Coming in at 800 pages, Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward is admittedly a chunkster by any definition. However, don’t let its size intimidate you. Between the pages lies a great fantasy novel that has a little bit of everything. And what a novel it is!
Politics, revenge, intrigue, magic, war, family legacy, religion, and romance are just a few of the topics to great you as you sink into the story. The world-building is natural and fluid with just enough exposition to help you understand the situation without boring you with mundane details. Character development is not as robust as one might expect in such a large novel, but Legacy of Ash is mostly an action-driven novel, rendering the need for fully-fleshed characters somewhat moot.
This is not to say that the characters are flat and unsympathetic because they are anything but. It is easy to sympathize with Viktor, a boy thrust into a role he doesn’t want and forever must wear its mantle no matter how much it differs from his true persona. Calenne appears to be a spoiled princess tainted by the legacy of her birth mother, someone she doesn’t know and for whom she has no respect or love. Yet, her understanding of that legacy leads her to grow into someone almost unrecognizable from the self-absorbed princess we first meet. Then there is Josiri. He is, by far, the weakest of the main characters in both personality, gumption, and development. While Viktor and Calenne adapt and grow in each new situation, Josiri does not. He eventually redeems himself as the novel reaches its climax, but his scenes are painful in their repetitiveness. Still, given that this is the first book in a trilogy, there is a lot of room for more growth for all of them, which is always a good thing.
As one would expect with a novel this long, it is a story told on a grand scale. The story occurs all over the fictional land and involves several different countries, unfamiliar gods, an unusual political hierarchy, and too many characters to name. However, Mr. Ward does an excellent job of creating clarity where confusion might reign. As with the world-building, he provides just enough narrative to allow the reader to imagine what is occurring no matter how unfamiliar the scene may be.
While it does not have the depth of character building one might normally see in such a long novel, Legacy of Ash remains a great example of what one can accomplish with words. The strong action scenes alone make for great reading. Better yet, he left the story at a place where you want more but without an infuriating cliffhanger. The fantasy elements are also tame by comparison to some other novels, making this a perfect starter novel for anyone who may want to dip their toes into the world of fantasy. Given that this is Mr. Ward’s debut novel, Legacy of Ash is an impressive piece of fiction, and I am looking forward to continuing the series.