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The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan
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The Waking Fire (2016)

by Anthony Ryan

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The world of this story isn't your typical fantasy one. It does have a navy. One of the three viewpoint characters, steadfast officer Hilemore, comes from that. It does have a secretive organisation with highly trained spies. Lizanne, another viewpoint character, is one of them. And it does have underclasses and criminal organisations in seedy parts of cities. Clay, third character, is in that setting at the start.

And yet the world is more steampunk than fantasy. It feels nineteenth century. It has some fantastical inventions. It also has a magic system. And it has dragons. From where these abilities can come.

All this, not least the fact that the secretive order is a company in a land where it's pushing the old order aside, does give a different feel and make it nicely original.

But even so, it really does take a bit of getting into because there's so much scene setting and lots to take in. And it takes a while for the three main characters and their setting to start to feel different to the norm.

All end on quests of various kinds. Lizanne goes through a great character arc and some unexpected development. Hilemore is a decent and likeable man in an interesting setting. But Clay, who is required for certain abilities and ends up on a quest of his own, never quite grabbed me as much as those two did.

One of these three characters does also disappear from the narrative for a little too long in part three.

This is a big book, and perhaps as such there are moments where you could find yourself skimming prose. But at the same time you do - with the viewpoint characters who grab you - want to know what will happen next.

And the scope of this whole story is so amazingly epic, that it feels as if there is so much more to come and we have barely scratched the surface of it so far. There is some great bringing things together in the last part as well, which does impress with some clever writing.

Almost brilliant. Just not quite. But there is a lot to like in here. So I will be back for book two. ( )
  Jawin | Aug 18, 2018 |
Anthony Ryan has been on my wishlist for a long time, so I was excited to receive a copy of THE WAKING FIRE from Ace recently. I’ve been reading a lot of books about dragons recently (WITHIN THE SANCTUARY OF WINGS by Marie Brennan, and THE SUMMER DRAGON by Todd Lockwood), so I wasn’t sure I wanted to read this one just yet, but I succumbed to the back cover blurb.

We follow three protagonists – Lizanne, a covert agent for the Ironship company, Hilemore, a naval officer serving on a cutting-edge new ship, and Clay, a petty criminal recruited by Lizanne’s company for a dangerous expedition. Drake blood, which grants “Blood-blessed” humans special powers, has been dwindling in potency rapidly. To avoid a disastrous economic collapse, the Ironship company is organizing an expedition into the interior of the colonized Arradisian continent to find a fabled new variety of drake. This new White drake isn’t just a simple animal, though, and waking it up proves to be dangerous.

There’s a lot going on this book, all three protagonists have pretty different stories, and I don’t think my summary covered it all. Clay is on a standard fantasy quest, Lizanne’s plot is all about espionage and war , and Hilemore seems like he’s straight out of a more traditional military fantasy. All three of them tie together to tell a larger story about a rational and ordered world that’s suddenly going crazy. The world really pulled me in, there’s a bunch of corporations pursuing profit, a simple but versatile magic system, an ambitious empire, cunning pirates, fearsome warriors, and lots of cool dragons. The action scenes were particularly well-done, I could almost see the movie in my head, and I usually just glaze over those kinds of scenes in books.

I did have a couple of issues with the book, mainly with the characters. Sometimes I felt like they just did stuff, and I didn’t have any insight into why they were making the decisions they did. It was never bad enough to take me out of the story, but unlike more character driven books, I can’t really describe the characters’ personalities, just their actions. The book also wasn’t as tight as it could have been – Hilemore’s story didn’t tie into Lizanne and Clay’s until the last minute, and I’m still not sure what the significance of his experiences is to the larger story. I also hope the initial premise of drake blood losing potency will be explored in future books, it ended up being overshadowed by larger events.

