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.
Legacy of Steel is the stunning, poetic and action-packed sequel to the debut marvel that is Legacy of Ash; forget the thrones of human men, this is a game of divine thrones, interspersed with vibrant, fully-realised battles that Ward brings the reader so close to you can feel the thundering of hooves, hear the cries of war, death and undead. This is how you do a sequel. Don’t leave it to chance. Fill it with an intense plot, bring it to life with beautiful imagery and prose and you’ll have one of Ward’s works – a masterclass in immersion, world-building and the very craft of story-telling.
The returning cast is wide – Malachi, Josiri, Rosa, Viktor, Kurkas, and more, all take their turn as POVs. Still reeling from the events of the last book, they’ve barely been given time to rest before the enemy returns. Then, there’s some new faces, or new POVS, in Sidara and Altaris, giving you a broader spectrum of the fight. All of these POVs, young and old, carry the harrowing message that none are unaffected, untarnished when the war calls. The sheer amount of POVs that are handled well – to an aspiring writer like me – is simply mesmerising. Ward controls all these characters whilst only ever saying enough, at the same time ensuring that enough is beautifully rendered. Of the characters, Sidara (the young Reveque chosen by the Sun) and Josiri were my favourite to watch, to follow. Sidara takes control of her own destiny here, and despite the little that she can do, the extent of her powers, her struggle is known, heard and felt. While Josiri, eclipsed last time by other heroes, the reluctance/inability to do what is needed, truly came into his own. His action only overshadowed by what it accomplished.
In a very brief outline of the plot, the Hadari are back to banish the Dark from the Tressian Republic and the gods are picking sides – now, this condenses some almost 800 pages into a sentence that doesn’t nearly tell the whole tale. One thing I will mention with this one is that it is a slower, winding road to the finish this time. After reading the first book, I often wondered how it would continue and in Steel we see the pieces edge towards eachother. The gathering of gods, the slower movement of players on the board – some having to overcome personal demons before they turn to those in the mist. Sometimes I wanted to dive back into the action, the great magics, to get a feel of fighting Malatriant again. But it is worth the wait.
Again, as with the last book, the true joys of Ward’s writings are twofold: the battle scenes and the dynamic prose. In battle all is a mess but one, here, that is accurately translated onto the page in the beating of hooves, the successful and missed parries, the whistle of arrows, the crunch of bones; the battles are visceral, they are felt not witnessed. The choice of words, sentences, lends itself to experience not to a stage directions and rules. This is war at its finest (cruellest). Camera switching (through POVs on the field) adds to the magic, and lends itself to what are very cinematic battles. Second, the dynamic descriptions, the success of nothing being told and everything being shown. Not only does Ward implant a fully-realised image into your mind but also does it speak to the individual voice of the many, many POV characters.
One of my favourite characters, Viktor, let me down this time; I won’t go into too much detail as I don’t like to spoil. But, having read the end of the first book, we see him in a new light, or Dark. A questionable one. Throughout the book, this is challenged – was he ever a hero? Will he be a hero again? Were the questions that came forefront to my mind. It is a good book that makes you question your favourites and a better book that scrubs away the heavenly light surrounding ‘heroes’ and present them as humans striving to do what they want, ultimately. If you have the power to bring about changes, would those changes suit you, or those around you?
Overall, it was a true joy to get my hands on an early copy of this one – thanks a lot to Orbit and Netgalley for providing me with endless hours of enjoyment – and thank you to Matthew Ward who crafts such an intriguing story. To anyone reading this, I’d wholly recommend this book to you, your friend, your parents … heck, it’s almost the holidays. Do them a favour.