Matthew Ward needs to calm down, because this is the second enormous fantasy book of his that I have reviewed this year, and it is becoming a lot. I am going to assume that he had multiple books already written when Orbit acquired this trilogy because otherwise, he is churning out 1000 page epics every 6 months and might be a robot. Legacy of Steel is the second book in Ward’s aptly named Legacy Trilogy, you can find my review of the first book, Legacy of Ash, here.
Legacy of Steel takes the strong foundation that Ash built and improves on it in a number of ways. Steel feels like an immediate and direct continuation of the plot of book one. Ash ends with a temporary ceasefire (of sorts) in a war that takes up a large portion of the story, and Steel picks up as we step out of this eye in the storm back into the dangerous winds of war. Ash primarily focused on the human and political machinations of Ward’s world and how they drive conflict. On the flip side, Steel has a much greater focus on the divine and how a series of gods have been slinking around in the background secretly pulling strings.
One of my biggest annoyances with Ash as a book was that it actually felt like three 300-page books huddled in a trenchcoat. There were a number of fairly distinct plot arcs in the first novel that each could have been their own story, and I didn’t like them all equally. Steel does a much better job at having a clear, unified, driving story that runs through the entirety of the book. This makes it a much quicker, and more compelling, read, so I had a harder time setting it down. Steel doesn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, though. The many interesting themes, such as character identity, the nature of free will, and the morality of choices, are carried through into book two and Steel very much feels like the continuation of a conversation started in book one.
Another thing that Steel really nails is drastically expanding the scope of the world. In book one, we really only get to know two regions of a single country in Ward’s world and only catch glimpses of his gods. Steel fully fleshes out multiple other regions in our protagonist’s country, introduces us to a number of bordering nations, and provides a much more comprehensive look at the gods and their active meddling with mortals.
Our character roster has also both expanded and improved. Josuri is back from book one, and Ward does an amazing job taking the identity crisis he was experiencing and taking it in fun new directions. Viktor, my favorite lead from Ash, is also still around, but he is mostly relegated to the supporting cast. Instead, Ward chose to take a number of support characters from Ash and make them primary POVs in this second book. This rotating cast style really works for me and does a great job getting the reader to key plot moments all around the world in a very natural and organic way. It also keeps you from getting too bored with any one character and manages to make the cast feel both familiar and refreshing at the same time.
Legacy Of Steel is an improvement and escalation of everything that was good about Legacy Of Ash, while also repairing the few issues I had with book one. The two books combined form one of 2020’s largest and most engrossing fantasy stories and they are definitely some of my favorite debuts this year. I know recommending 1800 pages of fantasy books seems like a lot, but if you like epic fantasy you will be doing yourself a disservice by missing these two books.
Rating: Legacy Of Steel – 9.0/10