Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward

Legacy of Ash Cover

Publisher: Orbit (Trade Paperback – 5 November 2019)

Series: Legacy trilogy – Book 1

Length: 768 pages

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

From impressive new author Matthew Ward comes Legacy of Ash, a massive and entertaining new fantasy adventure that was amongst one of my favourite debut novels of 2019.

Legacy of Ash is set within the Tressian Republic, a powerful nation controlled by a council of nobles. The Tressian Republic is beset by many dangers, including the constant threat of invasion from the massive Hadari Empire on its border; open rebellion from the nation’s southernmost lands, the Southshires, which have been seeking independence for years; and the machinations of the dark magic-wielding criminal organisation known as the Crowmarket.

When the Hadari Empire invades the Southshires, the political ambitions and old grudges of the Tressian Council results in a muted military response. It falls to Viktor Akadra, the champion of the Tressian Republic, to lead a small force to the Southshires in order to make a stand against the invaders. However, Viktor is the last person the inhabitants of the Southshires want defending them, as years before he brutally put down their last rebellion, which resulted in the death of their beloved Duchess Katya Trelan.

In order to defeat the Hadari Empire, Viktor needs to work with the children of Katya Trelan, Josiri and Calenne, both of whom hate and fear him, and who both have different plans to ensure their future freedom. However, as fate, self-interest and the future of the Southshires forces them together, these three must find a common ground if they are to survive. But even if they manage to face the forces of the Hadari Empire, far darker threats are assailing the Tressian Republic from within and they will stop at nothing to achieve their terrible goals.

Ward is an interesting new author who is probably best known for his work with Games Workshop, where he served as a principal architect for the company on many of their properties, including Warhammer, Warhammer 40,000 and their The Lord of the Rings range. However, in recent years he has turned his hand to fantasy writing, creating several novellas and short stories, as well as releasing two ebooks, Shadow of the Raven and Light of the Radiant. Legacy of Ash is Ward’s first printed novel, and it is actually set in the same universe as his previous ebooks. It is also the first book in his planned Legacy trilogy, with the second book in the trilogy, Legacy of Steel, set for release later this year.

Legacy of Ash is an excellent new read which contains an exciting and elaborate story, set in a large and creative new world and featuring a substantial group of point-of-view characters. I have actually been looking forward to Legacy of Ash for a while, as it sounded like one of the more exciting new fantasy books that were set for release in 2019, and I am very glad I got a chance to read and review it. However, readers should probably be aware in advance that this book is nearly 800 pages in length, making it a pretty substantial read, and requiring a significant investment of time in finishing it off. This took me a couple of weeks to read in full, mainly because Legacy of Ash would actually come in at number 12 on my recent Longest Novels That I Have Ever Read list. That being said, Legacy of Ash is well worth the time, as this was an amazing and fascinating new fantasy adventure.

Ward has come up with a large and impressive story for his first book, and there is a lot going on within it. The story actually splits up into two separate locations within the Tressian Republic, with half of it set down in the Southshires and the other half set up in the capital of the Republic, Tressia (with small parts also set in a couple of locations in between or within the Hadari Empire). The parts of the book set down in the Southshires deal with the impending invasion of the Hadari, the repression of the Southshire inhabitants by the Tressian council and the attempts by Viktor to work with both of the Trelan siblings. At the same time, the parts of the book set up in Tressia contains a lot of political intrigue, criminal undertakings, dark magical plans and gambits for control of the nation. Both sets of storylines are a lot of fun, and it was really amazing to see all the various story elements occurring at the same time in the different locations. In addition, these two storylines are strongly related to each other, with events happening in one location impacting characters down in the other part of the Republic. All of these story elements and character arcs come together to form an extremely compelling overarching narrative and I quite enjoyed how Legacy of Ash contained such a wide range of different plot points.

Legacy of Ash is populated with a multiple point-of-view characters from whose eyes we see this whole massive story unfold. The use of all these characters allows for a much richer and expansive story, especially as you get to see every side of all various character’s plots and plans as everyone attempts to come out on top of the events unfolding around them. In addition, nearly all of the point-of-view characters have some incredibly captivating and enjoyable character arcs, many of which reach their full potential within this book. There are such an interesting range of different character based stories going on throughout Legacy of Ash, from the mysterious divine magic that starts to infect the honourable knight Roslava Orova, the machinations and manipulations of Ebigail Kiradin, the chaotic adventures of Crowmarket member Apara Rann and the fun friendship that forms between old opponents Kurkas and Halvor. However, the main elements of character development occur around the book’s three central characters, Viktor Akadra, Josiri Trelan and Calenne Trelan. Due to history, resentments and circumstances, these three characters start the book with fairly distant or hostile relationships to each other. However, these barriers are slowly broken down as the book progresses, and each of these main characters slowly works to come to terms with each other and their own individual issues, such as Viktor’s hidden dark magic, or the expectations or resentments that surround Trelan siblings thanks to their long-dead mother. Overall, this is some fairly impressive character work, and Ward did an excellent job creating a fantastic cast for this novel, each of whom add a whole lot to book’s story.

While I did enjoy how this novel progressed and all the interesting story points and character inclusions that were featured, I do feel it was a perhaps a little too long. In particular, I really think that Ward would have been better off not featuring the book’s final antagonist (a long-dead magical queen), who starts to appear around two thirds of the way through the book. Instead, the author could have perhaps only hinted at her return and shaved off most of the final 100 pages. Not only would this make Legacy of Ash a bit more of a manageable read, but it would have allowed the author to expand on this antagonist’s motivations and history a lot more in the subsequent book, rather than having her introduction be somewhat rushed, like it was in this book. Still, the inclusion of this final antagonist led to some rather intriguing and emotional moments, and it also sets up some potentially fantastic story arcs for one of the main characters in the next book in the series.

