Warfare, myth and magic collide in Legacy of Steel, the spectacular sequel to Matthew Ward’s acclaimed fantasy debut Legacy of Ash.
A year has passed since an unlikely alliance saved the Tressian Republic from fire and darkness, at great cost. Thousands perished, and Viktor Akadra – the Republic’s champion – has disappeared.
While the ruling council struggles to mend old wounds, other factions sense opportunity. The insidious Parliament of Crows schemes in the shadows, while to the east the Hadari Emperor gathers his armies. As turmoil spreads across the Republic, its ripples are felt in the realms of the divine.
War is coming . . . and this time the gods themselves will take sides
Earlier this year when I reviewed the first book in The Legacy Trilogy, Legacy of Ash, my biggest takeaway was how epic the book was; and, honestly, I did not think it had anywhere else to go on a grand scale. But author Matthew Ward found a way to make Legacy of Steel bigger, broader in scope, and even more bombastic than the first.
Truth be told, I was not actually sure where the plot was going to go, what story was left to tell in a second book. There were a few loose ends, but Legacy of Ash felt pretty wrapped up to me. What happened to Viktor? is a great question, but you cannot write a whole book about it. This is why Ward is the author, here, and not me, because he certainly proved me wrong. There was so much more of this world left to explore! Legacy of Steel takes the reader deeper into Dregmeet and the Otherworld, and explores parts of The Tressian Republic and Hadari that were not addressed in the first book. Typically, the second book in a series is meant to open up things up, and Ward accomplished just that.
I hate to use the word “typically”, though, because absolutely nothing is typical about this series. I have never read a story that is so action-packed; Legacy of Steel had me on edge from the first word to the last. I found myself lost in the story, completely encompassed by the events taking place, and oftentimes found myself biting my lower lip while reading (in the same way I do when I am playing video games). That is how enveloping this book is, so much so that I did not even realize I was doing it. The writing is so engrossing that as a reader I never felt passive, like a spectator watching the events play out. There is so much action, description, emotion… it drew me in and before I knew it I was an active participant in the narrative, halberd raised, rushing into battle. Even though it is words on a page, it feels interactive, because there is so much happening and every scene is full of tension that the reader gets pulled right along with it.
I am very imaginative when I am reading, especially with a well-written and descriptive book. The story plays out very cinematically in my head, and when it is a book like Legacy of Steel which is so illustrative that takes it to another level. As I have been reading The Legacy Trilogy books the main backdrop has just been fire. I am not sure that is exactly what Ward meant to evoke to with in this series, but I think it is both quite literal and metaphoric. Whatever is happening in the story, be it a battle, a political discussion, a discovery – in my mind the world is burning in the background. And, while the story is full of action, as I mentioned, the author left plenty of room for political strife and all the deal-making, deal-breaking, alliance-forging, and backstabbing that comes along with it. I actually got Lightbringer (Brent Weeks) vibes when there are scenes involving Council discussions. The hidden agendas, behind-the-scenes dealing, the lobbying for votes reminded me a lot of watching the Spectrum debate And, just as in the Lightbringer series, these decisions (and sometimes indecisions) were a jumping off point for the engagements that followed.
Another aspect of Legacy of Steel that I was really happy about was the evolution of the characters. With Legacy of Ash, Ward does a phenomenal job of introducing and developing the characters initially, and that is saying something because there are a lot of people (and other beings) to get to know. The author successfully accomplishes this through action, dialogue, and inner monologues. Legacy of Steel sees those same characters grow in both expected and unexpected ways that make logical sense based on the world around them. The book also allows the reader to get to know a few characters better than in the first book, and introduces a couple new ones, as well. Not many, though, as I am not sure the story has room for any more (I can just hear Matthew Ward saying “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!”, even though he is well into it with Book 3, already).
The one drawback in this book for me is the portrayal of the Gods. This is something I pay attention to acutely when stories include Gods involving themselves in the lives of humans. Ward does them better than most, as in Legacy of Steel their presence is both a gift and a curse. The Gods here have likes and dislikes, disagreements, and strife. They feel love (and unloved, at times) and hate, have their own motives, and are oftentimes passionate to a fault. Ward’s Gods mimic the human condition (or is it the other way around…?). What is unclear to me is the fact that if they are so powerful what is stopping them from destroying things they want to destroy or making the world to be exactly what they want. I know there are other machinations that come into play, but I do not understand what limits them to ultimate chess players. That being said, they bring a lot of excitement and intrigue to the story, so I am not mad at them. It is just something that would come up in my thoughts every once in a while, and as I look forward to book 3 I wonder if this is an area of evolution and growth yet to be explored.
Overall, Legacy of Steel is a wild ride. I have never been good at genres and sub-genres, but “epic” does not even being to describe it. With all of the elements at play, “transcendent” is more fitting (did I just invent a new sub-genre?). This is fantasy at its most glorious. I give Legacy of Steel my highest recommendation.
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Click on the link below to hear author Matthew Ward read Chapter 1 of Legacy of Steel!