REVIEW: Engines of Chaos by R. S. Ford

Last Updated on August 23, 2023

 Engines of Chaos is the second instalment of R. S. Ford’s The Age of Uprising trilogy. I reviewed the first in the trilogy, Engines of Empire, for Grimdark Magazine, and I loved it. It is safe to say that Engines of Chaos did not disappoint, and if you love really well-written epic fantasy, you should pick this up. The events of Engines of Chaos pick up soon after the ending of Engines of Empire, so the first novel is essential reading. Although Ford provides a map, dramatis personae, and an explanation of the guild system, you do need the foundation of this world given in Engines of Empire. To me, Ford is one of the great writers of epic fantasy, and Engines of Chaos further proves that he deserves some serious shelf space. 


Engines of ChaosFord has written an entertaining and engaging novel with excellent pacing. Even though Engines of Chaos has multiple points of view and takes place over a vast space, it was easy to follow all of the novel’s threads and keep track of who everyone was and what they were up to. Even as someone who could not read vast chunks of the book in each sitting, I can imagine that if I had been able to, I would have found it to be a truly immersive world. I wish I could sit and enjoy it more; Engines of Chaos is a novel deserving of my full attention rather than a stolen chapter here and there. 


As before, the main characters of Engines of Chaos are the Hawkspur family – matriarch Rosomon and her adult children. In the last novel, I felt like it was their ‘coming of age’ stories, even though there were all adults of varying maturity levels. The Hawkspurs were relatively naïve and trusting and did not expect the betrayals at the first novel’s end. The characters in Engines of Chaos are harsher, more damaged, and in many ways, a whole lot more relatable because of this. Engines of Chaos is grittier and more brutal than its predecessor because it takes place during a war rather than setting up one. There are still many political machinations, but there is more viciousness than before. 


Ford has also given new perspectives in Engines of Chaos who are not part of the Hawkspur allegiance. I enjoyed this, and the new view from Ansell, a fanatic knight who is commander of the Draconite guards, was my favourite in the novel. Ansell may only be one of the ensemble cast of characters, but it shows just how good a writer Ford is that he can evoke sympathy for a murderous zealot having a crisis of faith. 


As I said about Engines of Empire, this is not an exceptionally dark novel, so it might not appeal to all people who hang out in the Grimdark Magazine part of the internet. However, it is an excellent epic fantasy, and Engines of Chaos is significantly darker than the first novel in the trilogy. Ford does not shy away from how horrific war is and shows its violence and cruelty without being gratuitous or hyperbolic. Engines of Chaos has everything I want from a fantasy novel; there are flawed characters, magic, politics, and even an animal companion. What’s not to love?


I really enjoyed reading Engines of Choas (notwithstanding having to read it in frustratingly small amounts at each stint) and thoroughly recommend it. If you still need to start The Age of Uprising trilogy but like authors like Richard Swan, John Gwynne, or David Gemmell this book will appeal to you too. If reading this means you want more from R.S. Ford, check out his completed trilogies War of the Archons and Steelhaven. Thank you very much to R.S. Ford and the team at Orbit for sending over a copy of Engines of Chaos for me to review. 

Read Engines of Chaos by R. S. Ford

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Fiona Denton

Fiona Denton

Fiona is a former secondary school teacher and current stay at home parent to two very wild and active children. She lives with them and her husband in the UK and can often be found on a beach paddling in the North Sea or stomping through a forest with the sprogs and hounds. She loves to read and has always enjoyed fantasy novels, particularly the very dark and twisty ones with mythical creatures.

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