readingtrance

book reviews by Althea

The Waking Fire – Anthony Ryan ***

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The Waking Fire
The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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 (view spoiler) 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.

View all my reviews

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