Thursday, July 14, 2016

Review: The Waking Fire

The Waking Fire (The Draconis Memoria, #1)
Author: Anthony Ryan
Series: Draconis Memoria, #1
Released: July 7th 2016
Publisher: Orbit
Length: 592 pages
Source: Publisher for review

The Waking Fire is set in a vibrant new world where the blood of drakes—creatures similar to dragons—is valued beyond reckoning, and can be distilled into elixirs that grant fearsome powers to those who are “blood-blessed.” The novel follows an unregistered blood-blessed as he searches for an elusive variety of drake so potent, its capture would mean unrivalled riches; the second in command of a blood-burning ironclad ship; and a young woman in a lifelong contract to a trading syndicate, whose espionage mission places her on the front lines of a newly declared war. As empires clash and arcane mysteries reveal themselves, these characters are tested again and again and soon discover that the fate of the world rests on their shoulders.
The Draconis Memoria is a remarkable new epic fantasy series with steampunk flavor, full of the phenomenal worldbuilding and non-stop action that have gained Anthony Ryan a global fan base. 

The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan is the type of fantasy that will satisfy even the most demanding reader. Ryan envisioned a very dark world, an odd combination of futuristic and steampunk elements with bits of swashbuckling adventure thrown into the mix that actually works extremely well. In some aspects, it seems to be ahead of our times, what with government and democracy being long forgotten, but paradoxically, things like the social structure call back times long past. There are illiterate servants, steampunk gadgets, and yet women seem completely emancipated and considered equal in every way.

In Ryan’s world, dragonlike creatures, drakes, are hunted and exploited for their blood. Each color of drakes gives different abilities, but only to those who are blood-blessed. Much like the Jedi, the blood-blessed are discovered early and trained to serve the Ironship Syndicate, with only the rare few managing to remain unregistered.

The Waking Fire is told from three different points of view, more or less evenly divided. One is Lizanne Lethridge, a blod-blessed secret operative for the Syndicate. Next is an unregistered blod-blessed thief with deep ties to the criminal underworld. The third is a naval officer on an ironclad warship. The story revolves around the mythical White drake, never seen but desperately wished for by the Syndicate.

Like all good fantasy books, The Waking Fire is a social commentary, a not so subtle review of capitalistic society. It shows where our fixation on supply and demand could possibly lead, and the future is rather bleak. There is no government in Arradsia – the continent is ruled by the Ironship Syndicate, its shareholders and the product (drake blood) itself. They consider everyone else beneath them and ridicule those who adhere to their monarchies. The cultural differences are huge, the progress far too rapid and the divide too difficult to overcome.

The biggest flaw that can be pointed out is the sheer number of secondary and tertiary characters with similar names. At one point, there were a Talmant, a Trumane and a Tottleborn on a single ship, in a single chapter (and never interacting with each other). Therefore, aside from figuring out the chain of command and the rather complicated relationships, we have to struggle just to figure out who exactly our protagonist is talking to. It took me about four chapters from Hilemore’s point of view to learn to tell them apart. That sort of thing puts an unnecessary burden on the reader and draws the focus away from what’s truly important.

The Waking Fire isn’t for those who prefer fantasy-lite. It has a rather complex world that requires patience and persistence, but it’s worth it. Anthony Ryan used every one of those 592 pages extremely well. With his clever writing style and a talent for twisty plots, he produced a series opener everyone will be talking about in no time at all.

A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.


  1. This one sounds very complex. I have to be in the mood to tackle such a heavy fantasy world.

  2. I like that this is a darker fantasy, I think I would like it as well.

  3. I was intrigued as soon as I saw the cover of this one; I love dragons! The worldbuilding also sounds great ... its complexity reminds me of The Bone Season, a book I ended up enjoying but took me a very long time to understand the setting.

  4. Yes, yes, YES! This is exactly the type of fantasy I love, Maja! A wholly unique world, social commentary, and the start of a new series I can sink my teeth into! I'll have to see if my library has this one because it sounds so, so good! Thanks for putting this on my radar, dear--I'm in dire need of more fantasy recommendations!!

  5. I remember hearing great things about this author but I don't think I've ever tried something by him. This one looks good!

  6. Great to hear that the world was well done, even if complex

  7. Hmm, maybe. I did like book 1 in his other sries, but I did dnf book 2...

  8. Oh all of the elements you mentioned have me drooling. I have not tried this author before.

  9. I don't think I've heard of this book or even this author before, but I'm extremely intrigued about this book now! Thank you for putting it on my radar, Maja!


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