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The New York Times bestselling Raven’s Shadow Trilogy was a perfect read for “fans of broadscale epic fantasy along the lines of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series and George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire novels.”* Now, Anthony Ryan begins a new saga, The Draconis Memoria...

Throughout the vast lands controlled by the Ironship Syndicate, nothing is more prized than the blood of drakes. Harvested from the veins of captive or hunted Reds, Green, Blues and Blacks, it can be distilled into elixirs that give fearsome powers to the rare men and women who have the ability harness them—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 territories 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, 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.
*Library Journal

592 pages, Hardcover

First published July 5, 2016

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About the author

Anthony Ryan

67 books8,612 followers
Anthony Ryan was born in Scotland in 1970 but spent much of his adult life living and working in London. After a long career in the British Civil Service he took up writing full time after the success of his first novel Blood Song, Book One of the Raven’s Shadow trilogy. He has a degree in history, and his interests include art, science and the unending quest for the perfect pint of real ale.

For news and general wittering about stuff he likes, check out Anthony's blog at: http://anthonystuff.wordpress.com

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,117 reviews
Profile Image for Mark Lawrence.
Author 72 books51.7k followers
August 30, 2023
Hooray! I've finished!

I've been reading this book for 16 weeks!

I'm a sloooooow reader. And it's a long book. At 220,000 words it's longer than any book I've written and almost three times as long as Prince of Thorns! Still, it's only half a George Martin doorstop.

But mostly, I had an electronic copy and I don't get on with reading from my laptop - I keep nipping off to the internet!

So - to the book.

First off, it's really well written. Anthony Ryan can write! In fact he's annoyingly good.

There are three point-of-view characters and the story is split reasonably evenly between them.

The main pillars of the book are world-building and story. The magic comes in through gaining powers from drinking the blood of dragons (drakes) - exactly the same as in an unpublished book I wrote in 2001 (Blood of the Red), down to the colours and the fact that a very tiny percentage of people can survive drinking the blood. The implementation though bears no resemblance to mine and the setting is a refreshingly different with late 19th century(ish) technology and a vast commercial empire where profit and trade have replaced royalty or democracy.

The presence of the drakes and the need to harvest them make for an unusual kind of Victoriana. Plus there's a largely unexplored continent where the drakes are hunted and on which a lost explorer is sought (Dr Livingston, I presume?).

Our characters are a secret operative in the corporate wars, a thief with special talents, co-opted to explore the wilds in search of a unique drake, and a naval officer serving on an ironclad warship.

I loved the naval battles and the life aboard ship stuff. The covert operations were great fun too. And the out in the wilds with the drakes and the natives element was also fascinating. In this last thread we have a wild-west element with gunmen (and women) aplenty.

It's a marvelous piece of imagination with plenty of twists and reveals to keep it going.

Any complaints or doubts? Not on my own behalf. I will say though that the spectacular success of Ryan's debut, Blood Song, was in part due to the focus on a single, young, heroic character. Many fantasy readers like a 'cool' sword swinging hero and they got that in spades in Ryan's first book. Some readers were disappointed by the move to multiple characters in the rest of that trilogy (that I must read!). In The Waking Fire although our secret agent has plenty of smooth moves there really isn't a 'wow' character to appeal to the demographic that love a blood and guts hero. This is a more sophisticated story - although don't worry, plenty of people get shot in the head and the Gatling guns vs winged fire-breathing dragons are very cool (& put me in mind of Myke Cole's Black Hawks vs dragons in the Shadow Ops books).

In short then, it's a great read with tons of twisty story and excellent world-building.

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Profile Image for Petrik.
688 reviews46.1k followers
May 1, 2018
3.5/5 stars

A decent foundational start to a steampunk epic fantasy and also a far departure from Blood Song.

The Waking Fire is the first book in Anthony Ryan’s Draconis Memoria trilogy and it is overall a good foundational book, which could’ve been great or amazing if it wasn’t for the weak first half. It’s practically impossible for me to do this review without mentioning Ryan’s Blood Song or Raven’s Shadow. It can’t be helped really, Blood Song is one of my favorite debut of all time and I’m sure Anthony Ryan himself is very well known because of his creation of that trilogy; for better or worse. I was super excited to begin Draconis Memoria and I did expect this to be a different type of series in comparison to Raven’s Shadow but I certainly didn’t expect it to be THIS different. Although by the end of this book I was engaged, thrilled, and excited to continue to the sequel, I have to admit that I struggled with a lot of parts of the book.

Let me state this once again, do not expect to get a Blood Song or Raven’s Shadow experience from this book, The Waking Fire is vastly different in every factor. It seems like Anthony Ryan is challenging himself by writing this trilogy, he combined a LOT of varying elements that at first glance doesn’t seem to belong in an epic fantasy book. I’m talking about combining Indiana Jones, James Bond, and Pirates of the Caribbean, dragons with Mistborn’s style magic system, into an epic fantasy with steampunk settings. It’s that unique and original but because of how much elements were put into this, I had a lot of trouble getting used to the ‘feel’ of the world. Not only this is different from the kind of books I usually read, I found the first half confusing just for the sake of making the book sounds complex.

A myriad amount of names, factions, places, magic system were immediately thrown out from the beginning and there wasn’t enough explanation for them. When I finished the book, I realized just how unnecessary the complexity in the first half was; I even wish for some bit of info dump in the beginning just so I can catch up to where what, and who these people are. This doesn't mean that I don't enjoy complex epic fantasy books, I actually do enjoy them immensely. I just think that Ryan didn't do a spectacular job on this explaining this section. I buddy read this book with my co-blogger, TS, and get this, she has read Malazan: Book of the Fallen, claimed as the most complex epic fantasy series out there by a lot of fantasy veterans and even then, she found the book longer than Gardens of the Moon to get used to. However, once I got used to them by the second half, I found the book ambitious and engaging, this is especially true in part three of the book.

