The Empire of Ashes
The Draconis Memoria series is comprised of a trilogy set in a world where drake (dragon) blood is a prized commodity, the basis of the trading fortune of the Ironship Syndicate. It is a brilliant, savage adventure. When I jumped in with Anthony Ryan’s latest release, ominously named The Empire of Ashes (Ace, 2018), I soon realized I couldn’t do justice to the detailed, intricately plotted series without reading all three. In for a penny, in for a pound.
August, September, and October found me delving into a world with various cultures: a decadent empire, complete with a doddering emperor, and another continent in thrall to a powerful corporation. There were steaming jungles, barren mountains, and ice floes overlaying ocean-bed volcanoes
In addition to the challenges of noting the terrain and politics, there are multiple points of view, as in most adult epic fiction. From my reading, two main characters emerged, and tied together the evolving narrative.
Lizanne Lethridge is a ruthless Special Initiatives Agent, an employee of the Ironship Trading Syndicate with a taste for explosives and occasional dalliances. Clay Torcreek is an emotionally scarred young man, survivor of a slum called The Blinds. They’re both Blood-Blessed; humans that can ingest the blood of drakes and manifest superpowers. When Clay is forced into service by Lizanne’s employers, he and Lizanne are initially at odds.
In the first book, Clay is sent on a secret expedition to find out what happened to an earlier force that braved the interior of the continent Arradsia intent on finding the fabled White Drake. A taste of its blood and the future becomes known.
When Clay encounters the White Drake in its resting place, and unintentionally activates it, he learns that the beast has its own nefarious plans for humanity. In the second book, he and Lizanne become unlikely allies, dedicated to stopping the threat. Clay and his kin go south to a land of perpetual snow, to seek out the secret of crystals from space that are linked to the past and can induce changes in drakes and humans. Lizanne infiltrates a prison, looking for a mysterious man called the Tinkerer, who may be able to unlock the secret of an ancient music box which holds additional clues about the White Drake. In the process of breaking out of the infamous prison, she becomes known as Miss Blood, and topples an empire. Clay, on his own journey, discovers a long-lost culture and a 2000-year old survivor under the ice.
In meantime, the White Drake leads the drakes in a war against mankind. The otherworldly crystals aid the transformation of its human captives into “the Spoiled.” The Spoiled, who have a linked consciousness, are under the control of the White Drake, who mobilizes them as an army, as well as occasionally feeding them to its brood.
Will Clay, Lizanne, and their allies find the key to destroying the White Dragon? The third book, the last, concludes the series and the fight against the White Drake’s domination.
Gabrielle Mathieu is the author of the historical fantasy Falcon series and the upcoming epic fantasy, Girl of Fire.) She blogs about travel and her books at http://gabriellemathieu.