The swords-and-sorcery genre deepens its presence on the African continent with this rough, tough page-turner replete with demons, dragons, and really bad dreams.
To the grand parade of brooding swashbucklers and formidable warriors striding along the thoroughfares of epic fantasy, one can now add the name of Tau Solarin. As this saga opens, Tau is a novice swordsman who hails from a rural village called Fief Kerem in a coastal corner of a mythic ancient Africa where the Omehi, or Chosen, people live in ongoing, centurieslong conflict against the Hedeni. Among the Omehi, caste divisions are strictly defined and often brutally enforced. And young Tau, who refers to himself as “High Common,” is still considered a “Lesser” even by friends who are placed in the higher “Noble” stratum. Even after Nobles and Lessers band together to fight Hedeni marauders and dragons, they battle among themselves for status and honor. And when Tau’s father steps in to fight in his son’s place and is killed under a Noble’s command, Tau vows revenge on all who abetted the murder. Exiled from Kerem, Tau finds his way into a military academy, where his physical prowess and intense diligence soon separate him from other recruits. In the midst of his training, Tau reconnects with his childhood love, Zuri, now among the so-called “Gifted” caste of mystic warriors who help Omehi soldiers fight the Hedeni. What Tau learns from her about magic enhances his considerable virtuosity in combat. The further Tau gets into his warrior identity, the more chaotic and complicated the world around him becomes. Gradually his burning desire for vengeance is all but overpowered by a nascent yearning to bring lasting peace to his battle-scarred land. Winter’s debut novel, already a self-published cult sensation among fantasy fans, is rife with vividly orchestrated battle sequences, whether the fights are between two people or vast armies. And the action is unrelenting, at times even overpowering. Sometimes you wish Tau and his comrades would take longer breaks between both mock and real battles. The relative novelty of this saga's African setting will draw comparisons with Marlon James’ Black Leopard, Red Wolf, though Winter’s novel is less stylistically ambitious and more formulaic.
Hardcore fantasy fans will find this an absorbing, fast-paced table-setter.