“True change has never been bloodless.”

The book was told from three main POV and the three of them are super different from each other. I will be doing this review, explaining the parts that work and didn’t work, from these POV.

Lizanne is the James Bond aspect of this book. Ryan’s utilized spy element, plenty of actions revolving around the mix of intricate magic system and high tech gadgets. I found Lizanne’s story to be the easiest to get into, it was almost thoroughly enjoyable to read. Her character’s personality was well-developed, she has a lot of important roles for the book and trilogy, her actions scenes were great and she also has a connection with one of the other protagonist, Clay.

Clay is a thief and his story is where you’ll get the Indiana Jones aspect of the book. His story didn’t engage me immediately because to be honest, I dislike Indiana Jones and his story for the first two-part were pretty much Indiana Jones with dragons. His character development and story, however, kept on getting better and by the end, I found his story to be up there with Lizanne in terms of importance and greatness.

The last one though, Hilemore. Now this, this is where I have the most problem with. I have a lot of trouble in trying to enjoy Hilemore’s POV. Unlike Lizanne and Clay, his story felt like it belongs in another book for the entirety of the book. It totally felt like reading a different book because his story has very little connection to the plotline except for his last two chapters, which were only around 20 pages; I found the rest of them unnecessary and they dragged the quality of the book down. Not only that, his POV is extremely nautical battle heavy full of ship jargons with very little character development. This doesn’t mean that the nautical battle itself is bad; it’s well-written and the actions are great. However, like every book I read, characters take the utmost priority. If I didn’t care about the character, like the case with Hilemore, the action can be as amazing as possible and it won’t matter to me. Even by the conclusion of this book I still think of him as a stranger and in my opinion, he didn’t need a POV at all. In fact, part three of the book became the best section for me because he only has two short chapters in it. I hope Ryan can improve on this aspect in the sequels and this time, make sure he truly belongs in the trilogy other than being there for the sake of showing a naval battle sequence.

Although my review sounded more negative than positive, I actually found part three of the book redeemed a lot of the struggle I had with the book and at the same time it also set up the story for the sequels wonderfully. I already have the ARC of the last book in the trilogy so obviously, I will continue reading the sequel immediately. Overall, The Waking Fire is a good foundational start for the trilogy and I hope the groundwork will pay off in the sequels

You can find this and the rest of my Adult Epic/High Fantasy & Sci-Fi reviews at BookNest
Profile Image for Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller.
737 reviews1,260 followers
March 10, 2017
Have you ever read a book that felt like it was written just for you? That’s how The Waking Fire made me feel. It had everything I love in fantasy novels and then some. And it was also one of the best dragon books I’ve ever read – nice!

The Waking Fire was a cool merge of dragon-centric high fantasy and 1920s era steampunk. It was filled with an abundance of exotic settings – everything from the high seas to ancient ruins deep in the jungle. It took a while before dragons really became the champions of the story, but they were definitely integral to the plot from the very beginning. The entire novel revolves around dragon blood and how each type can provide magical properties to a handful of gifted humans. It read very much like Sanderson’s Mistborn saga (where metals provide these properties rather than dragon blood), which is why I think fans of that series would most definitely enjoyed this one (and vice versa).

The Waking Fire is a multiple POV story, and I’d have a hard time telling you which perspective I enjoyed the most – they were all good! One thing I’ve always appreciated about Ryan’s work is that his female characters are always strong harbingers of change equal to his male characters. I wouldn’t say I found any of the women in The Waking Fire particularly relatable, but they were all equally kickass and interesting.

This book is one amazing armchair adventure that will give you one surprise after another. There were many passages I reread because the content was so dang cool, especially near the end. This book will punch you in the gut the entire way through and make you love every moment.

Overall, with the combination of dragons, exotic settings, amazing characters, great writing, and surprising plot, The Waking Fire is officially one of my new favorite books. I highly recommend it to fantasy fans, especially if you loved Blood Song – the first book in Ryan’s Raven’s Shadow Trilogy.

Other books you might like:

The Final Empire - Brandon Sanderson
The Aeronaut's Windlass - Jim Butcher
A Natural History of Dragons - Marie Brennan
The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss
The Lies of Locke Lamora - Scott Lynch

Via The Obsessive Bookseller at www.nikihawkes.com
Author 1 book360 followers
September 25, 2016
I received a signed ARC of The Waking Fire the day before my birthday. Best birthday gift ever? I'll begin by saying that The Waking Fire is nothing like the Blood Song. If you are looking for a Badass and heroic, flaming-sword-holding and ever-winning protagonist, you are searching in the wrong place.

The story is evenly divided between 3 POV characters. A naval officer, a well accomplished thief, and an Academy graduate James Bond-ish secret agent. But they are not what makes this book great. That would be the combination of the general story (There are Drakes. You can drink the blood of the Drakes. You will most probably die by it. But if you don't, if you are part of the minority, you can obtain special powers that will make you both invincible in battles and a valuable aspect to the various organisations that control the Empire with the trade and profit of the blood of the Drakes) and the world building (a late Victorian era with steampunk gadgets and technology).

"There will come a time, when a covert operation will transform into a tactical engagement. Whilst such a circumstance should be avoided wherever possible, you should be prepared to shift your operating parameters accordingly. However, this does not mean an abandonment of careful planning or pursuance of only the most realistic objectives."

The narration was skillfully executed, giving a creepy, transparent style to the story and providing controversial and teeth grinding elements. The great characterization, as well the realism that characterizes all of Anthony's works can be seen at the slow-building momentum and rising tension that eventually is wrapping up the various threads, hooking you up with the intriguing story. All in all, The Waking Fire is a unique and well written story, combining old-school fantasy with modern elements, offering something new to the genre. If not in the top, it should definitely be in the top-5 of your TBR List.

