Legacy Of Ash, by Matthew Ward is an extraordinary and epic fantasy, it is vast, complex and glorious. I positively adored this book, it truly reached the epic complexity so many fantasies aim for.
Synopsis: The Tressian Republic is falling, a shadow looms over it. In the aftermath of a failed rebellion and on the brink of a war with the Hadari, the leaders meant to represent justice and democracy are at war with eachother. As they fight among themselves with poisonous words and deadly means they ignore the pending war and focus on winning control of their Republic. The Republic’s Champion, Viktor Akadra, is the best warrior the Republic has and he has his sights on the upcoming war. However, he hides a dark secret, one that would see him burned. Josiri Trelan wishes to reignite his late mothers wish of rebellion, but he is a political prisoner constantly monitored. His sister, Calenne wants nothing more than to be free from the shadow cast by their mother’s legacy. But, as war looms and threatens the Republic the three natural born enemies must work together to protect their home. Can they put aside their differences and navigate the deadly political plots and even more deadly war threatening their home? And can they pay the price for the peace they so desperately want?
— Rich, Immersive, Evocative And Detailed —
The Writing Style/Narrative. Matthew Ward’s writing style is incredibly dense and complex, but in a positive way. I will admit that initially it can be quite confusing and difficult to get into as Ward has no qualms about throwing you head first into this world with his deep and intricate descriptions and style. He often flits between referring to characters by first name and surname so this may take some time to grasp as the cast of characters is very vast. However, this style really pays off once you are familiar with the characters as it is perfectly suited to the story’s complexity. The style is rich, immersive, evocative and detailed, you are easily absorbed into this world with the beautiful descriptions and naturally flowing dialogue making it feel real and alive.
Moreover, Ward does not shy away from creating world specific dialogue that has in world regional differences, for example, Goddesses have two different names depending on where you are from, while this takes some time to comprehend it adds an entirely new dimension to the story and world as a whole it makes it more realistic and fully realised, it promises a lot of potential and goes above and beyond that promise.
Ward opts for an interesting narrative, it is the multiple third person narrative perspective – I love the third person narrative and this does not disappoint. As I said the cast of characters is significant and the story is told from a lot of these characters perspectives, this initially is confusing but as you become immersed in the story the easier it is to navigate and the more you can appreciate the efficiency of this style choice. The story and world is vast so the multiple narratives allow us to follow a lot of events in detail and it shows us just how intricate this plot is (while ensuring we can understand it), it was the perfect choice for this story and really allows you to grow connected to the characters.
Due to the narration we get to see both sides of each of the wars/battles or general conflict throughout the entire story. This is unusual as we often are only able to see the “hero’s” view, yet in this story we see all sides of the story and there isn’t really a hero – it is incredibly unique and very refreshing to see such a wide scope that still maintains a sense of mystery and tension.
I really enjoyed this writing style and loved the way Ward used the multiple third person narration to gives us insight into the conflicts created, it allowed for some wonderful dramatic irony to be formed and added to the atmosphere overall.
— Expansive And Immense Story —
The Story/Plot. So, as an avid fantasy reader and watcher I have constantly seen books and shows promoted as “The next Game Of Thrones…If you loved Game Of Thrones then you’ll love this…GOT meets X” and usually this is innaccurate, not because the fantasy is poor but because it doesn’t live up to the epic vastness and complexity that GOT offers. Legacy Of Ash was also compared to Game Of Thrones and this time it lived up to the comparison.
Legacy Of Ash has an epic story full of minute and important intricacies, carefully woven elements that intertwine to create an incredible larger story and has the expansive and immense story and atmosphere that exists in GOT. The large cast, the wars and political battles, the multiple perspectives from both sides of the conflict, the boundless morally grey characters and the incredible lore all combines to create a story of epic proportions that truly stands up to the comparison it has been given. Legacy Of Ash shows that fantasy can be immense and breathtaking without overdoing the violence or sexual elements that are normally relied upon.
The story has multiple elements; firstly the failed rebellion led by Josiri Trelan’s mother. The story opens with a prologue depicting her and how the rebellion ends – a nice addition to the story as it immediately creates a deadly atmosphere with very clear ideas of which characters we think we will be rooting for. When the main story starts we see the effects of this failed rebellion, Josiri is a political prisoner, his people are seen as traitors and it sets up nicely for the conflicts that exist and develop as the story grows. This also creates a strong base for Josiri’s ideals, he wants to reignite his mother’s rebellion and we see this in action straight away. The rebellion is at the core of a significant amount of the conflicts in the story and is incredibly interesting. This was a powerful start to the novel and an incredible base to build upon- it was efficient, effective and intriguing.
