Achievement unlocked: This is the 100th ARC/Review Copy I’ve read and reviewed!
Review Copy provided by the publisher—Orbit—in exchange for an honest review.
Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: The Legacy Trilogy (Book #1 of 3)
Genre: Fantasy, High fantasy
Pages: 784 pages (UK hardback edition)
Published: 5th November 2019 by Orbit (UK) & 9th April 2020 by Orbit (US)
Legacy of Ash is an epic fantasy debut aptly designed for well-seasoned epic fantasy readers, and I wouldn’t recommend newcomers to the genre starting to start their epic fantasy adventure here.
We all know how it goes; if it’s an epic fantasy debut, the particular book will immediately be advertised as A Song of Ice and Fire or Game of Thrones meets (insert another author/series/book here,) and Legacy of Ash isn’t excluded from that tradition. As much as I often find this kind of advertisement misleading most of the time, Legacy of Ash may have just done justice to this often-misleading claim. Legacy of Ash is an epic fantasy debut with many characters and names to remember, imbued with the hint of huge scope found in A Song of Ice and Fire and action sequences that bear a resemblance to Bernard Cornwell’s.
“The Tyrant Queen’s reign is done, but vigilance remains. For just as the shadows are strongest on the brightest of days, we are never more imperiled than when we think ourselves safe.”
Have you ever heard the argument that prologue sucked and unnecessary? I won’t lie, it’s an opinion that I can’t understand, or maybe I’m just lucky because I haven’t found any prologue that ends up becoming unnecessary to the main story. Prologues have the capability to set the tone, background, and premise of what’s to come in the main story, and Legacy of Ash, the first book in The Legacy Trilogy by Matthew Ward, did this wonderfully; it begins with a prologue that’s integral to the main conflicts that start fifteen years after the prologue.
The main story in Legacy of Ash follows the dispute between the two factions: Tressia and the Southerner. The bad blood and hatred running between the two factions have been going on for more than a decade, and the chances of reconciliation are close to non-existence. In the midst of their confrontation with each other, there’s a threat of an upcoming invasion from another different faction: the Hadari Empire. The characters in both factions have to come up with a solution to resolve their problems, or they risk being obliterated by the Hadari. That’s the premise of the first half of the novel; the second half took on a different direction that’s very heavy on politics. Legacy of Ash is a huge debut; it’s almost 800 pages long, and the two main story arcs honestly made the book felt like two books combined into one omnibus. The themes of overcoming friendship, family, loyalties, overcoming prejudice, and finding freedom were strongly apparent throughout the narrative; the characters magnified the effectiveness of these themes greatly.
“It’s a big world. Lose yourself in it. I’ve learnt that it’s always better to do something than nothing.”
“Even if it means you’re following the wrong course?”
“How else will you find out where the proper course lies?”
Legacy of Ash has a large cast of characters to follow, and Ward did an incredible job in showing the perspective from each character. I loved that although some of the characters belong in the same faction, their respective personalities, background, and moral dilemma caused a division or unity. The main characters were well-written, Viktor Akadra was my favorite character from the book, but what I found to be more praiseworthy about this book was how Ward made sure that every single character—including the side characters—ended up becoming important to the overarching storyline.
“Treasure your family, Malachi. No one is poorer than a man who knows his wealth only when it’s lost.”
Unfortunately, I have to admit that the characters took a long time—200 pages—for me to memorized and feel invested in without looking at the drammatis personae. As expected of an epic fantasy, there are a lot of names—not just characters—to remember here, but I felt like they’re delivered to the readers too rapidly that it made the names harder to stick. Plus, Ward’s storytelling style occasionally switches between using first, last name, and nickname of each character that it gets even harder for them to be easily recognizable. For example, Revekah Halvor is called Revekah in one paragraph, and she’s instantly called Halvor in the next, and then back to being called Revekah again. Another example, the name of the divinities, Ashana—the Hadari Goddess of the Moon—is known as Lunastra in Tressia, and Lumestra—Tressian Goddess of the Sun—is known as Astarra in the Hadari Empire. This style, done for many characters repeatedly, gets confusing easily.
The rough beginnings with the names aside, my investment for the majority of the characters were definitely there. Legacy of Ash has no shortage of well-written flawed characters. The characters and relationship developments between the cast felt believable. Also, I would like to add that Ward writes great female characters. Have I mentioned that Ward has written one of the most despicable—in a good way for the story—evil queen to ever exist on a fantasy book? Seriously, watch out for Ebigal Kiradin. She’s utterly abhorrent, selfish, and manipulative; she pretty much made Cersei Lannister virtuous in comparison. And I love it. Ebigal made the politics in the book so much more engaging and intense, and she has the role of becoming a huge driving factor in the second half of the book.
“The irony of order is that it foments indiscipline. In seeking to control all we survey, we invite anarchy.”
The world-building was intricate, and I loved how Ward has interwoven the myth and history of the world into the current conflicts that the characters faced. The magic was lethal, and it still has more room for explorations in the sequels. I’ve mentioned that Ward writes battle scenes that are similar to Bernard Cornwell’s style at the beginning of my review, and this notion was first proven in the big action sequences that happened halfway into the book; it closed the first half of the story terrifically. Both the characterizations and setup in the first half played a significant role in making the almost-hundred pages long war scenes intense, vivid, and unputdownable. Honestly, the battle that occurred in the middle section has all the potential of becoming a final concluding chapter of a particular book; Ward did this twice. Ward closed the second half with another huge battle scenes that are brimming with tension and high-stakes.
“It’s myth. One step removed from story. And stories have only the power you give them. It does no harm to listen.”
As much as I would LOVE to recommend this debut to every fantasy reader, I think it would be beneficial for the book itself that it falls into the hands of readers who are clearly devout epic fantasy readers. Immensely remarkable and huge in scope, Ward concluded Legacy of Ash on a high note, making his debut a definite must-try for epic fantasy enthusiasts. I seriously have no idea where the story will go from here, the book felt like a large standalone with almost every plot-thread finished already, but I’m intrigued to find out more about what Ward left in store in his vision.
You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)