Queen of Fire: Book 3 of Raven's Shadow by Anthony Ryan

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Queen of Fire: Book 3 of Raven's Shadow by Anthony Ryan

Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: The Raven's Shadow trilogy comes to an end with some bangs and an open door to the future. This isn't the best of these three epic fantasy novels but it still finishes the series with some of the flashes of brilliance with which it began.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 656 Date: July 2015
Publisher: Orbit
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0356502496

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THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE FIRST TWO RAVEN SHADOW BOOKS (ONLY)

Queen Lyrna has been badly burnt but lives to rule and seek vengeance through her massed armies. She also lifts the prohibition of the Dark due to their healing properties and three Gifted, the practitioners of the power are promoted with less than popular approval. Meanwhile Lyrna's right hand man Vaelin Al Sorna has lost his blood song, that precognition that made him such a strong and feared opponent in the past. Talking of opponents, the Volarians have a surprise – the mysterious entity known only as The Ally. To Vaelin he's anything but and so he must go to the ends of the world (or at least to a pretty inhospitable climate) to find him… her… it.

When first set out on the path that brought us such memorable characters as Lyrna, Vaelin, Reva and Frentis, I doubt if he could have predicted the controversy it would create in fantasy fiction circles.

First came Blood Song which, is an almost unanimous fantasy tour de force. Then Tower Lord bringing some complaints about Vaelin's sole viewpoint (in Blood Song) turning into multiple views. There were even mumblings about Game of Thrones bandwagons. For me, personally, Book 2 is only a let-down if you don't like alternating view chapters. I still love it, continue to defend it with Lyrna's life and bought a copy of it (and indeed one of Blood Song) for my e-reader.

Now we have Book 3 and more tirades of disappointed invective seem to arise from the ether. Where do I stand this time? This book isn't as strong as the other two but it's still a decent read.

As with most final part fantasy trilogies, we find our heroes and baddies moving around to be in place for that which will decide those final chapters. Although this time the skirmishes and battles along the way are perhaps more monumental and momentous than the almost wistful-feeling ending, Anthony's talent in drawing us into the bloody action is once again evident.

Frentis, the Red Brother is still wanted for regicide, although he wasn't himself when he did the killing. However that doesn't stop him doing what he can for the Crown's cause. Even in his darkest moments (and he gets a few of those) his sardonic wit lightens our way, making him one of my all-time fant-fict favourites.

Alucius, the poet-turned-spy definitely stands out in his chapters. Anthony does seem to side line characterisation to some degree in this final tome but not in this case as Alucius' thoughts and reasoning are fascinating.

Again against the overall trend to spend more time on the travel and action than the characterisation, there are also some unexpected moments of insight as when we realise the true emotional cost that Lyrna has had to pay for her regency. The Queen may show her official, fearless visage to her people but we see the humanity beneath.

As with all satisfyingly good fantasy, everyone's life is up for grabs and – hold onto a firm surface – not all our heroes get out alive. Anthony doesn't give us any free clues as freebies though; when the time comes, the grim reaper snatches.

My instinct is to ask whether this is a bad novel or just a disappointment compared to the superlative previous parts. It could have been improved by a bit of shortening (perhaps 450 – 500 pages instead of 600+) but I think it's just less good than the first two books.

As Exhibit A, I point to some great Book 3 set pieces that take us back to the root of Anthony's genius, including the scenes in which poor Reva has to persuade a depleted town that they need to give up their sons for army conscription. Sending Vaelin across the snows to solve the mystery of The Ally also has inspired moments.

Whatever we think/don't think Raven's Shadow is over... or is it? There are enough sledge-hammer-subtle suggestions as we read the final chapters that there may be a spin off somewhere, some day. For me, remembering the glory days of Blood Song and Tower Lord, which fills me with anticipation and a large dollop of excitement. Anthony, whenever you/'re ready…

(Thank you Orbit for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: If you haven’t yet, do treat yourself to reading Blood Song and Tower Lord. If you've read them already, we also heartily recommend Age of Iron (The Iron Age Trilogy) by Angus Watson.

Buy Queen of Fire: Book 3 of Raven's Shadow by Anthony Ryan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Queen of Fire: Book 3 of Raven's Shadow by Anthony Ryan at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Queen of Fire: Book 3 of Raven's Shadow by Anthony Ryan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Queen of Fire: Book 3 of Raven's Shadow by Anthony Ryan at Amazon.com.


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