me: OUTLINE. Before I set a single word to page, I know every single story beat in the entire book. My outlines are roughly twenty percent of the finished book’s length. A six hundred page book will have a one hundred and twenty page outline. Excessive? Probably. But, I don’t get writer’s block and I don’t have doubt in my drafting because I know the story will work out (for me) since I’ve already read it fifty or sixty times over as “Coles Notes.” I think most new writers fail because they don’t finish. I think most new writers don’t finish because they become stuck and lost in the soggy middle of their novels. An outline prevents the most common reason for failure. So, to Evan, I would say, outline. Sadly, I’m not sure what advice to give anyone else.
13 – The Rage of Dragons was originally self-published, how did it feel when the series was acquired by Orbit Books?
I felt overjoyed at having attracted the attention from one of the Big 5. I felt worried about what they might want to change or control. I was glad that a series contract meant I could focus exclusively on writing instead of also having to split my time between marketing, hiring illustrators, designers and narrators, as well as managing the actual technical parts of publishing in self-publishing. The biggest thing for me when I signed was that it meant I could just write. I could spend my time, energy, and hours practicing my craft and, hopefully, growing as a writer. That was the biggest thing at the time. Since then, I’ve been so pleased to work with Orbit because the team there are either the best actors I’ve ever met (and I worked in film for almost two decades) or they actually LOVE Science Fiction and Fantasy and have a deep, deep passion for books, readers, writers, and all the people who surround the readers and writers. Many organizations can start with passion and lose their way, their ‘why’. Orbit, as far as I can tell, knows their ‘why’ and that makes it an inspiring place to be.
14 – When writing are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m a hardcore plotter. I literally need to know every beat, every character’s name that will appear in the book, and most of the scenes have word for word lines written out for them before I begin drafting.
15 – Have any authors influenced your work?
Everyone I’ve ever read influences the way I write. That’s a bit of a side-step, I know, but I imagine you’ve heard the old, “writers must read?” Well, while working on book 2 it’s been hard to do much reading, but I’m trying because I believe I write so much better when I’m immersed in reading. Everything influences me and all of it becomes part and parcel of my world of stories and storytelling and the larger that world becomes, the more I have to pull from.
16 – What are your top five favourite books?
I am awful at favorites and I’m currently trying to find the kinds of voices that I didn’t grow up being able to read so that, in a few years, I might have an answer for this question that will look very different from what it would be right now.
17 – If you were writing your autobiography what would you call it and why?
IN SPITE OF MYSELF feels like a title that captures most of me and my BS.
18 – When you aren’t writing how do you like to relax?
With family, by reading, or playing video games. I also really enjoy Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but stopped training to finish book 1 and don’t think I’ll be able to start up again until the draft for book 2 is finished.
19 – If you could change one thing about the state of the world, what would it be and why? – your answer can be serious, fun or both.
I’d ask that each of us be born with more innate empathy. I think that would solve almost everything that screws us up and puts us in places where we hurt one another.
20 – Do you have any last words for the readers of this interview?
If you can, be kind to yourself and to each other. We could all use more kindness.
The Rage of Dragons Book Review.
(originally posted on my blog on May 16th, 2019)
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Some books start quite slowly, setting the scene, others, they start with a bang. The Rage of Dragons is one such book, starting with a bloody sword thrust through the chest cavity, one that explodes out the back in a profusion of action.
After fleeing their previous home, the land of Osonte and a catastrophe known as ‘The Cull‘ the Omehi are newly arrived on the shores of Xidda looking for a new home but the current population has other ideas. What follows is a violent battle (highlighting the powers of the Omehi Gifted and the strength of Winter’s ability to write detailed and dynamic battle scenes that populate the whole of The Rage of Dragons right from the get-go) and many die on both sides. The Hedeni (also known as the Xiddeen the original inhabitants of Xidda) are overwhelming the Omehi, with no wish to flee and as a last gasp, the last roll of the dice, the Omehi summon a guardian (dragon). The dragon turns the tides of the battle, the Omehi win and in Xidda they have a new home.
The book then jumps forward in time to nearly two hundred years later, the Omehi have settled on Xidda but the war against the native Xiddeen (the Hedeni) is still ongoing, it hasn’t stopped and on both sides, blood is still being shed.
Tau is a normal Omehi from the Lesser caste, his role, at best is as an Ihashe in the endless war against the Hedeni. If he fails to get past the test to graduate to the Isikolo and the Ihashe training then his fate will either be as an Ihagu, the fodder of the military, those sent in first to battle, those whose role in the fighting is to die on the battlefields, to end up as carrion, nothing more, the walking dead, bones turning to dust. Or, if he refuses that then as a drudge, less than servants, nothing, a slave.
Tau doesn’t want to be a fighter, he lacks the stomach for killing and would rather work in the keep than go to war but regardless of his chosen path he first needs to pass the Ihashe testing and then the arduous training that follows. However, fate is a cruel mistress and something happens, something that shows the class divide within the Omehi people, the gap between the Lesser castes and the Noble castes (the Lessers are seen as being lesser, they are less than the Nobles, held down by the class system, low blood, low born, less, the law favours the Nobles, allowing them to treat the Lessers with contempt and as glorified servants) and Tau loses everything. He loses everyone close to him, hardening him, turning him to stone and his thoughts of the future change, warping to revenge and vengeance against those who have taken everything from him.
The only way for Tau to legally achieve his goal, his revenge is to gain military status by passing the training from initiate to become an Ihashe and then, he can, in all legality challenge those above him, those of Noble blood, those responsible for his loss to blood duels.
This is what The Rage of Dragons is, a revenge tale of the highest quality and a tale that is propelled along by Tau who is the fiery core, the ferocious spirit and the driving force of the story.