You can find more of my reviews on http://booknest.eu
Profile Image for Mogsy.
2,073 reviews2,634 followers
July 19, 2016
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2016/07/19/...

A departure from his Raven’s Shadow trilogy, Anthony Ryan’s latest novel The Waking Fire is the start of a new series featuring a compelling blend of fantasy, adventure, and intrigue. And if there was one thing I learned from reading Queen of Fire, it’s that Ryan has a talent for writing amazing scenes of battle on the high seas—which are also plentiful in this new book. Then, there are the dragons. Oh, we mustn’t forget the dragons.

In this fascinating new world of The Draconis Memoria, no other commodity is prized above what the people call “product”, a deceptively innocuous term for something in fact truly magical and amazing: Dragon’s blood. By itself, product is unremarkable—volatile and dangerous, even—save for the powers it bestows to a very small slice of the population known as the blood-blessed, those rare men and women who are literally one in a thousand. Their abilities that manifest are so advantageous and formidable, that entire industries have been dedicated to the harvesting of dragon blood, either from hunting the creatures or taking it from those kept in captivity. Unfortunately though, over-exploitation has depleted their numbers in the wild, and those in the Ironship Syndicate who have noticed this weakening have real fears that the ensuing shortage of product will lead to war with their neighbors in the Corvantine Empire.

However, a group in the Syndicate has been clandestinely following up on the whispers of a rare breed of drake. Ancient texts tell of the White, a dragon that is supposed to be far more powerful than the commonplace Reds, Greens, Blacks and Blues. By all accounts, the white dragon is a myth—but there are those who believe with all their hearts that it exists and would do whatever it takes to get their hands on its blood, a treasure worth beyond anything imagined.

The Waking Fire tells a story of how three disparate characters find themselves on a quest to seek this elusive creature of legend. First there’s Claydon Torcreek, who is not just your run-of-the-mill slippery thief. That’s because Clay is also a blood-blessed, albeit unregistered, using his powers to give himself an advantage over his fellow criminals and scoundrels. Then one day, he gets arrested and pressed into his Uncle Braddon’s service. As it happens, Braddon is about to embark on a journey which would require someone of Clay’s talents. Next up is Corrick Hilemore, an officer newly assigned to an ironship, whose captain is in the early stages of testing out a faster, more powerful engine. As a character, Hilemore didn’t really stand out for me, and it was also a while before we saw his sections relate to the overall story. Still, I have to say his chapters were undoubtedly some of the most exciting (see earlier comment about amazing ship battles!) filled with encounters with pirates and with Corvantine enemy forces. But by far my favorite character was probably Lizanne Lethridge, a spy and assassin tasked by her superior to gather intelligence which would help in the hunt for the white drake. Lizanne embodies everything I love about female spy characters—disciplined and efficient, but also smart and independent enough to not blindly follow orders when her gut instinct tells her something isn’t right.

I also enjoyed Anthony Ryan’s dragons, even though they are more incidental than anything, for it is their blood that is the focus on this story. The power that a blood-blessed can summon upon consuming product will depend on the type of dragon the blood came from. A useful maxim to remember is “Blue for the mind, Green for the body, Red for the fire, Black for the push.” The idea of a “gifted” section of the populace being able to gain a variety of physical and mental enhancements or abilities from chugging certain kinds of substances is definitely not new (for instance, Brandon Sanderson’s magic system in Mistborn immediately comes to mind) but I liked how Ryan incorporated the dragon mythos, and he made it conceivable that uncanny powers can be derived from the essence of these magical creatures.

The plot pacing is a bit uneven, but to be fair that’s not something uncommon for a lot of these big epic fantasy novels. I liked that the book hooked me in straight away, the first ten or so pages of the prologue introducing a riddle which sets the tone for the rest of the story. The three character perspectives are well-balanced and explores multiple facets of the story in depth as well as a great deal of what’s happening around the world. If you enjoy fantasy quest narratives and all that comes along with them, then you should also have a great time following Clay, Lizanne and Hilemore on their individual trials and challenges. As with any long journey, the three of them will experience exciting adventures but also plenty of downtime to regroup and recuperate. Always though, the plot presses forward with its intrigues and character development. By the time the book ended, I was practically screaming at that cliffhanger.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. I was left with a couple thoughts when I finished. First of all, Anthony Ryan has seriously upped his game. The Waking Fire is proof that his debut trilogy Raven’s Shadow was just a taste of more to come from that brilliant mind of his. And the second thought on my mind of course was: WHEN WILL WE GET THE SEQUEL? I’m definitely on board with this new series!
Profile Image for Solseit.
350 reviews81 followers
March 7, 2022
I have not read any book by Anthony Ryan but I can say that I am in the Anthony Ryan fan club as of December 12.

This book is just a majestic combination of several fantasy elements in a 16th century setting (primarily for the weapons being used) rather than medieval.
Magic, dragons (and the cover is just an amazing visual of the book and, as for covers, is just a great selling cover for me!), adventure which also includes the Renaissance financing of companies and adventures (such as https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bank_of...), intrigue - political and otherwise -, cliffhanger and story telling.

I have to admit that the book takes some time to introduce the world, the characters and the interactions; I do not mind them as long as the presentation takes the "right" amount of time. This book took the right amount of time and I loved it. Also, around 40% in, the book takes a very different pace and it is difficult to put down!

I would say there are three story lines that intertwine and I could not stop loving each and everyone of those. Anthony Ryan was actually using cliffhangers in a very addicting manner (at least for me!).
I also loved the characters and I could relate to them which is always an extremely positive element for me. There is a bit of everything, there are good guys, bad guys, idealists, revolutionaries, betrayers, ambitious, family driven, justice driven, insane. Just a bit of everyone and it is perfect!

Another extremely positive aspect is the linearity and clarity of the magic system. Provided that I love magic no matter what, I love a book even more when authors dedicate time and effort to create a magic system that is understandable and clear.

