The Waking Fire (The Draconis Memoria #1)
by Anthony Ryan.
Imagine if dragons existed (in four colors: Black, Red, Green and Blue), and each type of blood granted certain powers to a select few of the population. Imagine the era of monarchies and governments had faded, to be replaced by corporations- who, of course, control access to this dragon blood. They’ve gotten rich and powerful off it, particularly the Ironship Syndicate, which has empire-like control of vast lands. Decades pass. And now the breeding lines of drakes are weakening, and the wild ones more scarce. The old myth of the White drake suddenly seems less preposterous and more like a Hail Mary that could save the corporation and the economy. If they can get to it first. If it can be found at all. If all of the recent strange behavior of the wild drakes doesn’t escalate out of control first.
The book follows three main characters: Claydon Torcreek, a petty thief and unregistered blood-blessed unwillingly pressed in corporate service; Lizanne Letheridge, a level-headed corporate spy and assassin, tasked with this secret quest; and Lieutenant Hilemore, a naval officer in the Syndicate’s military force. Their stories intersect to varying degrees, and each reveals a piece of the larger puzzle regarding the quest for the White and what is happening to their world.
I liked it. It’s a good adventure story, with well-written characters. Each storyline was equally interesting, which isn’t always the case in books that jump between characters with each chapter. The magic system was well-done. I appreciate when there’s a cost to using special powers, as opposed to them just being magically unlimited. And I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by probably the last third of the book, as the plot took some turns and revealed some details I hadn’t anticipated.
The prose did get bogged down in places, to the point where I skimmed a bit. Particularly in the sections detailing military battles- though that’s due more to a personal boredom with those kind of scenes, and not necessarily the fault of the author. Overall though it still felt a bit long, and could probably have used another round with a red-pen-loving editor.
But if you like dragons, magic, adventure, intrigue and military fiction, this would be a perfect fit for you. I’m only iffy on that last point, and I still enjoyed it a lot. It only just came out last week, so unfortunately I have to wait until next year for the sequel.
I give it 4/5 stars.
I received an advanced reading copy (ARC) of this book from Penguin Random House First Reads in exchange for an honest review.