Sunday, October 30, 2016

Review: The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan

The Waking Fire
Author:  Anthony Ryan
Series:  The Draconis Memoria 1
Publisher:  Ace, July 5, 2016
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 592 pages
List Price:  US$28.00 (print); US$11.99 (eBook)
ISBN9781101987858 (print); 9781101987865 (eBook)

The New York Times bestselling Raven’s Shadow Trilogy was a perfect read for “fans of broadscale epic fantasy along the lines of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series and George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire novels.”* Now, Anthony Ryan begins a new saga, The Draconis Memoria…

Throughout the vast lands controlled by the Ironship Syndicate, nothing is more prized than the blood of drakes. Harvested from the veins of captive or hunted Reds, Green, Blues and Blacks, it can be distilled into elixirs that give fearsome powers to the rare men and women who have the ability harness them—known as the blood-blessed.

But not many know the truth: that the lines of drakes are weakening. If they fail, war with the neighboring Corvantine Empire will follow swiftly. The Syndicate’s last hope resides in whispers of the existence of another breed of drake, far more powerful than the rest, and the few who have been chosen by fate to seek it.

Claydon Torcreek is a petty thief and an unregistered blood-blessed, who finds himself pressed into service by the protectorate and sent to wild, uncharted territories in search of a creature he believes is little more than legend. Lizanne Lethridge is a formidable spy and assassin, facing gravest danger on an espionage mission deep into the heart of enemy territory. And Corrick Hilemore is the second lieutenant of an ironship, whose pursuit of ruthless brigands leads him to a far greater threat at the edge of the world.

As lives and empires clash and intertwine, as the unknown and the known collide, all three must fight to turn the tide of a coming war, or drown in its wake.

*Library Journal

Tracey's Review

At the dawn of the Corporate Age, the Mandinorian nobility replaced their properties and privileges for shares in the Iron Trading Syndicate. Their pursuit of profit reigns supreme and the most sought after commodity comes from the "Interior" of the untamed continent of Arradsia. Indigenous to the Interior are several species of drakes, (dragons) whose blood can be distilled into a miraculous mixture called "product". However the blood of drakes is dangerous to all but the small percentage of humans, called Blood-blessed, who can safely consume it. Product is extremely valuable because once used by a Blood-blessed, it temporarily provides enhancements comparable to superpowers.

Overhunting and exploitation of the drakes has seen a drop in the amount of product available and a shortage in product would mean a sharp reduction in profit. Lodima Bondersil, a prominent member of the Iron Trading Syndicate, believes there may be a solution. An artifact has recently been recovered that can be linked to the ill-fated Wittler Expedition. Over thirty years ago, Wittler and his team had been searching a particularly dangerous section of the Interior for the nesting place of the elusive White Drake. Legend has it, that the White Drake is the most powerful of all its brethren. The explorers, along with Ethelynne Drystone, one of Lodima's prized pupils disappeared without a trace, but not before sending a communication to Lodima of a vital discovery.

Setting her secret plans into motion, Lodima plans to succeed where Wittler failed. She hopes that even the remains of a White will boost the projected decline in the economy. But complications arise as the aggressive Corvantine Empire's desire for conquest blossoms and war between the two hegemonic regimes becomes imminent.

The Waking Fire is the first book in author Anthony Ryan's second series; The Draconis Memoria. And by the way; it's awesome. A complete departure from the world he created in his previous Raven's Shadow series, The Waking Fire is set in a complex and beautifully detailed steampunk-esque era. Ryan is a skilled world-builder and his expertise is demonstrated throughout this nearly six hundred page book. I was immediately impressed with the particulars of this world's settings and the fact that his descriptions are as rich in texture as they are to the senses of sight and sound. Ryan effortlessly transports his readers from a hideout concealed in a decaying church in the slums, to life aboard an Ironship war vessel, and easily transitions to the deserts, mountains, and jungles of the danger-fraught Interior.

The Waking Fire is a detailed account, written in the perspective of three characters, each important players in the unfolding events. Efficient and ruthless, Lizanne Lethridge, is this world's version of Agent 007. Being Blood-blessed allows Lizanne the opportunity to perform fantastic feats that are utterly kickass and believable. Clay Torcreek is an orphan and a thief who uses the fact that he is an unregistered Blood-blessed to his every advantage. Clay is one step away from leaving the slums forever when the consequences of his life of crime catch up with him. Motivated by guilt and the promise of freedom, he is coerced into joining his uncle's expedition into the Interior. I really like that Lizanne and Clay start off somewhat unlikeable, but gradually grew in my affections. The third main POV, 2nd Lt. Corrick Hilemore, is an honorable naval officer who is compassionate as well as brave. Although he is involved in some amazing battles at sea, his thread doesn't shine as bright as Lizanne's or Clay's, and his story arc stagnates during the last portion of the book. I am assuming that he is intended for bigger and better things in book two.

This gorgeous new world, fraught with peril at every turn, delivers a breathtaking ride through battles, across oceans, and deep into the heart of the jungle. Its characters are well-written and three-dimensional; dealing with topics such as political intrigue, greed, and impending war. I absolutely love this book and have high hopes for the series. Anthony Ryan weaves an intricate tale that is part Raiders of the Lost Ark, part James Bond, and part Master and Commander, but with dragons. Calling all lovers of epic fantasy; you don't want to miss The Waking Fire.


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