If you love magic and dragons, this is the book for you!
Profile Image for Liviu.
2,284 reviews638 followers
May 14, 2016
while different than Raven's Shadow (much more modern with guns, engines and magic) this reads superbly so far about 100 pages in, making one forget about the debut trilogy books 2 and 3 major letdown

read 200+ pages so far and I have to say that it is just awesome stuff, better even than Blood Song (at least considering my tastes) since it's considerably more imaginative; if it keeps going like this it will be #1 for the year by far

I finished the book and while it kept its page turning qualities till the end, the last 1/3 wasn't as awesome as the first 2/3 since the novel changed from "interesting characters, interesting world-building, discovery, intrigue, war" to "fight the all powerful dark lord" (well here it's a dragon but still) who wants to subjugate humanity (maybe for good reasons true), has super dee duper powers (like transforming all humans around, except for the main characters of course in mindless drones which worship and obey the dark lord, command legions of other dragons to attack the human cities and fleets and the desperate defense etc etc)

A good stopping point for the ending but I truly hope the series won't devolve into characters running around to discover how to defeat the all powerful dark lord who is just this close to subjugate/destroy the whole human civilization as the interplay between the humans (a corporate 19th century like conglomeration of states with magic and guns, a bloody empire with nobles, magic and ruthless soldiers, pirates, islanders, colonies etc) was so much more interesting than shooting dragons left, right and center with more and more powerful guns (there is a James Bond vibe too with a Q-like inventor and his cool gadgets and the coolly named Exceptional Initiatives organization within the Ironship Protectorate to which Lizanne, one of the 3 main characters is a successful agent and young shareholder as well as a magician - "blood blessed" - in this case, coming from a notorious family as do the other 2 main characters, Clay, an unregistered blood blessed from the slums, though his uncle is a respectable and honorable man, and Hilemore, a ship officer on the fastest protectorate warship whose grandfather was also a famous officer; the secondary characters are also excellent and quite a few - a young girl, a mentor-governor and ladies academy principal, a "contract company" with lots of eccentric characters, a pirate-queen with her quite un-friendly family, various nobles, shareholders, officers, explorers, revolutionaries and mythic figures like the Artisan and the Seer)

Overall great narrative power, awesome and inventive 2/3, conventional but still good last 1/3, good stopping point and hoping for the resumption of inventiveness in volume 2 rather than going the standard dark-lord path
Profile Image for Emma.
2,510 reviews855 followers
May 30, 2020
4.5 stars.
Many fans of Bloodsong have not been as impressed with The Waking Fire. However I did not like BloodSong but I did like this! The multiple POV and the world building took some getting used to: this was not a book I could read terribly quickly as there was a lot to absorb.
Action galore though from about a third of the way in. I really enjoyed the story and a new take on dragons and am looking forward to the next volume which I believe is published next summer.
Oh, by the way- do NOT try this by audio- it was terrible and I reverted to the book.
Profile Image for Jody .
202 reviews141 followers
December 11, 2018
I really enjoyed this book. The three main POV's were well thought out and each storyline was distinct from the other two. The mix of espionage, naval battles, and adventure kept the pace up for most of the story. It does slow down a little near the end, but there are a couple of twists that keep things interesting. Hopefully, you can spot these better than I did.

The setting was done really well also. Mr. Ryan uses an industrial age type setting with steam engines and other machines, while using dragons as a type of currency that only few can reap the benefits of. It's the type of combination that fantasy readers can certainly enjoy if done right, and in my opinion Mr. Ryan excels at.

The magic system is straight forward and fairly simple. It doesn't lose any luster due to it's simplicity. It rather enhances many of the scenes as most magic systems do, but also has limitations that doesn't render its users invincible. So, no need to worry about a complicated magic system with this book.

The Waking Fire was a great start to The Draconis Memoria series. I believe most fans of the fantasy genre would enjoy this book. Mainly those who love reading about dragons obviously, but also those that like their fantasy with a bit of industrialized edge to it. I'm looking forward to book 2, and plan on starting it later this week.

Actual rating: 4.5 stars

Profile Image for Nicole.
750 reviews1,937 followers
June 26, 2017
I decided to dnf the Waking Fire. Second book I dnf this year. I just couldn't care any less about the plot, the characters, and everything else. The writing style doesn't help. I really tried.. but I couldn't even reach half of it. I rated it 2 stars for the benefit of the doubt. I was really excited to read it but it didn't meet my expectations (at all).
Profile Image for Gavin.
886 reviews401 followers
August 9, 2016
Waking Fire is a fairly hard book to assess. Mostly because I cannot read it without thinking of Anthony Ryan's first series. The first book in the Raven's Shadow series, Blood Song, was absolutely fantastic and as a result Waking Fire suffered a little bit by comparison. I also found that my memories of the flop that was Queen of Fire, the final book in the Raven's Shadow series, had left me wary and slightly untrustful of Anthony Ryan as an author and that effected my enjoyment of this story. I did think Waking Fire was an enjoyable fantasy story but I did not find it to be a memorable one or a story on the same level as Blood Song.

The world in Waking Fire was an interesting one. Two superpowers, the Corvantine Empire and Ironship Trading Syndicate are edging closer to war. The key to winning might lie in the strange continent of Arradsia. It is the only place the Drake blood that powers the "blood blessed" magic users abilities can be harvested. Arradsia has secrets of its own and a few revelations lead to discoveries that spell trouble for any who set foot on the continent.

The magic was pretty cool. The blood blessed ingested different coloured Drakes(dragons in all but name) blood for different types of powers. It reminded me a lot of the magic system in the Mistborn series. The time setting of the story was reminiscent of the Alloy of Law time period of the Mistborn series. A mix of magic and technology had sparked this worlds industrial revolution and we ended up with a mix of magic and steam technology plus explosives and guns.