Secondly, the Hadari war. The Hadari are on the brink of attacking the Tressian Republic, yet the leaders seem unfazed. Viktor wants to fight the Hadari and protect the Repblic, but to do so he needs Josiri’s help. This was another excellent element in the story as it opened up the beginning of the shifting alliances that we see as the story develops. This was a massive part of the story and was executed flawlessly, the battle and action scenes were remarkable, interesting, well paced and wonderfully detailed. I really enjoyed this element of the story and the interactions between Viktor and the Trelan family.
While the action scenes are excellent and I loved each and every one of them, the story also delves into political battles between the Republic leaders. The blackmail, the twisted words, the shadowy violence and the purely evil mastermind behind the cruellest changes is phenomenal. The political war was just as enthusing and intriguing as the physical fights and battles, it was clever, deadly and entertaining to watch characters make cold-hearted or desperate decisions in the pursuit of ambition. This was an excellent addition to the story and added another dimension to an already epic world.
I loved all of these elements my only issue that kept me from giving this book 5 stars was; the absolute end fight seemed to end pretty quickly, it didn’t feel quite difficult enough. Secondly, I feel like a specific character (avoiding spoilers!) was absent for too much of the novel, they are mentioned a lot throughout the middle but we don’t know anything about their situation from anyone’s perspective, while the majority of their absence is effective for reasons I won’t explain, I feel like maybe it was too much.
All of these elements combine to create an amazing and outstanding story, one that I loved every minute of, this really took me back to the roots of why I love fantasy. I thoroughly enjoyed watching alliances form, break, shift and change as people fight, are manipulated and blackmailed. Every opinion you have of the characters are challenged as the story moves on, nothing is as it seems and there are no set “good guys” and “bad guys” (except maybe one character who, in my opinion, was pure evil) everything is in the grey and it is fantastic. This is a story that is perfect for traditional fantasy lovers, it uses the tradional and well known elements of fantasy and twists them into somthing refreshing and unique.
— Interesting, Unusual And Rich —
The World-Building/Magic System. Within this world the people believe in multiple Goddesses and those with magic are seen as having been gifted it by said Goddesses. However, having magic dictates you path in life but if you have ‘dark’ magic you are seen as a witch who should be burned. The magic as a whole seems to initially have little relevance to the plot as a whole until the pieces start to fit together. I found the magic to be quite interesting, you see the effects of it continuously but the rules are a little less obvious, what we see is more of a personal experience of magic use rather than a guide to what it can and cannot do. I liked the idea of it coming from the Goddesses and look forward to seeing more about the magic and the lore as a whole. The light vs dark element was very cleverly done both dark and light magic is strong and able to beat the other, depending on who uses it and how it is used.
The Goddesses themselves are intriguing we get a few different stories about who they are and how they came to be, as well as their current role in this world. The stories differ because the history does, the lore is very rich detailing the defeat of a dark power, the guidance of the light and yet the history doesn’t seem wholly accurate according to other characters. This adds realism to the story with beliefs being moulded as well as allowing you to theorise yourself about who is correct. I really enjoyed the idea behind the deities and how they work.
The actual world itself is split, with the Southshires being the area in which the traitors live. The Capital homes the majority of the citizens, most notably the most influential families, each of whom have a seat on the council so that they can deal with issues democratically. I really liked this set up, specifically the democracy which is unusual in fantasy such as these which often depict a sole ruler like a Monarch. The idea of a council meant the political battles were much more interesting because there was a significant amount always at stake.
Furthermore, I loved the idea that when people marry they take the name of the spouse from the more influential family, not from the husband by default – I thought it added a nice element to the story that gave the world an intriguing dynamic. In fact gender as a whole is hardly an issue in the Republic, women fight and are some of the most determined characters in the story.
Finally, the world has a dark underbelly known as The Crow Market, a dark and cruel addition to a world that is deadly enough by day as it is. The Crow Market deals in death, The Raven’s favourite – Goddesses dominate the ‘religious’ beliefs in this world but the Raven is an exception, and he was incredibly interesting – his game is manipulation and it goes beyond the terror of violence on many levels. I really enjoyed this aspect of the world as well, it added another thread to the web of deadly deals and promises made in the course of the story.
The world is very clevery crafted, the fantastic world-building and intriguing lore makes for an epic setting.
— Cleverly And Carefully Spun —
The Characters. This book is full of cleverly and carefully spun characters who feel real because they are gritty, flawed and diverse. So while there is room for more diversity in this book, the characters are still rather diverse with incredibly individual perosnalities and with a mix of strong female characters at the forefront. Each characer is easy to connect with and understand, their motivations are human, and their flaws make them vulnerable and likeable, I enjoyed reading about each and every one of them.
