Legacy of Ash – Matthew Ward

Legacy of Ash Matthew Ward
Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward
Series: The Legacy Trilogy #1
Published by Orbit on November 5, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy
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five-stars

Legacy of Ash is an unmissable fantasy debut--an epic tale of intrigue and revolution, soldiers and assassins, ancient magic and the eternal clash of empires.

A shadow has fallen over the Tressian Republic.
Ruling families -- once protectors of justice and democracy -- now plot against one another with sharp words and sharper knives. Blinded by ambition, they remain heedless of the threat posed by the invading armies of the Hadari Empire.
Yet as Tressia falls, heroes rise.
Viktor Akadra is the Republic's champion. A warrior without equal, he hides a secret that would see him burned as a heretic.
Josiri Trelan is Viktor's sworn enemy. A political prisoner, he dreams of reigniting his mother's failed rebellion.
And yet Calenne Trelan, Josiri's sister, seeks only to break free of their tarnished legacy; to escape the expectation and prejudice that haunts the family name.
As war spreads across the Republic, these three must set aside their differences in order to save their home. Yet decades of bad blood are not easily set aside. And victory -- if it comes at all -- will demand a darker price than any of them could have imagined.

When I was younger, I loved fantasy. I thrived on traveling into a new world, my imagination turning the words on the page into colorful, vibrant pictures. In really good books, I would create a “Kelsie” character and insert her into the novel. An example: Don’t laugh, but I was definitely Legolas Greenleaf’s long-lost sister in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series. Since elementary and middle school, though, fantasy has always been harder for me. I basically stopped reading the genre entirely after high school because unconsciously, I poked holes in the authors’ universes. Envisioning the far-off unknown lands just became hard, even with my overactive imagination.

In the ten-plus years since high school, I have encountered only three book series that have pulled me in: A Song of Ice and Fire (George R.R. Martin), The Wheel of Time (Robert Jordan)…and The Legacy Trilogy by Matthew Ward. To be more specific with the final one, Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward entranced me and captivated me in a way that no fantasy novel has done in ages.  Jordan’s Wheel of Time may be full of books of long lengths, but I would still classify it as a series easily read by young adults. Legacy of Ash is more of an adult novel. Though it is easy to read, younger readers probably would not catch on to some of its underlying messages.  Legacy of Ash is brilliant and complex—full of likeable characters, bloody battles, believable religions, and political intrigue and backstabbing.

It is sensational, and I don’t say that lightly. Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward made me laugh, gasp, and shout in disbelief, denial, and heartbreak. Because, unsurprisingly, Ward killed characters that I liked. But at the end of Legacy of Ash, four of my most-liked are still alive. I hesitate to call them “favorites,” because I know if I gave them that label, they would end up dead.  A lot happens in 700-plus pages, and because of this, Ward can’t dive deep into the characters’ true personalities, contemplations, or motivations. The book is more focused on the events versus character development. I would argue, though, that readers can see the characters’ personalities and complexities from their perspectives and speech. Although not explicitly spelled out, many of them do change and grow. It’s all marvelously done.

I do, however, have words of warning for Legacy of Ash. First, there are a lot of characters. Though the book is written only from the viewpoints of a select few in comparison, Ward mentions probably fifty-plus characters. Some are historical figures; some are deities; some are active characters. It can be really hard to keep them all straight, especially in the first 100 pages or so. That being said, I would not recommend Legacy of Ash for people unaccustomed to the fantasy genre.  Had I not previously read A Song of Ice and Fire, I probably would’ve had serious issues with so many points of view.

Second, Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward could have benefited from a glossary or appendix of some sort. Ward drops his readers into a story with little explanation. There’s no steady build-up. No defining some of his imaginary vocabulary. He expects those experiencing the novel to…figure things out according to context, which can be very difficult.  And at times, to be honest, I’d forget what things meant, and I had no easy way to remind myself of their definitions.

Oh, and one final praise: Maybe A Song of Ice and Fire tarnished fantasy for me, but I expected Legacy of Ash, an adult novel, to have bad language and prevalent sexual scenes. This wasn’t the case at all.  The only curse word the novel used was “damn,” (unless I missed any) and Ward wrote any sort of sexual contact in euphemisms. He kept it behind closed doors, which is something I wish more secular authors would do!

Legacy of Ash is a masterpiece of epic proportion. I cannot wait to read the second novel.

five-stars