The story was told from the POV of three different characters.

Claydon Torcreek - A young tough from the mean streets of an Arradsian settlement and also a secret blood blessed.

I liked Claydon's story. He was a likeable guy and spent the bulk of his story arc hunting mysteries in the depths of Arradasia. It felt a bit like an Indiana Jones adventure.

Lizanne Lethridge- A blood blessed spy and assassin in the employ of the Ironship Trading Syndicate.

I liked Lizanne and her story arc. It felt like a mix of Bond and Mistborn. Lizanne was tough and ruthless but not too much so that it made her unlikeable.

Corrick Hilemore - A naval officer on board an Ironship naval vessel which is testing an experimental new engine.

This was the least interesting of the story arcs and Corrick's naval adventures, first fighting pirates and then the Corvantine fleet, felt a bit disconnected from the rest of the story. Corrick also got the least amount of time to shine so hopefully his character has more time to develop in the second book in the series.

All in all I found Waking Fire to be a decent read. It was not without its flaws and it did have a slightly slow start, but once the world building settled and the story got going it was entertaining enough.

Rating: 3.5 stars.

Audio Note: I have a feeling Steven Brand did this book no favours with his audio performance. He has a good voice for general narration but simply reads the lines instead of performing them. It reminded me of the old school audio narrators from the days of tape cassettes!
Profile Image for James Tivendale.
317 reviews1,341 followers
September 6, 2018

DNF at 64%. It just wasn't gripping me and 300 or so pages is enough time to give a book a chance. I didn't have too many issues with it and may come back to it sometime as I've already got all 3 books. The characters were semi-interesting but didn't jump out of the page enough. Pretty well written but this is a pass for the moment but may be liked by others. The Drakes, The Spoiled and magic system were pretty interesting though x
Profile Image for Michael Britt.
171 reviews1,992 followers
May 30, 2017
I really, REALLY loved this book. The main reason is a lot of the content felt very fresh. When reading a ton of Fantasy it can start to feel like most stories are the same. Not this one. For one, I hate books with multiple POV's, but this one made me love it. Each character's story was extremely interesting and I never once thought "Ugh, just move on to the next character already" like I do with most multiple POV books. I also loved the magic system. I personally can't recall any book where they use drake (small dragons) blood as the fuel for their magic.

Another thing that rarely happens is me liking all of the characters. Especially a female character. Mainly because they're usually either way too ruthless or they're the damsel in distress. With Lizanne's character he did a really nice mix of the 2 and made her feel more real. She didn't back down to anyone, but she also had enough empathy to make her not seem like the author was trying to hard to make her a machine. Which in turn made her feel like a really unique character.

All-in-all, this is the type of Fantasy novel I have been looking for for a really long time. It featured a very strong and believable female protagonist, it had plenty of action but mixed in some really enjoyable "down time", it didn't feel tropey or like every other "swords and dragons" novel, the magic system felt fresh and was pretty simple to understand and it ended on a really solid note that will be great segue into it's sequel novel. I just can't wait to see where he takes this in the future!
Profile Image for Anni.
103 reviews
August 28, 2018
4.5 Stars 🌟

I'm a little nervous, because normally I don't write reviews (especially not in english), but I feel like sharing my thoughts on this one.

This book was on my wishlist for ages, I absolutely love the cover and the blurb sounds good, too. And there're dragons or rather drakes... yeah, you got me, that was the main reason I finally picked this one up.
As I bought it last month I was very excited to finally start and share my feelings with some of the lovely Ladies from Fantasy Buddy Reads :)

I quiet liked the book right from the start, but it took nearly half of the book to really grow on me. We follow 3 different POVs: Clay, Lizanne and Hilemore. And while I really liked the first two, Hilemore's perspective stayed a little superficial the whole time. In general this is a rather a plot-driven book and I sometimes wished for the characters to be more fleshed out.
I read other reviews that call it a slower paced read, but it's not how it appeared to me. Every chapter was told from a different point of view and most of the time they end with a cliffhanger. This, a lot of fighting scenes and the skipping of a few 'travelling-days' made it a rather fast read for me.

What I really liked about the book, is the worldbuilding, it isn't a medieval setting like so many other fantasy books but more industrial and what I was told is called Steampunk. I'm aware that there're some mistakes concerning the engines, but as I'm not into it, it doesn't bother me at all while reading.
We got to see a lot of different places which makes it very diversified. The magic system was also great, it's pretty easy to understand, well thought through and while it leaves room for developments in the sequels it's consistent, which I appreciate very much.

Most of the twists came unexpected and the fact that the author doesn't shy away from killing off some of the characters made me like the book even more.

The ending isn't self-contained, but it doesn't leave the feeling of a finished chapter rather than a finished book. For me it's closed enough to like the ending and really looking forward to read the next book.
Profile Image for Terry.
366 reviews78 followers
September 26, 2018
Wow, I loved this! I felt like it was a refreshing and original story that just hit all the right buttons for my love of the fantasy genre - Exciting action, dragons, great characters, dragons, detailed and diverse settings, dragons, plot twists, dragons and great battles. Did I mention the dragons? 😁 I loved them in this. A natural force of their own. I'm excited to continue this series. Easily 5.0/5.0, and added to my favorites shelf already.
Profile Image for Mark.
417 reviews66 followers
Want to read
April 13, 2016
I still feel pretty burnt by QUEEN OF FIRE. Don't know if my pride can let me give Anthony Ryan anymore money...
Profile Image for Seán.
113 reviews21 followers
April 19, 2017
An intriguing world revealed through the perspectives of three strong and interesting characters. The scale is epic and Ryan is capable of casting his various threads out and drawing them together in a satisfying way. The next book has been well set up and I am thoroughly looking forward to diving in as soon as it is released.