Viktor Akadra. My favourite character in the book, Viktor is the Republic’s champion – the man who killed Josiri’s mother and ended the rebellion. I did not think I would like him but I was so very wrong. Viktor is as complex as characters get. He is flawed, he is kind, he is for justice and wants to do what is right, and yet cannot consider himself a good person. Viktor’s intentions are usually good, but that does not mean he always acts in the best interest of everyone, but he is not intentionally cruel or evil, he just wants peace for the Republic. Yet, Viktor’s character, as the story goes on, begins to make more difficult decisions with each development and at times can seem vicious. I loved him!
Viktor has a secret though, one that would see him burn and it is one that tests him time and time again to the point where he may not even win. I really enjoyed the chapters from his perspective because at his core he is good, he wants to help but that doesn’t mean he can always make the best or kindest decisions.
Josiri Trelan. Initially, he really annoyed me, he is a great character driven by his mother’s passion but he is also flawed, he doesn’t listen to those closest to him. But, he is passionate, he wants to start a rebellion for his mother and for his people. He wants to protect his family no matter the cost. He was an interesting character, not my favourite, but I did like his perspective – it was interesting to see his opinions and emotions which helps you understand why he makes the choices he does. By the end I did actually like him and scenes with him and Viktor were some of my favourites because their sarcasm and wit was incredibly entertaining.
Calenne. Another character that took me a little while to warm to was Calenne but as her character grew I liked her more. She is a very determined character who is willing to compromise on her own happiness to be free from the Trelan name. Calenne is very headstrong and acts without thinking or for selfish reasons but she develops well and becomes much more likeable.
Ebigail Kiradin. Ebigail, the woman who is crueller than Cersei Lannister and the most manipulative character I have seen in a long time, I hated her with a burning passion. Ebigail is a master at manipulation and is sickeningly ambitious – and she is good at it. You can’t help but admire her intellect, no matter how much you may dislike her. She was a fantastic political opponent and scenes with her were thrilling and shocking, her plans were well thought out, and she knows how to play the game. An excellent character, even if I hated her.
Melanna. A Hadari Princess, and a fierce fighter filled with determination. The Hadari are more strict in terms of gender than the Republic and Melanna wants to prove she is of equal worth to a son on the battlefield. Melanna is clever and headstrong but at times acts without thinking. I really enjoyed her perspective it was very interesting, particularly as she is on the opposing side of the war to most of the central characters. I quite liked her character and found her to be very strong and talented, she also has a unique perspective for reasons I cannot say but this was very intriguing and opened up the world a lot more.
Anastacia. Supposedly a Demon, according to Calenne, Anastacia has magic of some kind and is trapped in the same place as Josiri. I really loved Anastacia right from the start, she is quick-witted, sharp, intelligent, sarcastic and overall a fantastic character who is unafraid to stand up for herself. Ana and Josiri have an excellent bond between them which develops nicely as the story goes on and the character as an individual is strong and fierce.
Rosa. Rosa is a warrior, strong, determined, independent and an excellent fighter. But due to unfortunate circumstance she becomes a bit of a mess, and while you feel empathy for her because she is a strong and capable character who gets turned upside down, there is no doubt to her talent. I liked the character of Rosa but she is very gullible and easily lead making her a dangerous character. I loved her relationship with Sevaka though and felt it was an excellent bond between two incredible women.
Malachi. Malachi is a friend of Viktor and is a talker not a fighter, he looks for the best solution to a problem rather than charging in, but he lacks confidence and charisma. I loved Malachi and he develops well through the course of the story, he is the balance Viktor needs and is a sweet character who loves his family and is incredibly loyal.
There are many more characters and side characters that are vital to the story but listing and talking about them all would take forever. However, they are all fantastic and well developed regardless of their significance to the plot. The relationships built between them all are excellent and I cannot wait to see this develop later on in the series. The characters really added to this story, they truly made the book.
Overall. Legacy Of Ash, by Matthew Ward was a nostalgic and glorious fantasy read with an intricate and deadly plot as well as phenomenal characters who leapt off the page. His potential is fully realised and the story is an immersive success. Ward is undoubtedly a talented story-teller who has spun an epic tale of war, deceit and deadly politics. Definitely a top favourite for me and I will definitely be continuing the series.
This is the perfect read for traditional fanatsy lovers, a must read for epic fantasy enthusiasts and the perfect book for those who love strong, dynamic characters who live in the grey.
CW: Violence, torture, emotional abuse, mentions of suicide/suicide, murder, blackmail/emotional manipulation.
*I received an eARC of #Legacy Of Ash by #MatthewWard from #Netgalley #Orbit #LittlebrownUK (thankyou!) in exchange for an honest review*