The Empire of Ashes is the last book in the Draconis Memoria trilogy. I will let you know immediately that I really wanted to love this more than I did; I liked it but I didn’t love it. Please note that even though I had some problems reading through this trilogy, that doesn’t mean you will feel the same when you’re reading through it.
Without spoiling anything for the trilogy, the story continues immediately after the cliffhanger ending of The Legion of Flame. The beginning of this book was fantastic; Ryan is really good at showing the perspectives of the protagonists and antagonists, especially the POV from the antagonist’s side. If you have read the series up to here, you’ll notice that Ryan has been preparing for the final confrontation—which is the last 15% of the book—ever since the middle section of book one, and the final battle consists of a great large-scale action sequence. By this, I mean a horde of dragons, machinery, nautical warfare, and Ryan’s magic system are all incorporated into the last battle and some of the action scenes were really good. In this last installment, I also ended up thinking that my favorite character of the trilogy is the POV from the antagonist’s side who first appeared in Legion of Flame.
However, the preparation to reach the final battle ended up being too long for me and I felt the pacing dragged. The complex politics went on for a bit too long and Hilemore himself said the squabbling and minor politics didn’t matter. In a way, this goes to show just how selfish humans can be that even on the brink of disaster, all they’re thinking about is themselves but all the politics made me think "get to the war already, it's been too long". Eventually when the time comes, I also felt the final battle against the White Dragon ended too easily after all the buildup.
Personally, there was two aspects that I didn’t like about this trilogy. First, there was too much utilizing of the Blue Magic, which is the trance or the memory dive that is used to unfold the story, background, and world-building. Once or a few times is okay but after a while, it felt really distracting to me when a person is here and in the next sentence he’s immediately transported to the past for a long time. My second issue is that I failed to connect with the characters. I really tried loving/caring about them but other than Clay and the antagonist’s POV, I really didn’t care about the rest of the characters, and there are a LOT of them. Maybe my criticisms all came from my high expectations. I haven’t read the rest of Raven’s Shadow but Blood Song was one of the best reading experiences I’ve ever had; Vaelin Al Sorna is a character that I’ll always remember. There weren’t any too memorable characters in this trilogy since it felt more like a plot/action-driven book rather than character-driven (which is my favorite kind of story).
Overall though, this was a decent conclusion and everything has been wrapped up. Although this trilogy isn’t really suited for me, I had a good time with it and will be looking forward to Ryan’s next series. If you have enjoyed the trilogy up to here, there’s a huge chance that you’re going to love this one too. I recommend this trilogy to anyone who loves steampunk epic fantasy filled with large-scale dragons, battles, and machinery usage.
The Waking Fire: 3.5/5 stars
The Legion of Flame: 4/5 stars
The Empire of Ashes: 3/5 stars
The Draconis Memoria trilogy: 10.5/15 stars