Title: Blood Song
Author: Anthony Ryan
Genre: Fantasy / Adventure / War
Publication date: 2011
“The Sixth Order wields the sword of justice and smites the enemies of the Faith and the Realm.”
Vaelin Al Sorna was only a child of ten when his father left him at the iron gate of the Sixth Order. The Brothers of the Sixth Order are devoted to battle, and Vaelin will be trained and hardened to the austere, celibate, and dangerous life of a Warrior of the Faith. He has no family now save the Order.
Vaelin’s father was Battle Lord to King Janus, ruler of the unified realm. Vaelin’s rage at being deprived of his birthright and dropped at the doorstep of the Sixth Order like a foundling knows no bounds. He cherishes the memory of his mother, and what he will come to learn of her at the Order will confound him. His father, too, has motives that Vaelin will come to understand. But one truth overpowers all the rest: Vaelin Al Sorna is destined for a future he has yet to comprehend. A future that will alter not only the realm, but the world.
Blood Song is Anthony Ryan‘s first book of the fantasy series Raven’s Shadow (and in general). It follows the story of Vaelin Al Sorna, a boy with a destiny bigger than anyone can imagine. I was rather skeptical about that part; it has been done too many times (I’m guilty of that too, I’m afraid) but I read on nonetheless.
Vaelin is the son of the Battle Lord of King Janus, the monarch ruling the kingdom he lives in. Vaelin is given to the Sixth Order to become a warrior, to serve and protect the one true Faith. From there on Vaelin sets on a path of war and politics, trying to keep his humanity and friends alive. An unwilling puppet in powerful men’s plans, he turns from a boy to a man to a commander to the Killer of Hope.
There are a lot of things I liked about the story – Ryan’s way with words is really cool, even his profanities are original and funny; the world he paints is super detailed and well thought through so it was a pleasure to immerse in it without being distracted by irregularities and plot holes. I also liked the story itself, even though I am not a fan of the format he used (more about that in a bit).
One thing that overwhelmed me was the sheer number of detailed descriptions of battles, tactics, and fighting. It was vivid and it sounded legit, I’ll give him that, but it went a bit overboard for me. Maybe it was necessary, considering that all Vaelin knows and does is fight and plan offense/defense. If you cut most of that out, the book would be really short. But still, those who decide to read on should either love reading about fighting in minute details or learn to endure it (or skim over some scenes like me).
Another thing that kind of threw me off, and this is a personal preference rather than an actual structure problem, was the fact that the whole book was written like a memory. Basically, Vaelin tells his life story to a stranger – all the way back to his childhood when his father abandons him at the threshold of the Sixth Order. And it’s not that it starts with them talking and then comes the memory, but rather the whole thing switches back and forth a few times. This type of structure kills my momentum and annoys me, so that is why it took me a few weeks to finish the book (otherwise I would have probably devoured it in a couple of days).
In any case, none of those things were enough to deter me from reading it. And I’m glad. As I said, the story was great – save for the battle descriptions, there was a nice balance between the other elements – there was love (forbidden, naturally), friendship, lies, betrayals, enemies that hide in the shadows and a lot of inner turmoil. The hero has to suffer, eh?
So yes, if you ask me if you should read the book – you totally should. I’ll give you a solid 4/5 rating and I’ll cross my fingers for the next one to have less sword waving and more story developing. Now that the war is over (oops, spoiler) I am curious what else Anthony Ryan has in store for us.
What about you? What rating would you give? What are your thoughts and takes on Blood Song?