The Death of Mystical Japan?: The Withering Flame by James Calbraith

The Death of Mystical Japan?: The Withering Flame by James CalbraithThe Withering Flame by James Calbraith
Series: The Year of the Dragon #6

Published by Flying Squid on June 2015
Also by this author: The Shadow of Black Wings, The Warrior's Soul, The Islands in the Mist, The Rising Tide, The Chrysanthemum Seal, The Shattering Waves, The Last Dragon King
Also in this series: The Shadow of Black Wings, The Warrior's Soul, The Islands in the Mist, The Rising Tide, The Chrysanthemum Seal, The Shattering Waves, The Last Dragon King
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 302
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After a rough start of the second part of the series, The Withering Flame by James Calbraith goes back to its roots of greatness. It’s the sixth book in The Year of the Dragon, and with so much happening, you’ll be glad to there are two more books after this one. If you don’t like cliffhangers, be warned!

As per usual, there might be a few spoilers in this review if you haven’t read the previous books.

We’re finally back to our main characters, Bran, Nagomi, and Sato. The three heroes witness the start of a civil war from various places and perspectives. Each is on a different side of the war, with treachery of supposed allies blurring the borders. Foreigners are banned, or so it seems, which not only affects Bran but Nagomi as well.

There are two seats of power in Yamato, one in Edo seated by the taikun and one in Heian seated by the mikado. The mikado is royalty and has no real power as a purely symbolical figurehead, while the taikun rules the country with his councillors. Below them, the daimyos rule the provinces, but some are siding with the mikado. Hence, civil war.

What’s a fantasy book with dragons without a proper dragon fight? Calbraith’s dragons are both beautiful and lethal, some more so than others, but the black wings are the true beasts of terror. Larger and deadlier than the others, able to outmatch three lesser dragons with ease.So far they are the ultimate weapon, and I’m curious to know how they’ll be defeated.

The one thing that I like most about The Withering Flame is that all of points I criticised in my review of the previous book (The Chrysanthemum Seal) were addressed here. Nagomi tells us more about the prophecy, we see more of our main characters, and it focuses more on the story rather than on working out the politics. The overall style is more like the first books in the series, which is a huge plus for me.

The Withering Flame earns four and a half stars for amazing dragon battles, plot twists, deceit, betrayal, loyalty, and honour. It feels as if there will be a big climax happening in the next the book, so I’m looking forward to reading the last two.

About James Calbraith

James Calbraith is a Poland-born British writer, foodie and traveler.

Growing up in communist Poland on a diet of powdered milk, Lord of the Rings and soviet science-fiction, he had his first story published at the ripe age of eight. After years of bouncing around Polish universities, he moved to London in 2007 and started writing in English.

His debut historical fantasy novel, The Shadow of Black Wings, has reached Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award semi-finals in 2012. “The Year of the Dragon” saga sold over 30,000 copies worldwide.

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