The Waking Fire is the start of a new series by Anthony Ryan, known for his Raven’s Shadow series, this time adopting steampunk and dragons. This is my first ‘steampunk’ novel, and I’m glad that it’s this book that ‘deflowered’ me.
We follow 3 distinct POVs that each have an interesting storyline (so no annoying sighs like ‘PLEASE get back to character X already!’). One of the POVs was a female character, and apart from one annoying scene around the 30% mark, she was actually done really convincing. No I-can-do-it-all-and-I-dont-need-men bitch, but not a swooning empty-headed whench either. Instead she’s got a very well rounded skillset, performs plenty of badassery, but also finds herself in enough pickles to be believeable/likeable. Overall the characters are great, with distinct and satisfying arcs and no overuse of tropes either.
This was my first steampunk book in quite a while. It’s also a setting I’m not really familiar with, so it took me a while to feel comfortable around the world of [book:The Waking Fire|25972177]. Once the initial culture-shock passed though, I was pleasantly surprised by the depth and the complexity of the world Anthony Ryan created. There’s a factions, politics, interesting locations and of course,
dragons drakes. I’ve always had a love for dragons but find that in fantasy they can be done extremely well, but also atrociously bad. I’m glad to say that Anthony Ryan has succeeded in making his dragons drakes feel natural and give each different species its own character.
My only gripe with the world building is that there’s a lot of complicated names / factions being thrown around in this book and sadly there’s not a single place where all this data gets neatly structured. It’s a minor thing, but it meant that I had to create the overall structure of the world and the relationships between the factions in my head, which requires a bit more effort. It made the first 30% quite confusing at times, because I couldn’t figure out which character was on which side. This could/can easily be fixed by adding some infodumps or some interludes between chapters. It’s a minor thing, but for such a lengthy novel, it would greatly enhance the immersion.
The main plot doesn’t really come into focus before the last quarter of the book, but nonetheless, you can feel the epicness build from the first couple of chapters. It’s quite a lengthy book, but fortunately, the story ploughs on at a frantic pace, every chapter bringing enough action or revelations to the table to keep the reader interested.
This would be my other gripe. The writing isn’t bad, but it’s not exceptional either. It’s all quite functional and unremarkable. For a story of this calibre, it could have been done better.
Overall, I really liked this. It’s an epic steampunk fantasy, with plenty of action, interesting characters, and a nice overarching plot. I’m looking forward to [book:The Legion of Flame|32573186].
This is a 4.5 stars for me.
There is plenty to love around here and some minor gripes.