Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward is the first book in the Legacy Trilogy. This book for me reached the pinnacle of what makes an epic fantasy novel epic! It was filled with a rich world with lots of brilliant and complex characters. Many of these characters had their own unique personalities and subplots making it even more interesting. The battle scenes also had me so hyped!
The story is pretty complicated and it’s so easy to giveaway spoilers. So I’ll do my best to explain without being a party pooper 😅. Essentially, the story focuses on an intense triple rivalry between the Tressia Republic, the Southshires, and the Hadari Empire.
We begin the story 15 years before current events and during this time the Tressia Republic want nothing more than to takeover their neighbours and expand their hold on the world. However, the Southshires along with their leader the Phoenix, choose to rise up and gain freedom. Things don’t go to plan as the Phoenix is slain by Viktor Akadra and her children must face the brunt of their mothers failed uprising.
Fast forward 15 years later and another empire wants to expand, the Hadari Empire. Prince Kai Saran wishes to flex the true might of the Hadari Empire and show that they can stand their ground against the creme de la crème. If they were to expand further it would show their empire shouldn’t be taken lightly and the hold Tressia have would loosen greatly.
Prince Kai Saran plans to invade the place where Josiri and Calenne, the now grown up children of the Phoenix are being held. That place being Eskvord. On one hand Josiri wishes to relight the Phoenix’s flame and carry out another uprising. However, his sister Calenne wants nothing more than to remove the stain her mother has left on their legacy.
To make matters even more complicated, their mothers killer Victor Akadra one of the most formidable warriors and knights in the Republic believes working together with the Southshires would ensure the invasion of the Hadari Empire is thwarted. Thus, differences and tension must be put aside as they must work together to ensure they survive the war and the snakes plotting within their very midst.
There have been many many many times where I’ve read fantasy books being compared to Game of Thrones. It’s like the benchmark for so many these days which isn’t surprising as it is an amazing series. Usually I would laugh off comparisons to it but this time I can definitely say that Legacy of Ash has lots of elements of GoT that I enjoyed. It’s rich in lore, multiple characters, subplots, and lots of political drama/backstabbing.
I for one really enjoyed seeing things from all sides and the plots that developed from each others actions. Like Game of Thrones there is a lot backstabbing, conniving characters, and twists. Ebigail Kiradin who was one of the antagonists, had me fuming due to her schemes and lies. It made me wanna pull my hair out at times 🤣.
In terms of the writing style, the richness of it was like a warm toffee pudding. Legacy of Ash oozed with its in-depth writing which allows you to understand the world you’re in and the people in it. There are many characters in this story but Matthew Ward does amazingly well in transitioning between each of them.
There are also two main battles in this story which were depicted in such an immense way. What further added to my enjoyment was the balance as you honestly couldn’t say that one person is a hero. The narrative switches from one side to another as you discover how each try to outwit each other in battle. But I could never choose just one side and was routing for mostly everyone.
“Again fire blazed between them, the incandescent blade rigid and immoveable. Beyond, dark eyes stared unblinking from a still face Sark’s fervour melted away.”
However, one thing that I had a wee issue with was that sometimes I forgot who was who, which meant I had to go back to the opening pages to check the index list of all the characters in the book. But it didn’t ruin my experience at all. Matthew Ward has a way with words that keeps you hooked and reels you in.
Speaking of the characters, there was an ensemble of amazing characters. I’m going to talk about the main ones and those who stood out for me.
Firstly, Victor Akadra was the main person I routed for throughout the story. We slowly learn he is not the monster he has been made out to be and wants good for those around him and his people. He wishes to unite with the people in Southshire as he knows it’s the best way to ensure the survival of the Tressia Republic, and the pending attack by the Hadari Empire.
I also really liked the contrast between Josiri and his sister Calenne. Josiri hasn’t forgiven Victor and the Tressia Republic for killing his mother. He wants nothing more than to continue his mother’s Legacy and be free of the Tressia’s grasp. As you read the story you realise that’s easier said than done as more complications arrive. One in the form of Victor Akadra, the man who killed Josiri’s mother. Victor needs the help of the Southshires which complicates things further. At the beginning you can’t help but feel annoyed at Josiri. He acts like a wee shit who just doesn’t want to move on with his self pitying attitude.
“Too much pride. The curse of the Trelans”
Thankfully this changes as things progress and he decides to do the right thing. On the other hand, his sister Calenne was someone I really liked due to her tenacity and her strong presence. She wants to rid the mark her mother has left and move on swiftly. She rises to the occasion unlike Josiri the wee bawbag.
Here are some others who stood out for me:
Anastacia was a demon who is also trapped in Eskvord. I loved her sarcasm and how on the ball she was in terms of her wits and intelligence. Her bond with Josiri was also really great.
Another fantastic character was Rosa who reminded me so much of Helene from the Ember in the Ashes series. Rosa was a strong and formidable character who could look after herself against anyone. Things do go to shit for her due to circumstances that occur later on in the book, which made me dislike her a bit however.
I also really liked Melanna, the Princess of Hadari. Like Rosa she is a tough and an exceptional warrior. She wishes to dispel the Hadari tradition that women can’t fight in battles. Seeing things from her point of view was super interesting and the way her character develops was great.
“Then set a new pace, Ashanal,” said Sera. “If men cannot carry the
day, then women must.”
Finally, although I didn’t like this character, I felt Ebigail Kiradin was a phenomenal villain. She could definitely be added to the “character you love to hate” category. Ebigail is able to effortlessly manipulate those she wants something from or wants to get rid of from the picture. The political moves she makes were just genius but made me so mad!
Finally, when considering the magic system and world building, these were both very rich with history and lore. For example, there are different Goddesses and magic is split into either dark or light. Dark however is seen as a bad thing and you’re considered a witch if you posses this type of magic. Each kingdom also have their own special juggernauts. For example, the Tressia have their Kraikons which are basically giants with huge swords. These were so so cool but also created an intense atmosphere when they appeared.
In terms of the world building, the story moves from characters in Tressia, to the Hadari Empire, and Southshire. I really liked seeing these places from the POV of the different characters as it allowed for different perspectives. There is a lot more I could tell you but I don’t want to spoil it.
“Strange, then, that the streets were neither so glorious as Josiri nor as terrifying as he’d feared. The white city of his dreams and nightmares had grown grey through neglectful years.
Right so I think I’ve said enough now, so I’m going to end my review here before I say too much and spoil the book🤣. So here are my final thoughts, if you’re looking for an epic fantasy then Legacy of Ash is for you! For me it was superb in every way and I loved the richness and depth of the characters and world building. The battle scenes were epic and really had me feeling like I was seeing everything in my mind. The political plays, twists, and lies were infuriating but in a good way obviously. I can’t wait to read the second book hopefully before the New Year 😊.
Thank you again to Angela and Orbit for sending me a copy of this epic epic book.