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The Waking Fire

Book One of Draconis Memoria
Narrated by: Steven Brand
Length: 22 hrs and 36 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (620 ratings)
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Summary

The new star of British fantasy returns with The Waking Fire, book one of the Draconis Memoria series, a thrilling new epic fantasy of exploration and adventure, spies and assassins, explosive magic and the battle for empire.

For decades the lands of the Ironship Syndicate have been defended by the 'blood blessed' - men and women able to channel the powers contained in the potent blood of wild drakes. Elite spies and assassins, their loyalty has established the Syndicate's position as the greatest power in the known world.

Yet now a crisis looms. The drake bloodlines are weakening, and war with the Corvantine Empire seems inevitable. The Syndicate's only hope of survival lies with the myth of a legendary drake whose powerful blood might just turn the tide of the war - if it even exists.

The task of hunting down this fabled creature falls to Claydon Torcreek, a petty thief and unregistered blood blessed. He's handled many valuable things in his time (most of them illegal) but nothing as priceless as his nation's future.

©2016 Anthony Ryan (P)2016 Hachette Audio UK

Critic reviews

"A major new talent." ( Buzzfeed)
"Anthony Ryan is a master storyteller." (Mark Lawrence)

What members say

Average customer ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Story

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Times for heroes are back!

What a gem! This book has been beautifully woven and raises the bar for fantasy authors. It sets a high standard for the future series.

I can't stop myself thinking that Anthony Ryan shares here, his idealistic fantasy world that only a child could dream of. There are dragons, lots of dragons, spies, rogues, sea battles and so much more. The concept of the new magic and new world with a well-developed history, politics and technology really draws the reader in.

The story is skilfully written. The author developes the characters in a natural and organic way as they pursue their adventures. It gives you this wonderful feeling of 'what's going to happen next?'.

I would place this novel among the other great epic fantasy books with a modern twist.

The times for heroes are back (!) and I willl be looking forward to devouring the next book in the series.

Steven Brand wouldn't be my first choice of the narrator.
Okay..., he delivers the story clearly, but nothing more. There is no clear distinguishment between the characters, emotion, excitement and he makes it so much harder to follow all the side stories and events. This book deserves so much better and I would be happy to wait longer for it before it's released if that would mean a better performer.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Everything but the Kitchen Sink!

Oh my, every so often you come across a story where the author has literally thrown everything bar the kitchen sink at it. This is one of those, a steampunk world “blessed” with super heroes powered by dragon blood and of course the dragons themselves. Lots and lots of dragons! It’s a heady mix set in a world of rich detail and history which also manages to squeeze in contemporary “evils” such as corporate greed and in a sense globalisation.

The story is told through the three leading characters:-

A super spy; hints of a fantasy born of Ian Fleming’s works with a highly trained agent / assassin complete with gadgets and a “Q” figure to boot.

A rogue born of a rough background, someone used to living in the shadows who in fine fantasy tradition is lifted up to go on an almost Indian Jones like quest.

A fine, upstanding sea officer who is our conduit to the book’s naval parts and shipborne adventures.

Through these three varied leads Ryan sweeps us through the bright and varied world he has created with espionage, sea battles, land battles, pirates and of course lots and lots of dragon combat. I think it’s fair to use the work “epic” here.

Is it perfect? Well no, I think that would be pushing it. Stephen Brand would not be my first choice of narrator. He does a good enough job but for a book with this variety of pace, character and scene I think he is a bit one-dimensional compared to some of the very best. I do admire anyone that can narrate through so much material to be fair but someone with a wider variety of character voices and greater ability to change pace would have been welcome. Also, as a story there are some fairly contrived rescues for characters. This is nothing unusual but it did seem to stand out a couple of times for me.

So, this isn’t say as gritty and doesn’t have the “real” feel of say a Brandon Sanderson but it is great fun, varied and full of action. Especially in the second half. There are a good set of characters to get to know and a detailed world to discover. I was very happy with it and I think it is set up to continue in the same vein. The question to ask at this point is can the author keep it up in the follow-up books having thrown quite so much into this one?

I hope so and I will be finding out!

23 of 27 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A Fiery and engaging adventure

If you could sum up The Waking Fire in three words, what would they be?

Action-packed, absorbing, dragons!

What did you like best about this story?

It was great to follow individual story line which interlocked in a satisfying way.

What does Steven Brand bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Great quality to his voice - shame he does not differentiate more between characters.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Was sad in some places and amusing in others

Any additional comments?

Plenty of action, fighting and dragon blood super powers!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

A good story, well written and narrated.

fun story, likeable, believable characters. good narrator. if you enjoyed Ryan's Blood Song series you will enjoy this. looking forward to book 2.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

The Waking Fire lights up Modern Fantasy

Any additional comments?