For a large portion of the book, Tau is blinkered. The Ihashe training he undertakes is simply a means to an end, a way to get his revenge and he doesn’t care about the war between the Omehi and the Xiddeen. Then, later on, his eyes are opened and he realises that there is more at stake than just his quest for revenge, it is still his goal, his purpose but he can see that fate of the entire Omehi people is in the balance. The Omehi are losing the war, with each cycle less and less Gifted are being born, and there aren’t enough Nobles either. The vast hordes of the Xiddeen are attacking more and more frequently, pushing the Omehi back, sensing weakness in their enemy, gaining ground and preparing for the killing stroke.
To survive the Omehi people need to change their ways, their old ways, the rigidity of the castes, from Common/Lesser through to Petty Nobles through to Greater/Royal Nobles is out-dated and people like Tau can only rise so far before they reach the glass ceiling. As a people they are dying out, fading away, every life should matter, every life should be equal and that is what Tau is also fighting for, his revenge but also for the life of a Lesser, a life that should be worth the same as that of a Noble, they all bleed the same.
The Omehi have Gifted at their disposal, only Omehi women can be Gifted and can safely access the power of Isihogo (Isihogo is the demon world where the power the Gifted use is pulled from). It is a land where demons dwell, a twisted version of the real world with muted colours and swirling mists. Those who are Gifted can hide in Isihogo, they can cloak themselves, mask their presence so that the demons can’t see them. There are different powers available, an Enervator can use power to unleash a wave of energy temporarily sending the souls of those hit with the blast into the land of Isihogo at the mercy of the demons that inhabit the land and incapacitating them. Time passes slower in Isihogo and an Edifier can use it to carry messages to others far away. An Entreater can use the power to bind their will to that of another (that is how the Gifted control the dragons). Finally, an Enrager can channel the power of Isihogo into an Ingonyama (the best Noble fighters in the Omehi military) amplifying their size, strength and speed and turning them into hulking huge behemoths.
As a land Xidda is arid, dry and dusty with sparse food supplies and water, harvests are small and living off the land is hard. The rage of Dragons feels like Winter is only skimming the surface, caressing the skin rather than burying the blade in the flesh of his world with much more waiting to be discovered in the future books.
I liked Winter’s writing and felt that it flowed well, there was always something going on, something that moved the story forward, there is a depth to the characters, the story and the world, the pacing is fast and there is the occasional touch of emotion and humour added to the mix too.
There is something comforting, something familiar about The Rage of Dragons but, at the same time, there is something new, something refreshing about it too. It is an outstanding debut from Winter, a book that includes everything that is good about modern fantasy and a book that fully deserves to be a hit. As the main character Tau is someone that you are invested in, the other characters who fill out the rest of the cast all have a role to play, the Omehi, the caste system and culture of the Omehi, the politics, the Xiddeen, the magic and the demon-infested realm of Isihogo and finally, the dragons (they are only sparingly used, they are the last resort in any battle, they are devastating, calling them in has a cost, they destroy everything, ravage the world and there is an additional cost to the Gifted too) all have a place in the story, all are used to form the whole picture and combined together all help to create what is an electrifying read.
From the beginning to the end The Rage of Dragons is brimming with intense action and heart-pounding spectacular fight scenes. Whether it is Tau training, sparring/duelling one-on-one or full-scale large battles and huge set-pieces they are all vivid, visceral, weighted and cinematic. Winter has a keen eye for writing the scenes, they have a heft to them, you feel every blow, every punch, every bone-jarring strike and every sword thrust.
Tau can’t change who he is or that the Nobles are bigger with better blood than him and he isn’t even the strongest or the tallest Lesser but he is resolute, driven by desire and internal strength. He pushes himself to the limit and then pushes some more, every time he is knocked back down, he rises back up, he won’t quit, he’ll die before he gives up. Tau is a very human character, his emotions can get the better of him, he can be fallible, foolhardy, impetuous, and rash but he is also determined and relentless no matter the cost to himself as when you are left with nothing, you have nothing to hold you back, nothing to lose. Tau has his hate, his rage that consumes, that devours and that fuels the fire inside, he wants to be more than his birth, he aspires to be more. He is a force of nature, far beyond driven, an oncoming storm as he seeks to improve his skill, to become better than his blood, pushing more, never losing sight of his goal, building strength, stamina, speed, a preternatural understanding of the blade, of fighting.
Tau is like John Wick if you got to see the training that John Wick went through to become an unstoppable killing machine hell-bent on retribution and The Rage of Dragons itself is a blood-soaked revenge tale with added depth and a whole lot of heart.
About Evan Winter.
Born in England to South American parents, Evan Winter was raised in Africa near the historical territory of his Xhosa ancestors. He always wanted to be a writer, but went to university first, tended bars in two countries, became a director and cinematographer whose work has been viewed more than 500,000,000 times online, met a couple conmen in the process, was threatened by UK mobsters in a case of mistaken identity, worked with wonderful A-list celebrities, unbelievably talented unknowns, and became the Creative Director for one of the world’s largest infrastructure companies, all before realizing that the words in his head would never write themselves. So, before he runs out of time, he started writing them.
More to the point, he grew up reading fantasy, loving fantasy, and believing that it’s our stories that make us who we are. He remembers being fourteen and sitting on his bed for countless hours in the summer, reading Robert Jordan with Sarah McLachlan’s music playing in the background. He remembers being transported to brilliant worlds of magic, heroism, conflict and wonder. He remembers the lessons learned when he grew up alongside Rand, contemplated life with Drizzt, fought against hard odds with Druss, rejected a destined life like Sparhawk, and decided that, even if doing the right thing ends up badly, Ned was a good man who should be emulated.
Evan remembers thinking that, though he has but one life to live, by reading and writing he could experience a thousand more.
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