In The Waking Fire, Anthony Ryan takes you to a world where Dragons are very real... and profitable. While only one person in a thousand possesses the ability to make use of it, consuming dragons' blood grants a "Blood-blessed" super-human abilities, increasing their strength and speed, giving them the ability to create fire or invisible force, or even communicating with another Blood-blessed elsewhere in the world. The effects of using dragons' blood depend on the Blood-blessed's natural ability, the purity of the "product" (refined dragons' blood) and the type of dragon it came from. You see, the different colors (Green, Red, Black, Blue) each have a different ability that is granted to the user.
If you aren't a Blood-blessed, you mostly want to stay away from any product, since contact with the skin causes immediate burns, much like acid. Well, that is, with the exception of Green. Green can be taken medicinally (internally or topically) to speed along the healing process.
As I mentioned, this is a world where steam power reigned supreme. That was before an amazing inventor by the name of Lethridge found a way to harness the magical fire-generating properties of Red in a small little box-shaped engine that can replace the large coal-guzzling engines powering all of the paddle-based ships that are the standard fare for both merchants and navies, alike. A Blood-blessed is required to start the reaction, so such ships typically employ a Blood-blessed solely to run the engine.
Change always causes stress in a system and the same is true here. Blood-burners and other inventions shift the balance of power and the Corvantine Empire and the Ironship Trading Syndicate find their tolerance for each other wearing thin. The one thing that could change everything would be the discovery and capture of a White dragon, which has only been the stuff of rumor and legend, until the Whitmore expedition, at least. The results of the expedition were inconclusive, but as of the last communication, one member of the party had survived and believed that she had discovered a White egg.
Lodima Bondersil, Acting Director, Carvenport Division of the Ironship Trading Syndicate sends an expedition of her own, using the Exceptional Initiatives Division to gather the needed intel and hiring contractors to travel to where the Whitmore expedition had lost contact, to pick up where they left off. However, the island of Arradsia is a wild place, full of mystery and danger; a land where things are getting stranger all the time... and things aren't what they seem.
In The Waking Fire, Anthony Ryan weaves his tale as he alternates between different points of view as the chapters advance. Points of view switch between Lizanne (Agent of the Exceptional Initiatives Division), Clay (a rogue who is secretly Blood-blessed and uses his secret to his advantage) and Hilemore (Second Lieutenant in the Corvantine Imperial Navy). This felt a bit like switching "scenes" and, with only three different characters, each quite different from the others, is easy to follow.
While the story in The Waking Fire is a great ride, the culmination of which bringing some resolution to the series of events in the book, I find the ending is perfectly set for continuation of the story to take it to the "next level"... with even more at stake. I greatly enjoyed Anthony Ryan's writing and look forward to the upcoming books in the Draconis Memoria series.