The Waking Fire had a lot going on that I enjoyed - I was particularly in the mood for something epic in scale and this book delivered in that respect. The main plot is world-changing and the military action which serves as a backdrop sets up a conflict that is sure to last into the next few books. I really enjoyed the expedition setup, which is something that I have not seen used in too many recent books. I enjoyed virtually every character - minor and main - something which I also have not encountered in recent books.

The only negative points I have are to do with the writing: I felt that there was some confusion early on in terms of the various factions and countries in the world. Ryan never explicitly sits us down and explains clearly the geographical and political situations and this led to me double checking lots of names and information in the first half of the book. This is a case where some form of info-dump would have been both forgiven and welcomed, because the information that does trickle down isn't as clear as it could be.

This would have also helped with the other negative point I have: the pacing is a little too fast, almost bordering on frantic. For the first two sections of the book at least, there is a looot happening in each chapter. This means that by the time you cycle back to the next Clay chapter, for instance, so much has happened in the meantime that some piece of information is bound to have been forgotten. Some small interlude chapters every 6-9 chapters or so would have served nicely to slow down the pace and take stock of everything that has been happening in the world. I say this not as a lazy reader - I've read plenty of series that have more moving parts - but as it is something I hope that Ryan improves on with the next book and beyond.

I will stress that these are minor criticisms, and not things that are likely to ruin anyone's enjoyment of the book. The thing that makes or breaks a book for me is the writing style, and these were the main issues I personally found. But they are minor, speaking objectively. This is an excellent introductory book that both sets up an intriguing and epic scale story, and offers enough entertainment and resolution to be enjoyed thoroughly in its own right. I really enjoyed it, and I have a feeling I'm going to enjoy it even more in retrospect as the characters and events settle into my mind a bit more. I highly recommend The Waking Fire for anyone looking to dive into an epic fantasy series with a ton of content, and I will be grabbing the sequel the moment it is released.
Profile Image for L.L. MacRae.
Author 9 books369 followers
March 12, 2023
3.5 stars

Ooooooh this is an interesting and quite difficult review to write because this book affected me in a lot of different ways. I loved parts of it. Other parts dragged. Overall my enjoyment levels soared and plummeted in equal measure.

Firstly, I (well I wouldn’t say “blitzed”) read the first 40-ish% relatively quickly (for me). Was utterly hooked from the prologue through the first handful of pages. All the character introductions were done marvellously, as well as the world building. I’m rather obsessed with anything draconic anyway, so to have them used in such a unique way was wonderful.

It was a brilliant introduction and expansion of some concepts and it utterly grabbed me. Such a fantastic prologue!

Dragon blood is harvested and known as “product” - the blood of the different dragon types (green, red, blue, or black) has different properties, and can be mixed or combined for additional skills. Only a “blood blessed” is able to use product, thereby setting themselves as either a target or a valuable resource.

This sort of dynamic is always fun to read, and it was brilliantly done in this case. We have a couple of blood blessed characters in very different situations, and seeing how they react and interact is brilliant.

Clay feels a bit more like the main character than the other two POVs. He reminds me a tonne of Mal from Firefly (another series I adore), so that instantly warmed me to him. The way he and those around him speak in particular are what made me make the connection, though Clay is probably a little rougher around the edges than Mal, and certainly has a darker side, too.

He’s done bad things in the past, and does bad things to survive. But he ends up taken from what he knows and thrust into a quest for which he is ill-equipped (another “trope” that I love), forced to make friends, avoid enemies, and hopefully keep his head on his shoulders. As the story progresses, we realise just how hard surviving is.

Lizanne I enjoyed next after Clay. Another blood blessed but in a far superior position. She wields power figuratively through her job and political associations, and literally, in that she is a far more accomplished blood-blessed than Clay. She’s a sort of assassin crossed with a spy. She doesn’t just turn up and dispatch the baddies, she is involved in all the political machinations that go along with it. Her relationship with Tekela was wonderful to see and develop (it certainly brought an element of humanity to her), and her path crosses, in a manner, with Clay, so it was great to see those two interact.

The third POV character is Hilemore. Admittedly I was interested in him in the start, but that interest did wane somewhat. Very different to the other two POV characters, and off on his own with little interaction, Hilemore is a man of the navy, seemingly by the books and highly critical of those around him. He’s somewhat arrogant, but not in a jarring way. He sees a lot of what the other characters are worried about - incoming war. He was intriguing, but I didn’t like him as much as Clay or Lizanne. There are hints of backstory but he is very tightlipped about it. He’ll have a couple of thoughts here and there, only to cut himself off. Which is good at creating mystery but also makes it difficult to figure out what's going on with him, which led to some frustration and disinterest.

I mentioned at the start that I quickly read through the first 40% or so and that’s true. However, my reading speed slowed massively when I hit about 45% all the way through to about 60-65%. I hadn’t realised *quite* how politically & military heavy this book was going to be, and with the frequent naval battles, ship terminology, crew names, crew orders, and descriptions of boats manoeuvring in Hilemore’s chapters, and the hugely political conversations in Lizanne’s chapters, I do admit my enjoyment lessened somewhat.

Especially in the final third of the book, it gets very militaristic with trenches and weapons, war strategies and so many battles (well, a lot of it is one long siege over several chapters) with graphic descriptions of death, destruction, and dying. Whether it’s people (or bits of them), drakes (or bits of them), it really does get quite heavy-handed. If you love this sort of thing, you will love the final third.

It’s not that I dislike those things - they are very important to the plot - but reading felt a little hard going. I became somewhat numb to the constant descriptions of destruction - particularly in Lizanne’s chapters - and found myself eager to skip to a new chapter.

That’s far more on me than the book, though.

The ending was…it felt it came a bit out of left field? Perhaps that’s on me for not paying attention to the foreshadowing leading up to it. I also didn’t care much for the “sudden” romances with two of our POVs (one happens early, one right at the end), though that’s not unusual for me.

