Book Review: Legacy of Steel by Matthew Ward

Legacy of Steel by Matthew WardTitle: Legacy of Steel

Author: Matthew Ward

Publisher: Orbit

Publication date: November 3, 2020

Genre: Fantasy

One Sentence Summary: War is coming to the Tessian Republic, and so starts a mortal and divine battle.

After reading the second book in the Legacy Trilogy, I’m still not sure why I’m drawn to these books. I did enjoy the first book, Legacy of Ash, so I suppose being offered the second book made me feel like I ought to read it. I hadn’t gone back to at least look through the first book, nor did I look back at my review, but Legacy of Steel nicely caught me up and threw a dark blanket over the week and half it took me to read this over 700 page novel that practically dripped with blood. Considering I strongly dislike bloodshed, I’m surprised I keep reading this trilogy, but then I got back into the character’s lives and remembered I desperately want to know what happens to them.


Bloodthirsty

Legacy of Steel picks up about a year after the events of Legacy of Ash. Changes have come to the Tressian Republic and they are yet to come to the Hadar Empire as they crown a female heir for the first time. With Kai Saran seeking to leave a powerful legacy for his daughter Melanna, their goddess Ashana bestows her blessings on their invasion of the Tressian Republic, lending her power to them.

As battle unknowingly begins on the far reaches of the Republic, the other end, in the city, also sees it’s own battle. The Crowmarket is rising as it now has a sympathetic ear on the Council. But Josiri Trelan is fighting hard to save his people, the southwealders, from the clutches of the Crowmarket, which have kidnapped them for nefarious purposes. As the Crowmarket and Josiri clash, the Tressian Republic finds itself fighting the Hadari at one end and the Crowmarket at the other.

And then the gods become involved, making deals with mortals while twisting their promises to suit their own needs and wants.

Legacy of Steel is a story of war, both divine and mortal. It’s bloody, violent, and bloodthirsty. It’s out to claim blood and flesh, and does so unapologetically. There are losses that cut deep into the characters, the Tressian Republic, and the Hadari Empire. And yet it doesn’t stop. As soon as the killing started, I started questioning why I’ve chosen to go forward with this trilogy, but there’s something riveting about the story. I loved the overlay of the gods becoming involved, of making bargains and being petty. There were so many surprises, so many turns, that I simply couldn’t stop reading. Once I could get past all the bloodshed, all the battles, I could see the characters I had grown to like in the first book dealing with their own demons, their own paths, and found myself thirsty for more.

There’s a lot going on in this book, but it felt a little more straightforward and less complex than the first book. I think it had to do with the fact I’m more familiar with the writing, world, and characters. But it really is all just about the battles. The Hadari are trying to take over the Tressian Republic and the Tressian Republic is just trying to defend themselves. And the gods are having their own fun. I do worry a little about what the last book in the trilogy will hold and where the overarching story is going. The first book set up the events in the second book, which went a lot differently than I expected. This second book provided the battles I would have expected at the end of the series. So, now I’m wondering what could possibly be coming in the third book.

Driven by Their Demons

Legacy of Steel presents a lot of characters. There are a lot of major characters, and a lot of minor characters who get their own perspectives squeezed in. It’s reminiscent of The Wheel of Time with the vast number of characters and minor characters getting their own say. But it also makes the story richer and gives the reader a view of events from various points of view. It was a little hard to tell which characters to pay more attention to since I was never really sure if one of the side characters would become a major player. In the end, they all did play their own role.

At times, it was difficult to keep track of all the characters and where, exactly, they were. The major characters all had their own unique traits, their own ways of speech and behaving, that helped set them apart. Most of them were seen in the first book, so it was easy to pick them out and see how they had changed and what was now driving them. They all had their own demons that wouldn’t let up, and just added to the story.

In the first book, I wasn’t thrilled that some of the characters felt a little one note. I don’t feel I had that problem in this book. I felt there was something a little deeper to all of them, that more heavily weighed on their shoulders. I also really enjoyed the light (and I do mean light) touches of romance. They’re untraditional and touched something in my heart. One of them sliced through me and even left me heartbroken.

Expanded with More Gods

The world was exactly as I remembered it, and then it spread it’s wings. While much of the first book focused on one area, this book opened it up. The reader is taken on a journey across the Tressian Republic and into the Hadari Empire and the land of the Thrakkians. While they all kind of blended together in my mind, there are differences in their customs and how they are run that set them apart. More of the world is seen and explored, and all of it supported the story.

I also loved the inclusion of all the gods. More of the world is introduced through them, which hints at a deeper level of world building that added a nice touch of the divine to the mortal struggles. Each god was different and interesting, though the reader only really gets to know Ashana, the Raven, and Jack O’ Fellhallow. Through them we also get to wander Otherworld and Fellhallow, which lent eerie and dark overtones to the already dark and bloody story.

Legacy of Steel did a lovely job of building up on the world. It adds new layers that create a richer tapestry for the story to unfold on. It makes it feel like a real, breathing world, but also hints at more left to be explored.

A Story of Intricate Battles

I loved that everything in Legacy of Steel followed directly from the events of the first book. I thought everything initially presented was followed through, every detail remembered and added where appropriate. I wasn’t a big fan of all the battles and blood and gore, but can’t say it wasn’t action-packed and wasn’t intricately planned and plotted out. This proved to be yet another serious, dense addition to the trilogy with a lot going on, though it never felt too overwhelming. It’s character-driven in some of the best ways. There’s a lot of heartbreak, a lot of losses, but also the most tender scene yet. Since it felt like this book contained all the big, bloody battles usually seen at the end of series, I’m very curious about what lies ahead in the last book.

Great if your enjoy: Legacy of Ash, books filled with battles, interfering gods, court politics, friendships changing, action-packed novels

Not great if you’re looking for: books without blood and gore, nonviolent stories, light stories, fast-paced novels

How many cups of tea will you need?

4 cups will do nicely

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Thank you to Angela Man at Orbit for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.

Head over to the Bookshelf to check out my reviews of books from the Big 5 and self-published, indie, and small press books.

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