The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan – book review (spoiler free)

The Waking Fire was my bookclub read for January with Fantology discord group. I’m a huge fan of Anthony Ryan – so how did I find the first novel of The Draconis Memoria?

Read on to find out!

The blurb

For decades the lands of the Ironship Syndicate have been defended by the Blood-blessed – men and women able to channel the powers contained in the potent blood of wild drakes. Elite spies and assassins, their loyalty has established the Syndicate’s position as the greatest power in the known world.

Yet now a crisis looms. The drake bloodlines are weakening, and war with the Corvantine Empire seems inevitable. The Syndicate’s only hope of survival lies with the myth of a legendary drake, whose powerful blood might just turn the tide of the war – if it even exists.

The task of hunting down this fabled creature falls to Claydon Torcreek, a petty thief and unregistered Blood-blessed. He’s handled many valuable things in his time (most of them illegal) but nothing as priceless as his nation’s future.

The review

This is a very different type of series compared to Anthony Ryan’s other work. The world of Blood Song and The Pariah are both medieval tinged, very much what most readers expect from epic fantasy.

The Draconis Memoria is completely different. In terms of setting, it feels much more like Hornblower or Master & Commander. Less medieval, more 17th and 18th century. We have large scale industry, competing kingdoms and economies, corporations and espionage. Not too many swords. No orcs or trolls.

However, there are dragons. Not to slay or steal gold from, but rather to kill and drain their blood. Dragon blood in this world is power and like any scarce resource is very valuable and is guarded diligently by a corporation known as The Ironship Syndicate. As war looms, access to the dragons and their blood becomes a key concern, as does a legend of the fabled white dragon.

Intrigue is set up from the get go and we have 3 POV characters to follow.

Lizanne is a steely assassin who works for The Syndicate. A Milady de Winter type character who has never failed her mentor yet. Clay Torcreek is a blood-blessed who has managed to keep his powers secret – and has lived much of his life in the gutter. I found both these characters very completing and was completely absorbed in their stories. Hilemore is the final POV character. He has less chapters than the other two, however, I’m still very excited to see what he does in book 2. His arc covers both navel battles and pirates, so if you like either of those things, you will really enjoy this part of the story.

I have to say, I really enjoyed how fresh this book was. Indeed, the world-building flipped my expectations on their head immediately which I liked.

What was most intriguing to me was how the blood affects some individuals more than others. The blood blessed as a group of people are an interesting concept and I enjoyed finding out how the blood of the various coloured dragons had different properties. Again, I wasn’t expecting anything like this.

Clay’s storyline had the most dragon action and probably was the most exciting. The ‘spoiled’ also freaked me out, a human race that for some reason have turned into a mindless horde… or at least it seems that way. Lots of mysteries are unravelled in the wilderness, with plenty more added as the quest to find a missing blood blessed gets underway.

So, yes, a huge hit with me – and I will be continuing with the series! The Waking Fire has laid some impressive foundations and I’m excited to see where Anthony Ryan takes us next. If you want to read an epic fantasy with a unique setting, give this book a go.

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