I think I was hoping for a bit more adventure fantasy with dragons and learning about them, and a bit less military/historic, with a focus on the product rather than the animal it comes from. But all this is essential when war comes to books, so it is not a flaw of the book by any means. Just perhaps not quite what I’d wanted? And that’s okay!

I will never *not” love the trope of looking for something that perhaps ought not to be found, of fish-out-of-water, of roguish characters, and dragons. I also loved the mix of technology (sort of an industrial, steampunk flavour) in fantasy, and it was epic to see this more original idea written in such a brillaint way.

I will be reading the other two books in this completed trilogy as I am keen to discover what happens next, though I'm not sure how soon I can get to them!
Profile Image for Jarek "the Mistborn" Dąbrowski.
200 reviews54 followers
October 18, 2017
SOOOOOOOO cool:):):) A mixture of steampunk with fantasy and Sandersonlike magic system which is awesome. A great beginning to the trilogy. The characters where solid, action scenes well written and lots of tchem and the backstory slowly reveals itself and THE DRAGONS:D:D:D although i wish there was more page time with tchem but iam sure well get that in later books. Loved it so much. 5 stars:D
Profile Image for J.P. Ashman.
Author 9 books412 followers
July 7, 2017
Well well well, what a surprisingly, refreshingly different fantasy setting and story. Blew me away!

It's safe to say I am now an Anthony Ryan fan! This story took my out of my medieval set comfort zone, but kept me within reach of my beloved dragons - including greeeeeeens, which is awesome (those who know me will chortle, no doubt).

Think Australia as an early British colony, or the Americas for that matter... or perhaps an amalgamation of the two, with mutated tribes, corporate dragon hunters and ironclad sea battles. You got the image? You got The Draconis Memoria series. But don't stop there, for there's more inside the pages (or audio, in my case. Very very well narrated indeed).

You like magic? Me too, but it wouldn't fit this world in its traditional sense. Shame. Or not, considering Ryan took an element of this world and effectively turned it into a magic inducing drug! Oh yes, it's as cool as it sounds, especially when secret agents and criminals knock it back before unleashing dragons know what at one another.

I always fear I'll waffle on at this point, so I shall leave it there. Just do yourself a favour and give this new world a shot! For me ;-)

I look forward to your thoughts, you cheeky blood-blessed you!

Profile Image for Scott  Hitchcock.
779 reviews235 followers
February 26, 2019
The world and the overall story were good. My issue is that I lacked any connection to the characters and there was no charm or charisma in the telling. No humor. Even the action was a cursory telling from afar. Pretty much the same complaints I had with Blood Song and Tower Lord. It's too bad because steampunk and dragons together had an interesting aspect.
Profile Image for Ceki.
376 reviews86 followers
June 22, 2017

I finally managed to finish this beast of 600 pages and I'm glad I did!
The author's writing is complex, rich and filled with interesting twists and turns.
I think the most interesting thing about the book is definitely its steampunk world that revolves around the exploitation of drakes aka dragons. The reasons why drakes are sought after lies in their blood, but not many people can use it and those that can are called the Blood-blessed. Drakes are differentiated one from another according to the color:

Blue for the mind.
Green for the body.
Red for the fire.
Black for the push.

However, these dangerous but very profitable creatures are becoming rare due to the never-ending hunting, and since greedy humans haven't had much success in breeding them, it is obvious that something needs to be done.
That's when the legend of the White Drake comes in and various secret organizations and corporations join a battle of getting a piece of it. I immediately associated the White Drake with Moby-Dick or, The Whale which is not far from the truth - in a way they both represent the overwhelming power of the nature and ancient times that keep resisting the man's need to conquer and rule. However, you could say that in The Waking Fire the White Drake's power goes even deeper and can be compared to the God's.

As for the characters, they are well developed and likeable imo. There are three major POVs and it is obvious that their fates are all gonna get intertwined. I couldn't help but compare Clay to Taniel, Braddon to Tamas and Silverpin to Ka'Poel from Promise of Blood. Clay is a young and brave but still hormone-fueled young man just as Taniel is; while Silverpin is a mute "savage" with a mysterious past. On the other hand, the female characters from The Waking Fire are better written and do not appear as one-dimensional as the ones from the Powder Mage series. My favorite character is Lizanne - she is a badass and does not bullshit around!

The only part of the book that I found underwhelming was the Hilemore's POVs - not because I disliked him as a character, since I found him really interesting, it was because I found the war tactics, artillery and ship mechanical descriptions hard to understand. However, that can be attributed to my disinterest in the topic rather than the author's inability to write well. I must admit I wish the author had switched these parts with any additional info about drakes but then this book wouldn't be part of a steampunk genre I guess.

All in all, a great 5-star read and I can't wait for the sequel The Legion of Flame which comes out in a few months!
Profile Image for Nils | nilsreviewsit.
332 reviews509 followers
February 7, 2019
4.5 ⭐️

