Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Book Review: The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan

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.

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