In the previous book, we followed the adventures of some interesting characters. Lizanne Lethridge, of course, was our main focus; a Blood-blessed and a very capable and resourceful covert agent of the Exceptional Initiatives Division of the Ironship Trading Syndicate. In The Waking Fire, she uncovers the mysteries behind a fateful exposition in the hopes of finding something to use against the Corvantine Empire. In the battle of Carvenport, she fights fiercely, preventing the Empire from taking the city long enough to get survivors out and earning the title Miss Blood by her amazing abilities to fight and lead others. The Legion of Flame finds Miss Blood ready to call it quits, when she finds herself with a good bit of leverage and the realization that it's going to be up to her to save the world, as no one else is up to the task.
Well, that's not completely true; it's not a one-person job, and other likable characters from the last book return to play their parts, as well: Hilemore is back, along with Steelfine, and the Torcreek gang, including Skaggerhill and Preacher... oh, and Zenida Okanas and Akina are along too, to do their bit. They are, once again, on an expedition to find something to change the tide of the war, but - this time - it's not for a squabble over who's better, the Imperials or the Capitalists, it's all about finding a way to prevent the dragons from wiping humans from the face of the planet. In the end of The Waking Fire, Clay has a vision of the future and the expedition is to take him to where he was in that vision, for he feels that he will find the answers he needs. Visions are just glimpses, however, and he has to connect the dots... and, when he reaches his destination (and the end of the premonition), he has to figure out what comes next.
We also follow Sirus, one of the unfortunates who didn't make it out of Carvenport. As his group of ragtag survivors attempt to figure out how to make their escape without starving to death or becoming a snack for dragons, they will have to make tough decisions and press their luck, finding out more than they ever wanted to know about drakes, the Spoiled and each other, in the process.
Saving the world won't be easy, of course, and before it's done, Lizanne will have to walk into and out of Hell... or the closest approximation the Corvantine Empire could think up: Scorazin, a prison city, where inmates mine for ore and exchange it once a week for supplies from the guards. Scorazin is not a place you would want to visit... and leaving is a lot more difficult than getting in. She'll have to make unlikely friends of long-term enemies and convince others to work with her to escape, which finds her an unwilling participant in a revolution, which she sees as a waste of her time, since she's trying to prevent the extinction of all human life. Still, she finds herself in a contract, having to play her part in order to leave with what she came for.
Anthony Ryan weaves an exciting tale, painted in vivid and colorful terms that keep things feeling a bit alien, while not causing a suspension of disbelief. While I really like A Waking Fire and was anxious for another installment, The Legion of Flame ends on an even bigger cliffhanger than the first book. Yes, there are some things that are explained and some questions answered, but those answers often beg even further questions and, by the end of this book, the world has changed socioeconomically, politically and even geographically, leading to a point where pretty much anything can happen.
Books don't often have "Special Features," but it felt a bit as if this one did, given its two Appendices. The first one, a Dramatis Personae, lists out the characters, along with a brief description of each. This is nice if you find yourself losing track of the different characters. The second Appendix, however, explains the rules of Pastazch, a gambling game that is mentioned in the books and is played in a gambling hall in Scorazin. I was tickled to see that the rules of the game were included at the end of the book, but then a bit disappointed to find that it requires a 60 card deck, making it difficult to try playing it with standard decks of cards, unless you're very creative and don't mind permanently altering a deck of cards. Still, it's a neat little extra that helps to breathe life into the world, much like the maps, that can be found at the beginning of the book.
Read this book for the ride... don't expect a happy landing until (hopefully) book three. But, by all means, read it. It's a delightful read, with several entertaining surprises and more than a few moments that made me grin at the cleverness as the story unfolded. Don't jump in here, however. Read The Waking Fire, first.