The Waking Fire (Draconis Memoria 1), by Anthony Ryan

Seems like I am in a steampunk kind of a mood and it seems to work out great.

As it is increasingly more common, this story is centred around three different POV characters; petty criminal Clay, spy Lizanne and navy officer Hilemore. They live in a world where certain people have special ability to drink dragon blood and do superhuman things.
Because yeah, this one has dragons. Wouldn’t have guessed looking at the cover at all. On top of that, they have different kinds (black, red, green, red and supposedly, according to myths even white), all giving a different power.
Sounds peachy, eh? Think again. War is brewing between different countries and even the one we follow is having issues with bureaucracy and technical stagnation.
In this situation an expedition is started to find the white dragon and a lost young woman, supposedly still alive out in the jungle, decades after the failed, previous trip.

There is a lot going on, yes. It’s complex, hard to explain without giving away too much or sounding like a rambling crazy person. My previous read, The Clockwork Dynasty was the same genre and extremely lovely, but much smaller in scope, so I enjoyed how it really managed to show the extent of a world you can do with steampunk. Somehow it always makes me… I guess limit my ideas, which is probably just coming from not having read much from the kind.
Still, there is room for even more, the concepts are really creative and can be used in all kinds of crazy ways.
A lot of the war and the internal problems of the place are involving politics, but what I loved about that part was how neither side had all their shit together. Often times authors go peachy the moment things are political; they can’t be critical of all sides, they just have their loyalties one way and somehow they don’t go far enough to take risks. Which is sad, I would love risk taking fantasy. Sure, in today’s word it feels like everyone is offended by something, something is always taboo and off limits and you HAVE to give straight answers, but there should be room for this.

For a book so long, it actually had enough substance, though. The alternating POV chapters help with that for sure (one of the benefits of it, in my opinion is that even boring chapters can be made better if the other characters are having an interesting time). Mr. Ryan didn’t stretch things out too much with world building and nothing else, action was mixed in with it all.
Plot twists are not a must for me. Many people disagree, but here they were done well. We discover interesting things about characters and lore, history and the science of the world. I appreciated how the twists really had all that variety, it showed some thought put into it all. I would say there is something for everyone on this front.

So about the characters. So far the three POVs were a bit weird. Lizanne and Clay meet early on and are in touch, they have to work together, while Hilemore is separate from the other two, having his own story that connects to the war aspect, but doesn’t cross over to the others. (view spoiler)
They are sufficiently separate entities. They do sound like separate people, influenced by their circumstances, which is essential for different POVs, as one of the potential pitfalls is all of them sounding the same and becoming a mass of the same.You can’t pull this off by just coming up with an interesting cast, you really have to KNOW them, their ways, their typical figures of speech. Everything.

At this point I would say it’s not going to go too too dark. For a books about trying to save the world and all, it has a good amount of discovering things, adventures, things that break up the fact that certain places are lawless enough for people to drop like flies. It’s not trying to have too much pathos, never goes over the top, never feels like this is too much of a rigid, lecturing dark story.
It’s actually well-balanced as far as tone goes.

I’m definitely picking up the next book. I need to know what happens, it keeps my attention, it is definitely worth your time. It is “normal” fantasy enough for people not familiar enough with steampunk, but it was different enough. Good stuff, one of my favourites of the year so far.

Good night and let out some steam with this!

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