Book Review - LEGACY OF ASH by Matthew Ward

(Title: Legacy of Ash, Author: Matthew Ward, Publisher: Orbit, Publication Date: November 5, 2019)  

LEGACY OF ASH is a book that has been on my radar for quite some time and has been receiving a ton of accolades from the blogging community as well as various book industry websites.  So when I received a review copy from the publisher Orbit, I immediately jumped in with both feet.  It didn't hurt that my holiday vacation coincided with its arrival, meaning that I would have plenty of time to read this hefty near-800 page colossus.  

LEGACY OF ASH begins in the middle of a hotbed of action and events that have already taken place to set up the current situation.  The Tressian Republic has accomplished much and acquired a good amount of territory leading up to this point.  However, they are threatened on their southeastern border by the upstart Hadari Empire.  The Hadari have been waiting patiently for the opportune time to strike and by all reasoning, this seems to be that time.

Situated between the warring Tressians and Hadari are the people of the Southshires.  The inhabitants of this land at one time attempted to rise up against the Tressians and were eventually thwarted by the Black Knight Viktor Akadra and the army of the Republic.  Now the Southshires finds itself a protectorate of sorts of Tressia, albeit one of convenience.  The Tressians need the Southshires for its abundance of resources, but they ignore this territory for the most part until they need to replenish their stocks.  Then and only then are they deemed important enough to broker with.

Crown Prince Saran of the Hadari, along with his daughter Melanna, believe that they have the key to overthrowing their hated enemy once and for all.  They will use the pent up resentment and bitterness of the Southshires in an attempt to forge a military alliance that will make them all but unbeatable.  But the Tressians are racing to make an alliance of their own.  For they know that if the Tressian champion Akadra can sway Duke Josiri and his sister Calenne to align with the Republic, Hadari will be doomed to failure.  The race is on to bolster each side as a war to end all wars seems more than imminent.  Distrust and hatred die hard as years of neglect and oppression of the Southshires may ultimately come back to bite The Republic.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I will freely admit that I like huge books.  I mean, the more pages the better as far as I'm concerned.  With that being said, I also realize that many authors cannot pull off a door stopper of a book without having some significant periods of inactivity and stagnation.   Well, not so in the case of Matthew Ward and LEGACY OF ASH.  This is a meaty epic fantasy book that never wavers or slows down for a minute.  The amount of action, intrigue, and battle depictions packed into this one book would fill the majority of fantasy trilogies.  Great news to be sure as this means we have so much more yet to experience from this series.

LEGACY OF ASH contained so many emotional moments for me.  Mostly in the sections that dealt with the Southshires and their dilemma of being caught up in an incredibly difficult choice.  On the one hand they finally would like to throw off the shackles of their rulers the Tressians, yet they also know that the invading army of the Hadari are pouring through the mountain pass and will most likely tear a bloody path through their own lands on the way to their final destination.   Josiri in particular is conflicted by his absolute hatred of Viktor Akadra, who committed a past atrocity that is difficult for Josiri to forgive easily.  Yet he may find himself having to work with Viktor if a semblance of peace is to be attained.  

This is one heck of a fantasy book but it is also an illustration of struggling to overcome past enmities and prejudices, not only of the oppressed but of the oppressor.  Can you truly trust someone who once did something so horrible that it left you a broken shell of who you once were and devastated your entire family and people?  I found so much more to enjoy about this book than I expected to going in.  The characters are wonderfully complex and all of them are fighting an inner battle to change something within themselves.  The thing that I especially like about these characters is that none of them are simple black and white, but just varying shades of grey.  There is a degree of good and bad in each and every one and their motivations are not always clear at first glance.

I was going to compare LEGACY OF ASH to another series that I truly love, but in the end, I don't think it's fair to do so.  I say that because this is a monumental fantasy achievement all its own in my opinion that needs to be taken as such.  I will say that if you like your fantasies epic, filled with treachery/backstabbing, infused with a ton of brutal battle scenes, and with characters that you immediately feel a connection to, then LEGACY OF ASH is the book you should be reading.  It will leave you stunned and wanting much, much more after turning the last page.  That's hard to say with an 800 page book, but it was most certainly the case for me.  Can't wait for the second installment in the Legacy Trilogy!

(My Rating: 10/10)


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