Blood Song: Book 1 of Raven's Shadow by Anthony Ryan

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Blood Song: Book 1 of Raven's Shadow by Anthony Ryan

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: Originally a self-published sensation in the world of fantasy, now being advertised as the next mainstream publishing phenomenon and I agree wholeheartedly. 2013 is turning into the year of the superlative epic.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 592 Date: July 2013
Publisher: Orbit
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0356502465

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Young Vaelin Al Sorna's father takes him to the gates of the Sixth Order of the Faith and leaves him there. Vaelin's father is the King's Battle Lord and Vaelin's mother someone the lad has sorely missed since her death but this doesn't matter. As a member of the Order Vaelin has no family except his Order brethren. The long life-threatening training binds him closer to his fellows while exposing him to greater dangers and mysteries than he's ever known. However one day he'll outgrow his comrades. One day he'll become a name whispered with fear and awe. For Vaelin will become a deadly weapon: Hope Killer himself.

Speaking of names, Anthony Ryan is fast becoming one that delights fantasy fans. This novel first gained heights of popularity as a self-published ebook which attracted a publishing deal. His name does carry a hint of mystery though: it's rumoured that it's a nom de plume and the jacket photo may not be him either. Does it affect how we read the book? Not really. Whoever you are Mr Ryan, your writing is literary superglue. It may be a thick tome but less than half way in I began to realise that in your case 592 pages are just not enough.

Vaelin's world reflects the author's love of history, paralleling the Middle Ages. Anthony's knowledge of medieval war tactics and weaponry are especially well translated into the novel as evidenced, for example, in the sword forging scene. Meanwhile we turn the pages with a sense of intrigue as questions pile up beside our imaginations. This is how a first trilogy instalment should be.

He hasn't just lifted medieval Europe though; this carefully crafted world that includes fictionalised religions, catechisms and well thought out detail that extends to a new breed of dog. I found Scratch to be adorable… in a violent, flesh eating kind of way.

As Vaelin goes through his apprentice-like training you may feel that you're in a magic-free Harry Potter zone. Yes we come to know Vaelin, Dentos, Barkus, Nortah and Caenis very well but worry not on any account. This is much more accomplished, better written, multi-layered and the magic comes later.

The novel's conceit is interesting. Blood Song starts with an adult Vaelin telling his story to an historian on the way to a duel that Vaelin's sentenced to fight. The discourse and what the historian writes appear in italics at the start of each of the book's sections. Once out of italics the narrative provides the true version without Vaelin's cover up and the historian's spin.

Indeed, this is epic fantasy at its best with action, rivalries, espionage, the promise of future revelations and ever-present twists. However, like David Gemmell to whom many liken him, Ryan has thought things through. The Order is a religious fundamentalist organisation, defending The Faith against other religious sects but Vaelin is torn between his oath and his doubt. There is much killing (though not as graphically dwelt on as it would have been in the hands of the equally excellent Abercrombie and Scull) however there is also regret, conscience and nightmares along with the mysterious Blood Song itself. Vaelin may become a feared weapon but there's no fight without conscience or huge personal cost.

The second in the series, Tower Lord will appear sometime in 2014 but will be totally different coming from four viewpoints rather than just Vaelin's. While we wait on the edge of over-excitement, I'll leave you with one non-spoilerish thought: heed well the story of 'The Witch's Bastard'. You'll find out why.

If you've enjoyed this, we also recommend Promise of Blood (Powder Mage Trilogy) by Brian McClellan or perhaps you'd like to try Legend by David Gemmell to see if the comparison holds up.

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Buy Blood Song: Book 1 of Raven's Shadow by Anthony Ryan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Blood Song: Book 1 of Raven's Shadow by Anthony Ryan at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Blood Song: Book 1 of Raven's Shadow by Anthony Ryan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Blood Song: Book 1 of Raven's Shadow by Anthony Ryan at

Booklists.jpg Blood Song: Book 1 of Raven's Shadow by Anthony Ryan is in the Top Ten Fantasy Books of 2013.


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