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Book Reviews

I am a simple gal. I see a dragon on a book. I will want that book


The waking fire

by Anthony Ryan

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About the waking fire

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.

the legion of flame

by Anthony Ryan

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about the legion of flame

Survival is the only currency…

For centuries, the vast Ironship Trading Syndicate relied on drake blood–and the extraordinary powers it confers to those known as the Blood-blessed–to fuel and protect its empire. But when the drake blood lines began to fail, a perilous expedition was mounted to secure them.

Claydon Torcreek survived the fraught mission through uncharted lands in pursuit of a myth that might have secured his people’s future. Instead he found a nightmare. The legendary White Drake was awoken from a millennia-long slumber, with a thirst to reduce the world of men to ashes, and the power to compel an army of Spoiled slaves to do it.

Spurred on by a vision he desperately hopes he can trust, Clay and rebel naval officer Corrick Hilemore hijack a warship and head towards the icy southern seas, searching for an ancient secret that may give them and their allies a fighting chance.

They are aided on another front by Blood-blessed agent Lizanne Lethridge. The spy and assassin will use her diplomatic status to infiltrate deep into enemy territory on a quest for a device to save them all.

As the world burns around them, and the fires of revolution are ignited, these few Blood-blessed are the last hope for all of civilisation.

the empire of ashes

by Anthony Ryan

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about empire of ashes

For hundreds of years, the Ironship Trading Syndicate was fuelled by drake blood–and protected by the Blood-blessed, those few who could drink it and wield fearsome powers. But now the very thing that sustained the corporate world threatens to destroy it.

A drake of unimaginable power has risen, and it commands an army of both beasts and men. Rogue Blood-blessed Claydon Torcreek, Syndicate agent Lizanne Lethridge, and Ironship captain Corrick Hilemore, spread to disparate corners of the world, must rely upon the new powers and knowledge they have gained at great price to halt its forces–or face the end of all they know.

My Thoughts

I am a simple gal. I see a dragon on a book. I will want that book.

Really though, the spectacular cover art was an added bonus to finding out Anthony Ryan had another completed trilogy out after I was done reading his Raven’s Shadow trilogy this past summer. Through various mishaps and Amazon shenanigans etc. it took me a while until I actually managed to get my hands on these books but, based on the compelling premise and my trust in Ryan’s amazing style, I bought all three in one go without a second thought. No disappointment was had, dear reader. Ryan had in fact already shown himself a master of creating an array of varied and multifaceted characters, captivating plots, and enthralling ambiance, so this trilogy only went on to further cement my opinion of his style.

The story, which sets off with The Waking Fire, follows at first three, and then from book two The Legion of Flame, four, main points of view, with each protagonist accompanied by complementary side characters. While this latter detail may seem a relatively obvious thing to point out, I mention it because one of the ways in which Ryan displays his character work the most, is by pushing his protagonists to interact with such a varied -and in their own small ways entirely fleshed out-cast of people or creatures.

Understanding how they have to adjust their dynamics and attitudes in order to get along, or in extreme cases barely tolerate each other, is something I always love to read as it gives a deeper insight into the protags, their drives, and their insecurities, etc. You really cannot help but feel invested in almost every single character you’re presented with for however brief their time on the page is, which isn’t something I’ve encountered all that often!

As for the world that Ryan created, one where drakes roam the lands, oceans, and skies, and are hunted for the properties of their blood, we are presented with something which is at the same time exotic and familiar, feeling both completely realistic and incredible. This is because while drakes and a form of magic powers do exist in this setting, they are shown as strongly practical and met through a scientific eye.

Indeed when I first glanced at the plot and started reading, I’d for some reason been under the impression that it was going to be the mystical/medieval fantasy kind of setting. (In my defense I’d barely checked to see what this was about because I was mainly driven by wanting to read more of the author’s work). Instead, I was thrown into a world of burgeoning tech, practically steampunk in its feel, and closer to our first half of the 20th century in terms of advancement. It was both momentarily bewildering and amazing though, since I love this kind of setting and I’ve been meaning to read more of it.

