And then I saw that Django Wexler called it, “part Indiana Jones, part Pirates of the Caribbean, and part Mistborn." That was all I needed to know. I was hooked. I immediately put all my other reads on hold and plunged into The Waking Fire with more enthusiasm than I've been able to must for a book in months.
I am exceptionally pleased to say it was entirely worth it.
This was one of the most entertaining and exciting books I've read all year. There's a lot going on here, a lot of different styles and genres mashed together, but they all work. Epic fantasy? Got ya covered there with bad-ass dragons and blood-fueled magic. Historical fantasy? Yup, got ya covered there too, with a steampunk-driven sort of Victorian society. Spy thriller? A bit surprising, perhaps, but you've got spies and lies, as well as gadgets and guns. Pulp adventure? Consider yourself indulged, complete with lost continents, ruined civilizations, ancient treasures, and even jungle savages. Naval thriller? That too, falling somewhere between pirate skirmishes and WWII warfare, fueled by magic and threatened by dragon fire. Period drama? Yes, there's even a bit of that to be found here, complete with family squabbles, class warfare, and even a bit of social commentary.
I think what impressed me most about this book is that all 3 converging story lines were equally intriguing, and all 3 POV characters equally engaging. You've got a thief, a spy, and a solider, each telling their own story, and at no point was I anxious for any one of them to wrap things up so we could get back to the other story lines. The world building was impressive as well, both in terms of the magical and the mundane. You really get a sense of the various factions at play, the source of their human conflicts, and their motives for engaging in the pursuit of dragon blood and fabled treasure.
The characters were solid, with some significant growth for many of them, and there were a few genuine surprises in their betrayals and shifting allegiances. The pacing was absolutely perfect, almost breakneck in fact, and the action sequences are utterly brilliant. I have to admit, my eyes tend to glaze over at prolonged descriptions of epic battles, but here I was invested in every shot, whether it be dragon fire, blood magic, or bullets and bombs.
The Waking Fire may very well have been carefully calculated to hit as many pockets of geekdom as possible - really, all that it's missing is a vampire or two - but it never feels that way. Ryan weaves all the various elements into a cohesive whole that is entertaining from start-to-finish, and which has me anxious for the next book of The Draconis Memoria.
Hardcover, 592 pages
Published July 5th 2016 by Ace
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.