Matthew Ward is best known for his previous work on the Warhammer franchise and he has a solid reputation for the being the sort of writer who excels at taking a simple idea and making it epic. Fans may argue that this had mixed results in the worlds of Warhammer, but it turns out when Matt is left to produce his own fantasy worlds the results are not only epic, but also awesome.

Legacy of Ash is the first book in Ward’s Legacy trilogy and, at just under 800 pages, it’s safe to say it’s a bit of a monster. But it has to be; this is truly epic fantasy. This is character-driven, slow burn world building at its best. Many fantasy novels get compared to A Song of Ice and Fire and, in terms of storytelling and craftmanship, Legacy of Ash is easily on the same level as George RR Martin’s masterpiece.

More importantly though, this is a bright and engaging work. Ward eschews the mundane parlour tricks of Grim Dark to give us the highs and lows of an immersive fantasy experience. Big it may be, but it doesn’t waste time trudging through the dirt. This is a book of big battles and even bigger magic. It doesn’t shy away from the things that made readers fall for fantasy in the first place. Sun goddesses, giant magical war machines, shape-shifting assassins; all the good stuff.

The set-up for this world is quite complicated, as you’d expect. The Hadari Empire and Tressian Republic are at war. The Empire is disrupted by civil unrest as fantastic and impossible things inspire some of its recently conquered citizens to rebel. Murder, conspiracy and betrayal mean that the conflict between the two nations does not go at all well, as the title of the book suggests.

We skip forward in time to discover that ambitious rulers and their need for conquest are still a very real problem. We follow multiple heroes as they strive to do what they can to make the world better for themselves and others. This is a book about heroes and villains, but mostly it’s about what motivates someone to attempt the impossible. The book likes to give us multiple perspectives from various characters and the cast is quite large. It’s the sort of book where you find yourself rooting for multiple characters, even those opposed to each other.

Legacy of Ash is epic fantasy as it should be; big, bold and very addictive. It’s a book that you’ll be reading well into the night (though you may want to make sure you don’t drop it on your head.) It’s a traditional European inspired epic fantasy, but one that’s done extremely well, with both broad strokes and intricate detail.