Disclosure: The reviewer received a review copy of this book via Netgalley

Review: The Waking Fire by Anthony RyanThe Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan
Series: The Draconis Memoria #1
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Release: 2016
Type: Novel (Advanced Readers Copy)
Source: Netgalley

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Most of the steampunk that I have found has been either young adult, paranormal romance, or cyberpunk in a Victorian setting. This gritty special is the type of steampunk I’ve been looking for.

The Waking Fire is the first volume in Anthony Ryan’s new epic fantasy steampunk series The Draconis Memoria. In this world dragon’s blood is toxic to most humans, but a small percentage of “blood-blessed” gain magical abilities by ingesting it. One of the world’s major powers has become a pure corporatocracy that mainly trades in dragon blood and the technical and industrial applications of it. A prime example of this technology is a type of internal combustion engine that is fueled by the blood of red dragons and requires a blood-blessed operator.

Dragons are native to only one continent, a sort of combination of Australia, Africa, and South America during the Victorian Age of Explorers. The harvesting of pen-bred drakes and hunting of wild drakes in the interior are reminiscent of the colonial depredations of rubber plantations and ivory hunters.

At the beginning of the story there are rising tensions between the Great Powers over the rapidly diminishing potency of pen-bred drake’s blood and population of wild drakes. We are introduced to an espionage officer, a naval officer, and a street kid who all enmesh themselves in the ensuing Great Game.

What Makes it Epic Grit:

  • Adventure and Wonder: There’s naval battles, covert espionage, and an expedition into the interior of a wild and dangerous continent.
  • Believable Characters: I had a little trouble buying into Lizanne’s actions and motivations at the beginning, she was a bit too much of a James Bond / Mary Sue character. However, she became more human as the story went on. Lieutenant Hilemore was also a bit too perfect at the beginning, gaining some depth as the story progressed.
  • Real Consequences: No one is unscathed.
  • Epic in Scope: There is a burgeoning world war and a threat to humanity.
  • Subverts “Good versus Evil” Tropes: It is Realpolitik in action.
  • Different Perspectives: There are three main POV’s: a young woman who is an intelligence officer, a teenage boy who joins his uncle’s expedition, and an experienced naval officer.

Verdict:

If you’re looking for a gritty epic fantasy series in a steampunk setting, this is it. The Waking Fire is a wonderfully engaging first episode that left me wanting more.