Servant of Rage by A.Z. Anthony

Series: Bloodrage Trilogy #1 Rating: 3.5/5
Date of Publishing: April 3rd 2018 Genre: fantasy, dark fantasy, epic fantasy
Format: Kindle Available: Amazon
Number of pages: 346 Author’s website: http://azanthony.com/

Quote of the Book

“He was loath to take her advice because it was the hard thing to do. Because change sounded good and right in conversation but was a damned hard thing to actually achieve.”

Blurb

To kill an heir is to claim their power. But at what cost?

As the khan’s fiercest headhunters, brothers Subei and Bataar are feared across the steppe. When they’re struck by lightning from a freak storm, however, they awake to find unnatural powers growing within them. And what’s more, they’re not alone.

All across the land other “heirs of the ancestors” have been imbued with these powers. Some call it a gift. Others, a curse. The khan calls it opportunity.

Under the tutelage of two infamous women – one a conqueror, the other a monk – the brothers are sent to the lands of the mighty Zhong empire to hunt heirs and consume their power for the good of the khanate.

With each kill, their powers grow. But so too does something else, boiling beneath the surface until it breaks free in uncontrollable fits of violence. As these so called bloodrages grow stronger and last longer, Subei and Bataar must weigh their duty, and their honor, against the unnatural madness growing within.

Personal notes

This book had been on my radar for a while. It got higher on my TBR list when A.Z. Anthony posted an article about his soundtrack to the book. If your soundtrack contains Five Finger Death Punch, Disturbed and my favorite of all Breaking Benjamin, then that’s a book I definitely want to read. It was just a lucky coincidence that Servant of the Rage ended up being in Fantasy Book Review’s group of 30. You can read Adam’s review here and check out our progress on my SPFBO 4 page.

Song of the Book

Though choice. Should I go with the author’s soundtrack and choose a song from there? (They are definitely awesome ones.) Or should I pick my own? Since I approve most of the songs A.Z. Anthony put on his soundtrack, I’ll go with that. Personally I think Wrong Side of Heaven is one of the most perfect choices there is. I like it when you guys make it easy for me 😉

Review

Servant of Rage sent me on a strange time travel thingy. It pulled the right cords in me and gave me a glimpse into my nation’s past. Let me explain. Although we Hungarians are inhabiting this small place of earth in Europe for more than a 1000 years now, our ancestry lays elsewhere. We were a nomad tribe once upon a time, living on the steppe, sleeping in yurts, travelling, riding and we were famous archers (many kings hired us to help them with their petty fights when we arrived to the Carpathian Basin). Once we went on a school trip somewhere to the countryside where we got to sleep in yurts (it was fun) and got to experience some of the nomad life. I vaguely remember there were horses too. Those animals are still part of our culture. Anyway, where I wanted to go with this is that Anthony’s description of the life of the Ghangerai tribe got me kind of nostalgic.

Servant of Rage tells the story of Subei, Hunter of the Gangherai tribe, whose goal in life is to become transcended and earn a name for himself to make his ancestors proud. He is supported by his brothers Baatar and Kashi. I liked how the chemistry worked between these three, the banters, that their personalities fit together. We see and learn everything through Subei’s eyes. He is the reckless smart-ass of the trio who leads his brothers into danger and takes every suicidal mission just to prove himself. Bataar follows him because his goal is to secure his place as the next khan-to-be. He brings the muscle to the party. Kashi is the little brother, with some common sense and a sarcastic sense of humor. He is the one who keeps his brothers’ feet on the ground, the one who keeps them together. Bataar and Subei needs him now more than ever.

“They were brothers, after all. When they’d nowhere else to turn, they had each other. It’d always been that way and always would. Without that, they had nothing.”

The Old Father is dead, and people all over the world – at least lets assume so, since we only read about the Ghangerai tribe and the Zhong empire – find themselves receiving power. Bataar and Subei amongst them. Kemu khan sees his chance and sends them off with a few warriors and two teachers to find and eliminate the other heirs throughout the Zhong empire. Subei and Bataar soon learn that power has a price and they have to choose their own way to deal with it. While Subei seeks the advice of Mahtma, a Theskai monk, and the khan’s advisor, Bataar turns to Ghula, military commander and tactician. Both of them sent by the khan to train the two Hunters with varying success.

It was really refreshing to read a novel set in a world dominated by nomad tribes, to take a look into their lives. The Ghangerai tribe is proud and a bit narrow-minded, thinking they have a right to conquer the world, because this is their nature and other nations’ teachings are bullshit. And everyone fears them.

“He’s scared, Subei realized, looking closer and seeing the man was trembling. That wasn’t unusual. In their line of work, their appearance wasn’t commonly greeted with hugs and smiles.”

They only believe in what they are taught, they are stubborn and sure of themselves. Both Bataar and Subei struggle to accept Mathma’s teachings, because it goes against anything they believe in.

Personally, Mathma and Kashi were my favorite characters, even though we don’t learn much about them. And that’s such a missed opportunity. Since the plot itself is not too complicated – the goal is to find the heirs and ensure the victory of the khanate – it leaves enough space to build the characters up a bit more. Subei’s character has its arc, but the others fell a bit flat. We don’t learn about them, we don’t know what their motives are, we don’t know how they feel. Mostly because we see everything through Subei’s eyes and he doesn’t really give a damn about others outside of himself and his brothers. But then, we don’t learn much about Kashi either, so my logic might doesn’t work here. Anyway, with less focusing on Subei’s self-pity and a bit more on the other characters, this book would have been so much better.

The writing was well done, the prose good, but the pacing have a bit of problems, especially somewhere at the 60% mark. There was a section I found a bit boring and repetitive – actually, I found Subei’s complaining in the second half of the book pretty annoying. To be fair, his distress was understandable, struggling with the ever-present rage waiting to take over one’s body is no joyride. Still, no need to tell me in every chapter how it sucks to be an heir and have individual thoughts for a change instead of following orders. Shit choices and all that aside.

The magic system was interesting enough, how the heirs figured out what they can do and learned tricks from the others. They don’t get it ready, they have to experiment, to feel out what works for them and what not, how they can control it, especially after it grows with every heir killed.  Which brings all of it own problems to the mix.

Anthony doesn’t shy away from writing some brutal scenes when it comes to fighting and the ancestors’ power. Subei is not a character I would call likeable, but he has some charm with his way of words. And the way he tries to come to terms with his situation and learns the importance of change.

“He was loath to take her advice because it was the hard thing to do. Because change sounded good and right in conversation but was a damned hard thing to actually achieve.”

Servant of Rage is a blood soaked, intriguing first book of a trilogy. It’s a bit rough around the edges, but Anthony clearly is a talented writer, who can pull out writing terror filled scenes as well as emotional ones. Servant of Rages manages to give some punches and leaves enough questions open to make people come back and read what happens next. Overall, I would recommend to check it out if you didn’t do so yet.

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