Book Review: The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan

TheWakingFireFor 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 Waking Fire is a fantasy book set in a world split between the Empire and the Ironship Syndicate. Among the people a precious few are able to draw power from the blood of Drakes (a creature with striking similarities to Dragons, indeed the series is titled the Draconis Memoria or Dragon’s Memory)

This gives them abilities beyond the norm, such as telepathic communication, superhuman strength and speed, the ability to create fire and telekinesis. These people are called the Blood-blessed and they are the top spies, assasins and operators for the largest company group, the Ironship Syndicate.

However, they face a problem – the potency of the drake blood is reducing and drake bloodlines are getting weaker, and with war with the empire becoming inevitable they set out to find a mythical breed of drake which could well turn the tide. The story follows several arcs, the primary being the story of Claydon Torcreek, an unregistered Blood-blessed who is forced to work with the company tasked with tracking down this fabled creature.

I have not read any of Anthony Ryan’s previous work but I am no stranger to fantasy. One of the common problems which I often find with fantasy, or indeed its cousin SciFi, is that you need to read halfway through the book just to understand the terminology and technology of the universe in which the story is set.

I am very pleased to report that the author has struck exactly the right balance of unknown terms and those which can be easily interpreted which I feel really helps the reader become immersed in the story very quickly. The characters really popped in my head, with very vivid imagery and solid personalities drawing me on page after page (I ended up only getting four hours sleep one night because I was so engrossed that I lost track of time).

Anthony Ryan’s style of writing really works for me. The level of background detail he puts in is high enough to create a strong image of the world but not so high as to be distracting. The length of sentences and paragraphs is good; I find authors who write in very short sentences to be exhausting to read and so overall I am very impressed with Ryan’s style of writing.

The Waking Fire is the first in a series and I am very much looking forward to reading the sequels.

On the strength of this novel I quickly went out and got a copy of one of this other novels, Blood Song, and I am currently engrossed in that.

All in all a thumping good read which draws you on page by page and I would heartedly recommend it to anyone who enjoys good fantasy, even if they have only ever seen it on TV.

(The Waking Fire was released by Orbit on 7th July 2016. We thank them for the advanced reading copy.) 


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Chris Parish

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