Moreover, the powers that be in this world aren’t just the usual kingdoms, or some other form of governmentally organized State, but the de facto leading power is a sort of corporate empire. This was both fascinating and so intriguing to understand, especially because Ryan doesn’t burden his text with several opening chapters of heavy exposition, but rather throws the reader right in the middle of the action, and it is up to us to unravel how the power systems and social environments of this story work.

This admittedly made for a bit of a slow start for me personally, as it took me a bit to properly get into the world and pace of the story, added to my initial confusion that is. But once I’d cleared that up and caught on with each character as they are introduced nearly in medias res for their respective missions, it was smooth sailing from there. Pun intended since a big part of this story is set at sea too!! Truly, Ryan had already shown his hand at writing naval scenes with his previous work, but in Draconis Memoria, he kicked it up several gears and dimensions, making for some of my favorite scenes in the books as a whole.

The best way I can describe this series is as if the author has merged seamlessly, three different books into one story. What I mean is that for each of the three main protagonists that we encounter from the get-go, we are met with slightly different subgenres that work in tandem to eventually interweave and culminate in the epic finale of book three, The Empire of Ashes. Clay’s storyline is for the most part reminiscent of all the explorer adventure movies, books or even video games, such as Indiana Jones, Uncharted, or the earlier colonial heroes such as Alan Quartermain for example, as he is sent with a team of drake hunters/harvesters to find out what happened to a previously doomed mission.

Lizanne’s is more steeped in the world of espionage and undercover work in an enemy country, as she needs to find the info that will aid Clay in his journey, but she also uncovers and is involved in  more political intrigue than she was expecting in the process. And ultimately, Hilemore is a marine aboard the most advanced ship of the corporate empire, being second in command for what begins as a straightforward mission to thwart the pirate threat in trade waters but turns into a race for survival in danger infested waters. Each protagonist has to navigate new allies and enemies as the story progresses, with the greater overall threat rearing its head properly at the end of the first book. Starting from book two moreover, we have the fourth point of view which gives a glace at the story from the enemy’s side, which is something I rather enjoyed because that way we get more of a bird’s eye view of what is happening overall, instead of the more common one-sided plot which often relegates the villains to background figures or more secondary characters.

As complicated as I may have accidentally made it sound though, it does not feel like that at all! The story is layered and complex, but it is written and woven so clearly, and modulates its pace in such a way that is gripping and intriguing without feeling heavy or dense. In fact I only truly realized how much I would have to talk about as I sat to write this review. Alas as per usual I’m going for a spoiler free commentary so I can’t really go into the better details BUT I can assure you of this much in short: This is an epic tale with gripping action, badass/clever/resourceful characters, and some of the coolest action sequences out there.

There is literally something for everyone, be it stealth and intrigue, adventure uncovering remains of ancient civilizations, wider action with battles of all kinds (naval, land, and aerial!!!), varied settings of jungles/deserts/icecaps/cities, and political/social upheavals and machinations. Finally, to state the obvious, there’s dragons. Who doesn’t love a dragon – *especially* when they’re as varied in their characteristics and mannerisms as the humans!

In the end, Mr. Ryan wraps up this amazing trilogy with a truly satisfying finale that checks all the boxes, has no loose ends and leaves you wishing for more time with these memorable characters.

Until next time dear reader,

Eleni A.E.

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Eleni A.E.

Eleni is a Greek student who grew up in Italy, and is currently working on getting her BA Honours degree in Literature from a Scottish university! When not typing away for her disseration, she can be found reading all the SFF she can get her hands on, and reviewing it for fun when inspiration strikes and she just needs to share her passion for reading. Alternatively, she will definitely be with a needy Westie in her arms watching series or movies. You can find her writing on her shared blog with her course mate at  where there are also posts about other literary genres, or follow her day to day ramblings on Twitter @eleni_argyro or Instagram @the_words_we_read .


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