Published: July 5, 2016
Pages: 592 (Hardcover)
My Rating: 3.5/5.0
The Waking Fire is set in a vibrant new world where the blood of drakes—creatures similar to dragons—is valued beyond reckoning, and can be distilled into elixirs that grant fearsome powers to those who are “blood-blessed.” The novel follows an unregistered blood-blessed as he searches for an elusive variety of drake so potent, its capture would mean unrivalled riches; the second in command of a blood-burning ironclad ship; and a young woman in a lifelong contract to a trading syndicate, whose espionage mission places her on the front lines of a newly declared war. As empires clash and arcane mysteries reveal themselves, these characters are tested again and again and soon discover that the fate of the world rests on their shoulders.
The Draconis Memoria is a remarkable new epic fantasy series with steampunk flavor, full of the phenomenal worldbuilding and non-stop action that have gained Anthony Ryan a global fan base.
The Waking Fire is the first in Anthony Ryan’s new series The Draconis Memoria. As you probably discerned from the cover and synopsis it’s about dragons, or rather drakes, in this particular book and the rare people that can make use of the properties of their blood. The profit of drake’s blood fuels the syndicates and keeps hostilities lively between the syndicates and the Corvantine Empire. The empire is seen as backwards and dated by the shareholders and many others who benefit from being members of groups like the Ironship Trading Syndicate while the Empire views the shareholders as greedy, brainwashed individuals who believe the lies of corporatism. Both parties make use of the Blood Blessed, those who can consume drake’s blood and gain incredible powers of the mind, body, heat, and “the push” for a short period of time.
The Waking Fire follows three people associated with the Ironship Syndicate – Claydon Torcreek, and unregistered blood-blessed, Lizanne Lethridge, a syndicate shareholder and spy, and First Lieutenant Corrick Hilemore, of the Ironship Protectorate ship Viable Opportunity. Readers get a great mix of trekking through the interior of the continent where the drakes live, espionage, and maritime battles. Lizanne’s chapters were my favorite of the three, largely due to my love of espionage and sneaky spy novels. Claydon’s adventure was exciting in its own right, with the vibe being reminiscent of the early days of European influence in Africa – a large, mysterious continent full of dangerous creatures and other perils. The search for the legendary White Drake added to that aura of exotic mystery these chapters had- a previous expedition was lost, but not before information was transmitted to the home office of the Ironship syndicate, which only added to the allure.
The story as a whole was interesting and exciting with action aplenty, though it didn’t really capture my interest the way Blood Song did when I read it several years ago. This may in part be due to the narration (I listened to the audiobook), which I found to be lackluster. Steven Brand has a good voice for narration, but there is absolutely ZERO variation between characters and it tends toward a clinical or businesslike feeling. The lack of variation made it somewhat confusing as to who was talking and it was mostly without the emotion that makes other audiobooks so enjoyable. Perhaps after reading the physical book, I’ll have a more favorable opinion of the story.
If you’re a fan of books featuring dragons as a central plot point, you’ll want to check this one out. I liked the use of drake’s blood as the basis for the magic system and the contrast of the trade syndicates and the empire. I do look forward to continuing with this series!