Review: The Way of Renegades (The Bards and Dragons Saga #1) by Steve Wall

MY ⭐️ RATING: 4.5/5

Format: Kindle eBook


A flintlock fantasy novel set in a universe with muskets, magic, music, and dragons… though they are not like the usual stories.

On the frontier of a new, mostly undiscovered continent, an old war hero hiding from the mistakes of his past, a sorcerous bard trying to keep his secrets, a native chief looking to save her people, a hulking hunter from across the world, and a strange, young girl will all come to learn that a renegade’s only friend is another renegade.


I was lucky enough to be introduced to Steve through a mutual friend of ours named Mario, if you’re reading this, I’m very certain we both thank you for that introduction. Because of that introduction, I was able to point him to the direction of where he could get the most help and feedback as a new independent author. Not only that, but his dream of having Steven Pacey narrate is officially coming to fruition, with 2 days left, the Kickstarter campaign (link here) is now fully funded! To say I have been looking forward to this may be an understatement. None of this has influenced my rating or review in any way.

Way of Renegades is a very strong debut with a diverse cast of interesting characters and an imaginative mostly unknown world dealing with somewhat of an industrial boom. One of the things that I knew of beforehand, was that Joe Abercrombie is one of his favorite authors, and because of that, I could see where that influence has rubbed of on him. There’s also a very clever nod to Abercrombie that I thought was a very nice touch. Something else that I noticed or maybe I’m just trying to piece too much together, is that as a military veteran, Wall may be working in some of his experiences during his tours into a fantasy setting with mages, bards and dragons which I find very fascinating.

Way of Renegades is a character driven story where Wall was able to delve pretty deep and put the characters flaws on display while still making them likable. Throughout the story we get to know Ulric, Dellioph, Gali, Devo, and Aari. All of them are very different from one another and I like that it’s centered around a group of people that don’t always like each other because of secrets and clashing personalities. Dellioph and Aari are definitely two of the most interesting of them because of the mysteriousness that surrounds them, and I can’t wait to find out even more about them. Wall also did a great job of making the side-characters feel just as important to the development of the story as the main characters. One that I liked quite a bit was Andrastos, who has a pretty unique quality about him that I hope becomes an even bigger part of the story in the future.

“He’d learned long ago that people always want to be amazed. They may try to demonstrate restraint upon first glance, then gracefully ease into disappointment when a performer doesn’t meet the required threshold for their awe, but no matter how minuscule, men always bear the hope that they will be enchanted and delighted.”

I thought Wall did a good job of immersing me into the world by painting vivid scenes while also working in the descriptions very methodically throughout the story. I was actually surprised that this wasn’t near as dark as I was expecting it to be based on his influences, but that’s not a bad thing, it still had a grimyness to it while telling an adventurous tale with some exhilarating and tense scenes. The action, while not as packed as I thought it would be, was nicely spaced out to keep my attention while still learning about the story and the characters. There are three major scenes that will keep your eyes on the page until it’s over… I may have sat in my truck for twenty plus minutes finishing the chapter to see how it ended.

One of the things I love most is that the magic system, or sorcery, has consequences of its usage. It drains the user so as to not be something that can easily just be constantly used. Two of the characters use this and I have to say that it is pretty cool, especially when Wall brings up that a character can see colors of music, it reminds me of the show Heroes, one of the powers someone had was seeing the colors of music and I always thought that was just so cool, so having that image already in my head made that even better. Another thing I expected a little more of was dragons, with the series title and the tagline mentioning them, I thought it would be a larger part of the storyline, but they are there and it does set it up pretty nicely that they will be going forward.

With all that said, I think Wall is onto something big with this epic fantasy story, and could make a mark in the industry as he continues to grow. I had this pegged as a solid 4.25, but after the final 15-20% of the book, there was no way I couldn’t give it 4.5 stars. With the Kickstarter campaign fully funded I 100% intend to give this a re-listen as the legendary Steven Pacey narrates it. This has definitely left me wanting more of not only his world, but flintlock fantasy as a whole, to the point that I think I should be adding more of this genre to my TBR cache.

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