I feel like I’ve read a lot of the great fantasy authors writing today, so I’m always excited to discover someone new, and Anthony Ryan seems like he could definitely be one of them. I’m glad I only have a little over a month until THE LEGION OF FLAME comes out, and I’ve also ordered BLOOD SONG, the first book of the author’s previous trilogy, to help me wait. ( )
  kgodey | May 9, 2017 |
I received an ARC from First to Read in exchange for my honest opinion.

I loved this. The story is great, the characters are great. I will be eagerly awaiting the rest of series. ( )
  Ashly_Cupit | Oct 4, 2016 |
I received an ARC from First to Read in exchange for my honest opinion.

I loved this. The story is great, the characters are great. I will be eagerly awaiting the rest of series. ( )
  Ashly_Cupit | Jul 26, 2016 |
Pros: great characters, brilliant world-building, variety of action

Cons: lots of close shaves

Claydon Torcreek is a thief who gets roped into being the blue-trance communicator for the Longrifle Independent Contractor Company. The Company’s mission is to find the fabled white dragon, living in the dangerous interior.

Lizanne Lethridge is a blood-blessed covert agent of the Exceptional Initiatives Division of the Ironship Trading Syndicate. She’s sent to Morsvale to investigate the former owner of a box that held a device that might aid in Clay’s company’s mission.

Corrick Hilemore is the new Second Lieutenant of the IPV Viable Opportunity. Their ship is trying out a new engine that allows for faster travel, as it takes out a pirate ship.

Meanwhile, the drakes that have been bled for their magical blood for decades, have started acting in strange ways despite their reduced numbers, attacking cities, leaving their hunting grounds, and working together in ways they never have before.

There’s a lot going on in this book. There’s some political intrigue, spy work, sea battles, steampunk style inventing, dragons, dragon blood magic… Told from three POV characters, the book jumps around enough that you’re always on your toes, wondering what will happen next.

The world-building is excellent. There’s real history here. There are several countries with different ways of doing things, past rebellions, corporate greed. Different people from different lands interact in different ways (sometimes as part of the same crew, sometimes as infiltrators).

The characters all felt like real people with real hopes and goals. I enjoyed spending time with all thee POV characters, learning more about them and seeing how they react in different circumstances. Their supporting casts were all really interesting too.

This is partly explained by the end of the book, but there are a LOT of close shaves for the various groups. Enough that it started to feel really manufactured and repetitive. There was a reason for that, but it doesn’t prevent some scenes from feeling a bit fake.

The economics around blood-magic was well done, though it started to drive me nuts hearing how depleted their stores of product were becoming and how expensive it was to buy, and then seeing so much wasted blood as more and more drakes get killed. The magic itself was cool, with each type of drake having a different property. I especially liked that there were limitations on the magic and that there were actual consequences for using it extensively.

At the back of the book is a list of dramatis personae, which I would have referred to a few times had I known it was there. There’s a large cast, and on the ship especially I had to remind myself who was who.

This is an excellent book with a lot going for it. It you love immersive fantasy, pick this up. ( )
  Strider66 | Jul 5, 2016 |
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Voor Paul, want soms is de enige beloning voor het aangaan van een goed gevecht de wetenschap dat je het hebt gedaan.
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Rapportage van: Lodima Bondersil - waarnemend directeur, afdeling Carvenpoort, koloniën van het Arradsiaanse vasteland.
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Claydon Torcreek is a Blood-blessed, able to channel the powers contained in the blood of wild drakes. While his brethren serve as elite spies and assassins, Clay prefers the life of a small-time criminal in the dangerous slums of Carvenport.

Yet war is coming, and it seems Clay is going to end up on the losing side - unless he can track down a legendary drake, whose powerful blood might just be enough to achieve victory. Clay has handled many things in his time (most of them illegal) but nothing as priceless as his nation's future.
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Throughout the vast lands controlled by the Ironship Syndicate, nothing is more prized than the blood of drakes. But not many know the truth: that the lines of drakes are weakening. 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.… (more)

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