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The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan

I was a little hesitant about starting this series as though I really enjoyed the first two books of Raven’s Shadow, I really disliked Queen of Fire. However I’d heard some good things about this book and thought it was unfair to not read an author based on one book I didn’t like considering the other two were great. I’m glad I did.

Set in a kind of eighteenth century world, there are steam powered trains and boats, and lots of guns and cannons. Oh there are also dragons. It is from dragon’s blood that a very few random selection of people (blood blessed) gain special abilities by drinking the blood and those abilities are dependant on the type of dragon.

There are two world powers, the monarchy based Corventine Empire, and a trading empire ruled by capitalism (a not very subtle rendering of the East Indian Company). All action takes place on a remote and inhospitable continent where dragons are only found. These two competing empires are exploiting the continent for product (dragon’s blood) but due to dwindling resources war is looking likely. 

Into this world come our three protagonists. Clay a petty thief and unregistered blood blessed. Hilemore, a naval officer just assigned to a new ship, and Lizanne a corporate spy (amongst other things). Lizanne and Clay are undoubtedly the more developed characters. While POV chapter’s are relatively evenly spread out I felt we spent more time with them and their backstory’s were explored more. Hilemore sections were actually really good, the life on board ship was well done and the naval battles were amazing, better than the land battles. However the character suffered a little from the whole “British reserve’ thing. 

Each character almost encapsulates a different type of book though fair play to the author it all reads as one good story. Hilemore has the sea adventure. Clay is your H Rider Haggard adventure into the wild with lost cities and murderous natives and Lizanne is your corporate espionage and war story, accompanied by cannons, gatling guns and magic. The magic system itself was alright, as others have mentioned there is more than a whiff of Mistborn to it but it’s done well enough that I didn’t mind.

I felt the treatment of dragons and the whole continent was all too human and depressed me somewhat. It is a reflection on our own history and doesn’t always make easy reading though I’m hoping some developments might help with that. Supporting characters are also well done and there is plenty of mystery to keep you interested along with all the great battles, both large and small scale.

Anyway it was a really enjoyable read and I’m very glad I decided to try it.

4 stars out of 5

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