Opening a book with a letter can be a gentle way to introduce your reader to the world they will be inhabiting through the course of the narrative. This is true for Anthony Ryan’s latest novel in one way, it's a letter but as far as easing you in that's not quite true. For in a very short time we are welcomed into a world of potions and Drakes. These though are the grander points that are hard not to miss, it is the smaller ideas that seep through like syndicates, engines and firearms that show this is no run of the mill Dragon tale.

Ryan manages to marry a Steampunk setting in with a Western, an Espionage tale and a Naval story and this is only to begin with. This is a tricky idea to say the least, but in using three point of view characters he manages to pull it off. The central trio consist of Lizanne, Claydon and Hilemore. They are a mixed group with Clay (short for Claydon) being a thief from the dark streets, Hilemore a naval officer and Lizanne a spy. Each has their own arc though Clay and Lizanne are interwoven for large chunks of the narrative. All three feel fleshed out and you start being able to anticipate their moves later in the book. This in some way sacrifices the plot twists, however by establishing the players and developing their characters Ryan manages to draw you into their stories at a more emotional level. This is important for a larger series as if we end up following this trio in the later books then the groundwork has been laid. Lizanne was my favourite character and I think she has the biggest development arc of the three.


​The real treat however is the world in which the story takes place. It feels like a genuine mix of the centuries with everything from untamed wildlands to advanced engines with an intriguing political power structure overriding everything. Although not a book about politics you can not escape the ideas that run through the book from the dangers and advantages of a free market economy to that of a autocracy. This balance allows for the a central plot theme that plays out later in the book but it also underpins the the relationships we see evolve throughout the book. The issues of the class system are unmistakable within the passages of the book. Again though it is subtle so do not worry nothing is shoved down your throat and due to the characters usually within the scene you do get a semblance of balance on views that are expressed even if it is just a derisive look or snort.
​The Fantasy aspect of this book however can not be overlooked. The Dragons (or Drakes) that the book describes come in four colours, These are Green, Blue, Red and Black on the wane they are harvested for the blood which power the Blood Blessed a group of humans who can harness the power of the blood to achieve superhuman feats. In the case of Green this is healing among other things, for the Red it's all about fire, Black is sinister in the extreme and Blue is concerned with the mind. The introduction of this facet of the story allows for some wonderfully choreographed fights but personal and on a larger scale. Of course the action does not just rest on the Blood Blessed shoulders as we have Rifle, Canon and Growler to more than fulfill our action quota.

With all these themes flowing around it would be easy to think of this book as a slow burn however thanks to the three way narrative it’s not. The chapter structure follows one of the central players at a time and Ryan does a great job of pacing slower chapters with one character by putting them next to a more high tempo chapter with another. Thanks to this the 22 and a half hours of listening time felt like it was quite a bit shorter.

​​The narration by Steven Brand is certainly more narration than performance. He adds inflections to characters but does not try to add different accents. Due to his structure throughout the book I never found it jarring. It is worse when a narrator dips in and out of styles and this is certainly not the case here. As an example you can listen to an extract from the book by clicking on the image to the right.

This is my first dip into Anthony Ryan's writings and I am impressed with what I have heard. This book could easily be a stand alone novel (except for needing a ending), instead it is a world building introduction to a larger series and hopefully one that delivers to the high standard of this opening gambit.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Good but...

The story was good, full credit to the author, but the narrator was unable or unwilling to try different voices for different characters which sometimes made it hard to figure out who was talking. He also kept the same monotone no matter what was happening in the story, so our protagonists being chased by a pack of dragons sounded as exiting as a peaceful day. I liked the book and I'm keeping it, it's not a deal breaker but I'd recommend a bit more practice to the narrator.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Dull

Anthony Ryan seems to be experimenting in a new style of writing here; the colonial story is reflected in the emotionless, detailed prose which reads much like a diary of events. I found some concepts interesting but getting through was a struggle, In fairness not helped at all by the narrator who reads everything in the same monotone. Great to fall asleep to on long journeys though!

It's a shame that since the first Blood Song which is one of the best fantasy books of all time he has been continually experimenting with different writing styles; as if that visceral and exciting first person view wasn't somehow adequate.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

A Struggle

"steam punk" esc with dragons, I really wanted to like this book but just found it very slow.

Narrator was very monotone and diddn"t seem to pause between sentences.

Can't help but feel that cutting half of this book out would improve the pacing and make for a better story.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

the narrator made me board

the most adventurous sounding battle ever made to sound like a drudge march I forgot half the story thanks to the narrator but got the jist thanks to the well written story itself

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Good, hard to get into but eventually you bond with the characters

The reader is very easy to understand, however, I have listened to books where the reader uses different accents and different voices for you to easily distinguish between the characters; even when you’re not fully concentrating on the book itself. He does, do some of the accents, but I find if I didn’t concentrate all the time it blurred into one. In regards to the book I had to listen to the first paragraphs several times to get into the book and understand who was who. Once I had, I find it quite a good book and in the end you up rooting for some of the characters. I was hoping to have more revealed about the relationship between the Dragons and the blood blessed maybe and book 2

1 of 1 people found this review helpful