The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan is the first book in The Draconis Memoria series, and what a gripping start it was. Ryan created a complex, rich and compelling story in this book which sets the scene on a high for the rest of the series.
From the very start of the book, Ryan places the reader knee deep in the middle of events and doesn’t really give us much of a backstory or much explanation about the world we’re presented with. Personally, I really enjoyed this, I found myself so intrigued by what was happening, that I was absorbing as much detail as I could, and that held my interest throughout. Although some of the factions, places and governing bodies confused me; I mean there were a lot of names thrown at us, I tended not to be too concerned by understanding what role they all played.
The Waking Fire tells the story of a world inhabited with fearsome dragons, a world where harvested dragon blood pays a huge monopoly, and a world on the brink of war as a result of the dragon race slowly becoming extinct. Rumours of a rare and fabled species of dragon are surfacing, and finding it seems to be the key to salvation.
Here is where I feel, Ryan excelled in this book. The magic system was so amazing! There were four main breeds of dragons; black, green, red and blue, and to the rare people who were Blood Blessed, they could ingest the blood of each of them and each would give various powers. The dragons were therefore used as a commodity because of the abilities their blood gave, and let me tell you, these powers were so cool!
The story follows three main characters; Lizanne, a spy/assassin, Claydon, an unregistered Blood Blessed and Hilemore, a Lieutenant on an Ironship. The characters are presented as very aristocratic, and therefore are written in a formal way, I appreciate that this style will not be to everyone’s taste, but I found it to fit the narrative perfectly. I liked all three characters, but because Lizanne and Claydon were both on different missions to find this fabled breed of dragon, I felt they had the most intriguing story, and therefore loved their chapters. Hilemore, however gave the reader many scenes of naval warfare, which is something I’ve not come across in detail before, so I really did enjoy those parts, but I failed to see his relevance to the main plot until right near the end.
I had a few issues with the names of the some of the side characters, with them all being far too similar, it became hard to distinguish who was who. I also found the amount of weaponry detail Ryan included didn’t impact me in the way it was intended, as I don’t really have much knowledge of guns, I didn’t care for all their names and how many shots each one fired. However, for someone with an interest in this area, I’m sure they would enjoy it more.
Overall though I thoroughly enjoyed The Waking Fire. If you’re a fan of dragons, wars, magic and a thrilling ending, and don’t mind a more formal writing style, then this book is definitely one to check out.
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,233 reviews1,046 followers
November 7, 2016
Fantasy with a steampunk flavor.

In this world, society has become invested in the blood of drakes - the rare and dangerous dragons are hunted down and rendered into different potions that imbue human users with different abilities: super-strength, or the ability to communicate telepathically in a trance, or what seems like telekinesis, &c.
Each color of drake is used for a different kind of potion - but no one knows what abilities a potion made from the blood of the elusive and possibly-legendary white drake would impart. Years ago, an expedition is rumored to have found the white drake - but they are lost or dead. But now, as political tensions rise between two powers, a new mission to find it is conceived...

The beginning of the story reminded me in flavor of Cherie Priest's 'Clockwork Century' series, and I'd recommend one to fans of the other. As the story goes on, a lot more gets added in... the author seems to have had a bit of an attitude that, "if it's cool, throw it into the pot!" Nautical adventure? Check. Jungle quests? Sure. Battles? Of course! Spy thrillers? Those are cool, yes! Remarkably, I thought that jamming all that stuff into one book worked quite well. I enjoyed all the different characters and their individual story arcs.

The book does have weaknesses however. I really dislike the trope "different colors = different powers." It made the 'magic' feel too much like a lame video game; and the way it was laid out made no sense from a logical standpoint. It would've helped if we got to see the drakes doing things that corresponded to their 'powers' but that doesn't really happen.

Also, the story lays out an interesting situation in that many individuals are aware that the drakes are being hunted to the brink of extinction, but there's no chance that the hunting will stop, due to the profit motive. This is sadly believable, but it's also sad that the author includes not one conservationist perspective that thinks it would be interesting (or even just useful!) to actually learn more about the dragons, their habits and abilities instead of just killing them. Maybe this will happen in a sequel? However, when more is finally revealed about I found that to be quite a letdown. I expected more from it.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Ace for the opportunity to check out an author who's new to me. As always, my opinions are solely my own.
Profile Image for Tracey the Lizard Queen.
250 reviews41 followers
June 14, 2017
Christ on a bike, that was amazing!

I'm not really sure what I could say about this book that hasn't already been said?

I listened to the audio book and it was bloody brilliant. And I can't wait for book 2. And you must all go and read/listen to it.
121 reviews58 followers
March 21, 2018
Just a fantastic, we'll rounded book. Plain and simple.

Full review to come =].
Profile Image for Allison.
489 reviews185 followers
June 7, 2016
Definitely a step up from the Raven's Shadow series, imo. Hope it doesn't get marketed incorrectly but I think it already is.... (Jesus Christ, are Wheel of Time, Sanderson, and GoT the only fantasy ppl can compare to??)

This should also have much wider appeal than Ryan's previous series. Naomi Novik and Marie Brennan fans will probably like this a lot. There was a lot more/better female characterization in this too. More accurate comparisons besides the two above: Golden Compass with dragons! Indiana Jones! A bit of Max Gladstone.

There's a kick-ass ladies finishing school, enough dragons to keep even me happy, some twists, and an ending that has me asking more questions, but didn't leave me disappointed. I also appreciated that Ryan just dumps you in and doesn't engage in any reader-author hand-holding.

Thanks to Ace/Penguin and NetGalley for the e-arc!
Profile Image for Tammie.
1,353 reviews158 followers
October 1, 2017
The Waking Fire is the first book I've read by Anthony Ryan and I must say that I really enjoyed it. The world building was good and the magic system was interesting. It reminded me a bit of Mistborn with the whole ingesting a substance to gain the magical ability thing. I liked the combination of magic and steam with guns thrown in as well, and of course the dragons. It kind of had an old west feel to it at times.

The book is broken down into three different character points of view, and it alternated between them with each chapter. One thing I really liked were the cliff hangers at the end of a lot of them. It really kept me reading. There were a couple of times that I just had to skip ahead to see what happened next!

I found most of the characters interesting with Clay being my favorite. Lizanne and Hilemore were also both likable. Although I enjoyed reading about Hilemore's adventures just as much as Clay's and Lizanne's, we didn't get as much of Hilemore and it wasn't clear until well into the book what sort of role he would play in the grand scheme of things.

I would say the only draw backs were the book lagged in parts and also lacked a bit in character development. I still don't really feel like I know most of the characters as well as I would like to. Also about the character Silverpin...

I'm interested in finding out what happens next so I will be looking forward to reading more books in the series.

Review also posted at Writings of a Reader
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