Author: Anthony Ryan
Series: Draconis Memoriae #1
Published: July 7 2016
Source: publishers via NetGalley
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.
Anthony Ryan's newest fantasy, The Waking Fire, is almost 600 pages start to close. Somewhere in those many many chapters is a creative fantasy novel with influences of steampunk and dragon-like creatures used for their magic abilities. With a drake-harvesting system reminiscent of Sanderson's Mistborn magic combined with a Jane Bond pulling off dangerous missions deep undercover, this book is basically premise perfection. The execution sadly starts out stilted and stiff and never really improves.
The issues I had with The Waking Fire aren't huge in and of themselves, but were instead several small things that added up to an overall dissatisfaction by the book's end. This series opener is very detail-orientated when it comes to the technical side, which in turn affects the time, development, and attention that the characters receive. Even in a long novel like this, there's no real sense of the people in the story for me. The worldbuilding is interesting, but is also confusing and never clarified. Two of the POVs link together well, but third POV has no real connection to the plot or others until far too late in the story.
The Waking Fire's magic system and the twisty character of Lizanne have the most potential for exploration and ingenuity. The harvesting of various kinds of drakes for varied magical abilities lends well to the primary plot of the book while still contributing to an even larger threat facing the people in this world. Lizanne is a strong female character, but is pretty much the only one to be found. I needed more depth for characters, and a more lively tone. I wanted to like this, but it just wasn't for me.