I also need to say how impressed with the massive and complex new fantasy landscape that Ward created for his debut series. Ward has come up with a number of unique and enjoyable elements for this fantasy world, which really add a lot to the story. The central location of the Tressian Republic was a lot of fun, as it is filled with all manner of perils, conflicting ideals, fermenting hatreds and a hidden death-worshipping criminal organisation, while also featuring a number of external or divine groups or threats at the same time. I felt that the author did a good job of introducing all of these unique elements throughout the book, and I was never too lost or confused by any of the inclusions.

I also really enjoyed the huge number of battle sequences that took place throughout this harsh fantasy landscape, especially those which were enhanced by the series’ unique fantasy inclusions. For example, one massive sequence featured two armies, one with magical constructs and the other with armoured rhinos, facing off against each other as strange and divine magics rain down chaos all around them. Other scenes include a number of different characters attempting to combat the eldritch-enhanced assassins of the mysterious Crowmarket, often resulting in some really impressive battles. I also liked how Ward utilised the multiple point-of-view characters during some of these longer conflicts, ensuring that the reader got to see both sides of the battle, as well as the various thoughts and fears of the characters involved. All of this ensured that the book was chocked full of intense and exciting fantasy action, which is always a plus in my book.

Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward was an extremely well-written and addictive fantasy debut, which I am very glad I made the effort to read cover-to-cover. Full of some excellent characters, a multi-faceted story and an intriguing new fantasy landscape, the first book in the Legacy trilogy was a really great read, and I had a lot of fun getting through it. Ward has a lot of potential as a fantasy author, and I am quite excited to see where this series goes next.

Waiting on Wednesday – Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings. Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them. In this week’s Waiting on Wednesday, I look at an intriguing new upcoming fantasy book that sounds like it has a lot of potential, Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward.

Legacy of Ash Cover

Here at The Unseen Library, I try to keep an eye out for upcoming books from authors I am unfamiliar with that look interesting and have a cool plot premise that I can really sink my teeth into. Legacy of Ash, which is coming out in November this year, fits all of these categories and more. Not only is it the first book in an exciting new fantasy series (I do like starting a series right at the beginning), The Legacy trilogy, but the plot synopsis that has already been released indicates that this could be an awesome read.

Goodreads Synopsis:

In this action-packed epic fantasy debut, three heroes scarred by old hatreds must find a way to overcome their pasts if they are to have any chance of saving their crumbling Republic from complete destruction. Perfect for fans of George R. R. Martin, Brent Weeks, and Brandon Sanderson.

A shadow has fallen over the Tressian Republic.

While the armies of the Hadari Empire invade the borderlands, the Republic’s noble families plot against each other, divided by personal ambition.

But as Tressia falls, heroes rise.

Viktor Akadra is the Republic’s champion and conqueror of the rebellious south. A warrior without equal, he also hides a secret that would see him burned as a heretic.

Josiri Trelan would gladly see Viktor condemned to the flames – vengeance for a rebellion crushed and a mother slain. And while Josiri plots fresh insurrection, his sister, Calenne, is determined to escape their tarnished legacy and break the shackles of the past.

As dark days beckon, these three must overcome their differences to save the Republic. Yet decades of bad blood are not easily set aside. Victory – if it comes at all – will command a higher price than they could have imagined.

This is very interesting plot synopsis, and some of the exciting ideas and elements featured within it intrigue me and indicate that this is going to be an amazing read. I really like the idea of a group of nobles and rivals going to war inside a crumbling Empire as it is invaded from the outside. This sounds like it is going have some compelling political thriller elements to it, and I cannot wait to see how far the characters are willing to go to resolve their petty personal issues, especially if, to them, revenge is more important than the survival of the realm.

As I said above, Ward is not an author whose work I have previously read, although his upcoming book certainly sounds like it is going to be a lot of fun. From what I can tell, most of Ward’s previous writings are associated with his job as a principal architect for Games Workshop’s Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 properties, which is an awesome background for a writer to have. I am massive fan of the impressive fantasy and science fiction universes created within the various Games Workshop properties, and I have always found the short stories and novels associated with these games to be a lot of fun to read. As a result, I am keen to check out what Ward puts into his novel, and I am hoping for a really fantastic piece of fantasy fiction.

A quick look at Ward’s books in Goodreads reveals that he has previously authored a few full-length novels, including Shadow of the Raven and Light of the Radian, released in 2013 and 2016 respectively. It is especially interesting to note that both of these books, as well as a couple of short stories that were also on his page, all appear to be set in the same universe as Legacy of Ash, as they all mention the fantasy nation/city that the upcoming book is set in. I am not too sure what impact this will have on the new book, but I am keen to check out the universe that this story is set in.

Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward is an intriguing upcoming fantasy novel that I really want to get. It looks like Ward has some cool ideas and I look forward to exploring them in a few months. Legacy of Ash is apparently going to be a rather lengthy book, with nearly 800 pages listed for the Kindle and hardcover formats of the novel. With all the detail and world building that is likely to feature in a story of this length, this might be a good novel to check out on audiobook, although no real details of this format, such as narrator or length, have so far been revealed. I have high hopes that Legacy of Ash will prove to be as compelling as it sounds, and I am excited to check out the first book in this intriguing new series.

What do you think about Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward and what cool debuting series are you looking forward to? Let me know in the comments below.