Review: EMPIRE OF ASHES by Anthony Ryan
Epic Adult Fantasy
The third book of epic conflicts and arcane intrigue in New York Times bestselling author Anthony Ryan’s Draconis Memoria series.
For hundreds of years, the Ironship Trading Syndicate was fueled by drake blood–and protected by the Blood-blessed, those few who could drink it and wield fearsome powers. But now the very thing that sustained the corporate world threatens to destroy it.
A drake of unimaginable power has risen, and it commands an army of both beasts and men. Rogue Blood-blessed Claydon Torcreek, Syndicate agent Lizanne Lethridge, and Ironship captain Corrick Hilemore, spread to disparate corners of the world, must rely upon the new powers and knowledge they have gained at great price to halt its forces–or face the end of all they know.
I’m honestly torn, writing this review. I normally want to scream from the rooftops about how much I loved Mr. Ryan’s newest book. Instead, I only liked it, and saying that makes me feel sorta icky because I do legitimately usually love his work.
In fact, I adored the first two books in this series so much that I was very much looking forward to this one.
Some things were off about this book for me, and I can pinpoint specifically what they were. The writing was as brilliant as anything else Mr. Ryan has ever put forth, (meaning it’s excellent) so it’s definitely not a craft issue, nor a storytelling one. Those areas were still as good as his work usually is.
My problem was twofold, one, there were far too many guns/bombs for my personal taste in this final chapter of the series. I don’t know if I was expecting anything different, given that it IS a steampunk/Victoriana type fantasy world. But the story felt like it was bogged down by too much gunplay and not enough character interaction. It’s very much a *me* problem, I love character-driven fiction vs plot centered, and this book felt more plot centered than the first two did.
SPOILERS AHEAD: My other issue is a problem with fantasy in general. The older I get the less I’m willing to read stories where companion animals die. On top of not just one, but two brave companion animals dying in this story, they weren’t even honored by the human main characters and that really made the story take a down-turn in enjoyment for me. The bad dude dragon got a better send off than the hero dragons. IF they have to die, they should at least be mourned and honored for their sacrifice, not having the main characters sorta shrug it off and go about their merry way. Especially these two, they sacrificed everything, and despite that, (I mean, yes, it’s in the middle of a battle, so angst right away might have to be put off, but they need some sort of acknowledgment to make me happy. The author has already killed them off. I mean, jeez.)
I’d really love it if fantasy authors, in general, would just stop killing off companion animals. I’d much rather they killed off the human characters to be completely honest, and why can’t we actually have happy endings in fantasy? Where the valiant heroes get to go home with their animal friends and their lovers and they can actually enjoy what they fought so hard to achieve? Maybe it’s unrealistic, and I’m not usually one who craves fluffier endings (realism is usually a positive for me) but when it comes to animal deaths, I’d prefer just to skip it all-together. There’s something innocent and pure about animals, and we humans always manage to harm them. I’d like there to be much less harm to critters in my fantasy, which is an escape for me.
It’s just something that hurts my heart badly to read, to no good purpose that couldn’t be achieved by another method, as far as writing goes. (I’m an author and an editor, so I know the techniques that could be used instead.) I’d dearly like fantasy authors to stop doing this to me, since fantasy is my favorite genre, hands down.
I do still recommend the book, it’s a well written, tight closure to an amazing fantasy world that I enjoyed spending hours within. It bothers me that I only *liked* this book, when I was hoping to love it.
Lolz, but I did finish reading it, it kept me up past my bedtime and I didn’t throw it at a wall. (I have legitimately thrown books at the wall before if they’ve pissed me off. Most of the time I just DNF it.) So I liked it a lot. I just didn’t love it.
READABILITY: 4/5 I got bogged down repeatedly by the gunplay. I found myself skimming sections that had a lot of description about the guns. It’s very much a me thing, I prefer fewer guns and more swords/sorcery/dragons in my fantasy. It’s nothing to do with the quality of the story. Just be aware that there are guns. A lot of guns.
ARCS: 5/5 The arcs and character motivations/interactions were as well crafted as they usually are from Mr. Ryan. I do look forward to his next books and will certainly continue buying them.
SCORES: 5/5 I caught a few errors, but in a book that’s over 500 pages long that’s to be expected to some extent.
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