by Anthony Ryan
Series: The Draconis Memoria #1
Published on July 5, 2016 by Ace
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
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.
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The Waking Fire was certainly not what I expected. In a good way.
The first thing that struck me was the magic system. There are DRAGONS (so obviously I’m already on board with this). Okay, technically drakes. Their blood offers certain people with various powers when consumed and the supply is starting to run out. I liked this combination of magic and scaly beasts though it felt a little… not cliche, exactly, but a weird combination of unique but not.
And while all the magic business is going on in the background, there’s a lot of set-up happening for the next book. There were several character perspectives bouncing back and forth shedding light on this new world and that worked to a degree, but this book didn’t feel contained. Granted, I know this is a series, but usually books within a series still have some semblance of closure, wrapping up a few storylines and leaving more open for the next. There’s a lot to understand and with the switching PoVs, it took a while for me to get fully into the story.
My favorite of the primary 3 PoVs was Lizanne. She’s my new idol. Total badass but also a scholar, showing that strength doesn’t have to be all physical. I would consider her a strong heroine. And maybe it’s because she was the only female lead (definitely not the only female character though), or just who she was and what she stood for (all the no-nonsense putting men in their place for thinking less of women business) but I connected with her the most.
Hilemore was all about strategy and took a while for me to warm up to his character, but by halfway through I wanted to know what happened on that ship and with the lady pirate held captive. And I never really clicked with Clay but, that said, the world building and other characters with him made those chapters interesting so I wanted to read about the team he was traveling with and what they did. . . just not so much about him.
Now the pacing was a bit slow for my tastes. Fantasies tend toward “slow,” I’ve found, which isn’t always bad but I needed more to happen sooner rather than later. I wasn’t hooked until about halfway through the book (so about 300 pages in), a lot to invest in a book that’s just. . . meh. BUT I’ll say that I’m glad I stuck around because all that build-up turned into a really interesting story.
I loved that it didn’t feel like a Middle Ages Western Europe knock off and, while very descriptive, wasn’t exactly dry. The level of detail was above and beyond what I think I needed but I’m sure that it’ll play a role in the next book (just hope I remember it all)!
By the end of The Waking Fire, the story truly came full circle and it was definitely enough of a cliffhanger to have me grabbing for the sequel. If you’ve attempted to read this and gotten stuck, definitely keep pushing through. And for those looking for a new epic fantasy with
DRAGONS drakes and cool magic and lady scholars and adventuring. . . you found it!