Written by: Matthew Ward
Page Count: 768
I was provided a physical ARC of Legacy of Ash by @CloakTraveling (his Twitter handle) after he read and reviewed it, so I want to begin by thanking him. I highly recommend checking out his review because it is was solidified my interest in picking this behemoth of a book up to begin with. After I began reading the physical ARC, Netgalley also provided me with a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I’ve had one hell of a year so far in the fantasy genre, having read a lot of what I would call 5-star books! This is a great time to be a fan of the genre because there seems to be a great number of new voices out there right now. Matthew Ward is absolutely one of those refreshing new voices.
As I read Legacy of Ash, I found myself thinking about just how difficult this review would be to write because there was so much happening on each page. Legacy of Ash is a long book, clocking in at 768 pages. Each page is packed to the brim with detail, intrigue, excellent dialogue, and breathtaking battles.
Legacy of Ash is the definition of epic fantasy. A large cast of characters? Yep. Spiderwebs of intrigue and nasty politics? Yep. Largescale battles? Yep. Dangerous, cutthroat assassins? Of course! Dark and mysterious magic? Yep, that’s here too. A well-built world that feels like it could actually exist? Yeah, we’ve got that here as well, and it contains a breadth of history, peoples and gods who all fascinate in their own ways. The world Matthew Ward created has the feel of a fantasy world in a European setting. The battles that take place feel like actual medieval warfare with a splash of magic thrown in. Matthew Ward clearly has knowledge of medieval war and battle tactics, and this is probably what pulled me into this book the most. Well, that and the magic that becomes ever more present as the plot progresses. The battles felt very real, and the violent costs of war had me feeling the anguish of the participants. These battles take place over a large number of pages, and feel larger than life in a way I rarely have seen in novels. This trilogy needs to become a Netflix series right now! (I’d also love to see this setting in a Total War game).
If I didn’t make it clear yet, Legacy of Ash is a complex tale. There are so many different characters, all with their own motives and secrets. This, as is often the case with epic fantasy, can make parts of the book difficult to keep up with. There are 39 characters mentioned in the Dramatis Personae!! I did find myself, on more than one occasion, referring to the Dramatis Personae to make sure I was accurately remembering who certain characters were. I personally love this level of complexity in my fantasy books, but this may not be for everyone. With this large cast of characters, webs of intrigue almost immediately begin to spin as Matthew Ward plunges you into this dark, magical world.
The standout characters for me were Viktor Akadra, Roslava Orova, Calenne Trelan and Melanna Saranal. Viktor was definitely my favorite character. He is a bit of an anti-hero, which made him almost instantly likeable and easy to relate to. This surprised me because he is initially depicted as someone I didn’t think I would like at all. I won’t go into his character too much, but just know he’s pretty damn awesome. Roslava was a character I didn’t think much of initially, but she eventually became one of my favorites. The same can be said for Calenne. In fact, I didn’t like her much until about 2/3 through the book! And Melanna was very cool! She is a part of the Hadari Empire, and has aspirations of becoming Empress. Being a woman, her father does not want her to fight, but she is absolutely among the greatest warriors in this story, and man does she prove it!
So what is Legacy of Ash about? Well, a lot! The back of the book does a nice job of giving the reader a general idea of what to expect without giving too much away:
“A shadow has fallen over the Tressian Republic.
Ruling families—once protectors of justice and democracy—now plot against one another with sharp words and sharper knives, heedless of the threat posed by invading armies.
Yet as Tressia falls, heroes rise.
Viktor Akadra is the Republic’s champion. A warrior without equal, he hides a secret that would see him burned as a heretic.
Josiri Trelan is Viktor’s sworn enemy. A political prisoner, he dreams of reigniting his mother’s failed rebellion.
Calenne Trelan, Josiri’s sister, seeks only to break free of their tarnished legacy, to escape the expectation and prejudice that haunts the family name.
As war spreads across the Republic, the three must set aside old grudges in order to save their home. But victory—if it comes at all—will demand a darker price than any of them could have imagined.”
This description gives you a basic foundation of what to expect, but trust me that there is so much more to the story than just this premise. This is one of those rare reads that dares to go in directions that I never saw coming. No one feels safe, nothing comes without a cost, and the plot is so well structured that you cant help but feel constantly immersed as the pages fly by. And the pages did fly! The pace of this book, for me at least, never seemed to let up. By the end of the book, I admit, I was exhausted! This is a very plot driven story, and I loved every second of it. Legacy of Ash is one of those rare trilogy books that also seems to have its own beginning, middle and end. Several story arcs were wrapped up by the end of the book, with new questions and new plots being introduced. If I have to point out one thing I’d really like to see in book 2, it is that I would maybe like to see things slow down just a little bit so we can spend a bit more time with the characters, delving deeper into their own thoughts and feelings. Don’t get me wrong, we get this in Legacy of Ash too, but with a very plot driven book this size, taking an extra moment here and there to zoom in more intimately with key characters, one on one, will only add to the realism and invest the reader that much more.
With Legacy of Ash the plot literally never stops, establishing a refreshing new fantasy setting that I love, and characters that I am happy to spend my free time with. This is a dark tale, packed with dark plots, magic and exquisitely detailed battles. If you enjoy epic fantasy you MUST check this book out. This will absolutely be listed among my top reads of the year. 5 out of 5. Fantastic.