Review: THE WAKING FIRE by Anthony Ryan
Epic Fantasy, Steampunk, Science Fantasy, Victoriana.
Throughout the vast lands controlled by the Ironship Trading Syndicate, nothing is more prized than the blood of drakes. Harvested from captive or hunted Reds, Greens, Blues and Blacks, it can be distilled into elixirs that bestow fearsome powers on the rare men and women known as the Blood-blessed.
But not many know the truth: that the lines of drakes are weakening. If they fail, war with the neighboring Corvantine Empire will follow swiftly. The Syndicate’s last hope resides in whispers of the existence of another breed of drake, far more powerful than the rest, and the few who have been chosen by fate to seek it.
Claydon Torcreek is a petty thief and an unregistered Blood-blessed who finds himself pressed into service by the Protectorate and sent to wild, uncharted lands in search of a creature he believes is little more than legend. Lizanne Lethridge is a formidable spy and assassin facing gravest danger on an espionage mission deep into the heart of enemy territory. And Corrick Hilemore is the second lieutenant of an Ironship cruiser whose pursuit of ruthless brigands leads him to a far greater threat at the edge of the world.
As lives and empires clash and intertwine, as the unknown and the known collide, all three must fight to turn the tide of a coming war, or drown in its wake.
There aren’t many authors that make me question how I dare call myself a writer, but Mr. Ryan does.
His attention to detail, twisty plots, converging character arcs and world-building leave me wondering how I can become better at my own craft. All the while I’m wishing him a long a fruitful life so he can continue to feed the beast of my reading need.
Fantasy is always and has always been, my first love in fiction. I love other genres almost as much, but fantasy is what first grabbed me as a reader (CHRONICLES OF PRYDAIN, in case you’re curious). So when I find a fantasy author I love? I stick to their work like burdock seeds in a dogs fur.
I LOVE Anthony Ryan’s words. I mean, love isn’t even a strong enough word, but nothing else works. Here’s why.
I don’t read a lot of Fantasy these days because, well… frankly, the quality has either plummetted or I’ve gotten picky in my old age. Or the authors take over 5 years or more to get the next book out and I’ve forgotten who the heck the characters are so I don’t want to read the next one. (Coughs, GRRM, coughs.)
Books from Big 5 publishers in my recent experience have been poorly edited, full of flagrant abuse of passive voice and the number of typos and redundancies make me scream. I’ve DNFed more books in the past two years of my professional (vs hobby) writing/publishing/reviewing career than I ever have in my life.
I never thought becoming a half-way decent writer would ruin me for reading less than well-edited/written books.
All that just so you know where I’m coming from when I say the next bit. I’m picky because I work hard at my craft. I’m picky because I read a LOT of submissions for publication.
I’m also a Virgo… so… yeah. Persnickety about covers it.
Mr. Ryan doesn’t do any of the things that make my editorial brain scream bloody murder.
Meaning I could just… read.
I could get lost in the story without my editorial brain screaming at me every three seconds. These days, that’s such a rare gift.
It’s like someone handed me a legendary lost treasure.
Everything about this book, from the epic, detailed world-building, the attention to detail in the battle scenes (I really wish I could write battle this well), the intrigue, the characters, their personal growth, and journey… all of it, it’s all so very well done that even *I* had trouble finding an edit.
Yep. I said it. *I* couldn’t find much of anything to edit, and I regularly find edits everywhere.
The only thing I’d like more of is feeling the character’s experiences via grounding the scenes in the five senses, but that feels like such a trifling thing to be concerned about when the sheer scope of this book is so gorgeous and everything else is so perfect.
As always, the beauty of Mr. Ryan’s prose moved me to tears in several instances. I mean… that takes work people, it really does. Even if you have an innate gift for words (Mr. Ryan obviously does) it still takes tremendous effort to get the cadence, flow, pacing and all the other ‘stuff’ of writing to move so smoothly and seemingly effortlessly.
I could keep waxing on about how much I love these words by this author, but I’m afraid I’m edging onto ‘deranged fan’ status here.
The book is EXCELLENT. Hie thee hence and get it, read it now (in paper if you can because you’ll get lost in the world much easier, plus paper books good!)
Readability: 5(Crying into my coffee cause I’m NEVER going to be this good of an author level of excellent.) This book kept me awake long into the night when I should’ve been sleeping for a week. I shambled around like a zombie because I had trouble dragging myself out of the world Mr. Ryan had woven to attend to day to day tasks, and YES, I dropped the book on my face more than once before giving up for the night. (5 times during the climactic scenes, I’m lucky I didn’t break my damned nose.)
Arcs: 5 The characters start in one place, each of them, and the world events shift them to different points. Basics of storytelling, right? Except that every expertly plotted point, every reaction, every thought of the characters makes sense. Each of them is so different too! A guttersnipe, an elite special agent, and a career military sailor? My gods. You can’t get much disparate. The world and story arcs are both as equally well defined and beautifully crafted.
Craft: 5 If I develop to be half the writer Mr. Ryan is, I’ll consider myself ‘good’. I’ve said before and likely will again that his prose is so gorgeous. Just phenomenal. Pacing is slow at first due to necessary world building, and for anyone who likes commercial fiction style pacing I’d urge you to hang on until you get to know the characters and the world (at which point Mr. Ryan will take you on a fast-paced, bloody free for all the likes of which few fantasy authors can deliver). For we lovers of literary and upmarket styles? This is sheer perfection.
I rarely give an across the board 5 star in every particular. If my rating system allowed for it, each category would easily score a 10. This book and this author is THAT good.
The Waking Fire is available from the following retailers:
Ebook: Amazon.com – Amazon.co.uk – Nook – Kobo – ibooks
Hardcover: Amazon.com – Amazon.co.uk – Barnes & Noble – Indiebound – Waterstones – WH Smith – The Hive Network – Wordery
Audiobook: Audbile.com – Audible.co.uk – iTunes
Buy the UK Paperback: Amazon.co.uk – Waterstones – The Hive Network – Wordery
US Paperback: Amazon.com – Barnes & Noble – Indiebound