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The Legion of Flame by Anthony Ryan

The Legion of Flame by Anthony Ryan
Book Name: The Legion of Flame
Author: Anthony Ryan
Publisher(s): Orbit Books (UK) Ace Books (US)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Ebook
Genre(s): Epic Fantasy
Release Date: June 27, 2017 (US) July 6, 2017 (UK)

Spoiler Warning: This review contains spoilers for The Waking Fire, the first book in Anthony Ryan’s Draconis Memoria series.

The Legion of Flame by Anthony Ryan (US Cover)There is a scene in the second chapter of Anthony Ryan’s second novel in the Draconis Memoria, The Legion of Flame, in which Lizanne Lethridge, spy for the Ironship Trading Syndicate, is called before the board to review her actions during the first book. But the woman more famously known as “Miss Blood” after defending the city from an invading force, surprises everyone by laughing at the men and women who run the powerful Syndicate. In a world run by private corporations concerned primarily about profits and shares, Lizanne’s decision to resign from the Syndicate seems to be an unprecedented decision.

As a woman who has been on the front lines, Lizanne recognizes what the board cannot – the world has irrevocably changed, and the awakening of the white dragon is more than just a threat to the company’s bottom line – it’s a threat to humanity’s survival. Even as she knows the board will never take her advice, she tells them the only thing she can – that the world has changed, and if they want to survive in this new landscape, they should forget about profiting through the production of dragon’s blood and forge new military alliances in the desperate hope of fending off this new threat.

It’s a stirring speech, and after the incredible worldbuilding and excitement of the series’ first book, The Waking Fire, it had me excited to dive once more into the action. But the problem with changing the game as thoroughly as Ryan did in the span of a single novel is that it takes time to rearrange the pieces for the next act, and it feels like that’s much of what The Legion of Flame is – a novel dedicated to resetting the board in time for the third book.

The Waking Fire (cover)The Legion of Flame returns to each of its three main characters from The Waking Fire, where Ryan introduced readers to a fascinating world packed with dragons, pirates, machine guns, political machinations and an interesting magic system in which “blood-blessed” individuals can draw specific powers from the blood of different colored dragons.

This time Lizanne Lethridge is tasked with infiltrating Scorazin, a city that now functions as a prison for the Corvantine Empire, and finding the Mad Artisan to assist in the war against the white dragon. Of the three stories, this is the most compelling, as Lizanne finds herself in an entirely new environment complete with its own politics, relationships, and history. Watching how the various gangs live side by side, battling daily for a living in a city where everyone is a dangerous criminal, is fascinating, and Lizanne’s ability to navigate this world even without a ready supply of dragon blood to fuel her magic shows that even without such powers, she remains a force to be reckoned with.

Claydon Torcreek, the unregistered blood-burner who inadvertently awakened the white dragon in the opening book, returns alongside Captain Hilemore, determined to fulfill the future he glimpsed after drinking the white’s blood. Convinced that he and Hilemore must travel to the far south to combat the white dragon, they begin a journey to fulfill their destiny – whatever that may be.

After thoroughly enjoying Claydon’s story in the first book, this portion of the story was disappointing. Claydon remains a likeable character, but I was never totally sold on the wisdom of trying to make the vision he saw after drinking the white dragon’s blood come true, and while the discoveries Claydon makes during his quest may interest others, they fell completely flat for me. While I enjoyed reading the book, once it was over I found myself disappointed by how little the plot advanced.

The Legion of Flame by Anthony Ryan (UK Cover)Hilemore returns as a third point-of-view character, though he remains the third wheel behind Lizanne and Claydon. His scenes do, however, include some of the most interesting action scenes as he keeps his makeshift crew together and fends off dragon attacks.

Ryan introduces a new point-of-view character in Sirus, a wealthy youth whose city is overrun by dragons and their savage Spoiled warriors. He soon learns how the white dragon has gathered so many Spoiled so quickly, and provides readers a glimpse of the dragons’ preparations for war. Again, these scenes are entertaining, but by the end of the book, that story thread results in nothing more than chess pieces being moved into place for the third book.

Ultimately, this was a strange book that entertained me while reading it, but left me feeling somewhat hollow at its conclusion. If you enjoyed The Waking Fire, you will probably enjoy The Legion of Flame, and when it’s complete, you will want to read the forthcoming third book in the series. But this is definitely a book that suffers from “middle book in a series” issues. Here’s hoping that Ryan now has all the pieces in place, and can deliver on the incredible promise of The Waking Fire. With this series, he has the characters, worldbuilding, and magical system to deliver, and now, thanks to The Legion of Flame, he has all the characters positioned for a fiery conclusion.


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