Title: Tower Lord
Author: Anthony Ryan
Genre: Fantasy / Adventure / War
Publication date: 2014
Vaelin Al Sorna, warrior of the Sixth Order, called Darkblade, called Hope Killer. The greatest warrior of his day, and witness to the greatest defeat of his nation: King Janus’s vision of a Greater Unified Realm drowned in the blood of brave men fighting for a cause Vaelin alone knows was forged from a lie. Sick at heart, he comes home, determined to kill no more.
Named Tower Lord of the Northern Reaches by King Janus’s grateful heir, he can perhaps find peace in a colder, more remote land far from the intrigues of a troubled Realm. But those gifted with the blood-song are never destined to live a quiet life. Many died in King Janus’s wars, but many survived, and Vaelin is a target, not just for those seeking revenge but for those who know what he can do.
The Faith has been sundered, and many have no doubt who their leader should be. The new King is weak, but his sister is strong. The blood-song is powerful, rich in warning and guidance in times of trouble, but is only a fraction of the power available to others who understand more of its mysteries. Something moves against the Realm, something that commands mighty forces, and Vaelin will find to his great regret that when faced with annihilation, even the most reluctant hand must eventually draw a sword.
It has been some time since a book made me stay up till the early hours of the night. And on top of that I’m already sleep-deprived, being a new mom and all, so using my sleep time for reading this book is the biggest compliment I could give it.
The second book of the series by Anthony Ryan, Tower Lord, was everything you could hope for in a fantasy series. It had massive world-building, epic battles, magic, betrayals, bad guys you love to hate (or hate to love), and a hint of romance. Oh, and some badass female characters. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love any well-developed character regardless of gender, but I rarely see a female one done right (or rather, done the way I like it).
Tower Lord starts a few months after Blood Song ends. Vaelin returns home determined to put down his weapons for good. He has given up his faith, his place in the Sixth Order, his love and all he wants is to learn more about his ability (the blood song) that he has been honing for the past few years.
His plans and hopes, of course, are sent to the trash bin by King Janus’s heir, Malcius, who has become king, when he makes Vaelin Lord of the Northern Reaches. After a few assassination attempts on his persona, Vaelin (completely fine by the way, he is almost all-powerful but we’ll talk about this later) takes his sister and leaves for the Northern Reaches where he hopes she would be safe and he would escape his legendary past.
Meanwhile, we have some new characters step from the shadows and demand the spotlight – the daughter of Hentes Mustor, Reva; the princess/queen (depending on who you ask) Lyrna; Frentis and even the historian from the previous book, Lord Verniers. Unlike the previous book, in this one, we have a lot of new POVs which, honestly made me super happy. I love Vaelin and all, but it can be dull to just watch him fight, kill and wallow in self-pity. The fresh perspectives and the different adventures each of them undertakes gives a unique flavor to the story and despite the intimidating page count, I didn’t feel it dragging or make me skip pages.
The bad guys in this book are many, most of which hide in the shadows until they strike. But the big bads are the Volarian army who attacks Altor, annihilates most of the royal family and anyone old or young (if you’re in the middle and you’re not a soldier, you’re in luck – you get to be a slave). They are ruthless and well-trained so barely anyone can resist them. Until they do, haha.
I won’t go into details about the individual adventures of the main characters here, this will take forever, but I can say you’ll meet a lot of new nations, learn new myths about gods and uncover some fascinating history. Ryan’s ability to world-build is one of the most impressive I’ve seen in my life. Unlike Tolkien or Robert Jordan (I love them, just FYI) you don’t see info dumps here, or at least if they are any they are so short and rare that you don’t notice them. I am a sucker for proper world-building, so this made me tear up a little.
There were a few things, though, that spoiled the perfect picture. Similar to the previous book, the author does not write the story in a linear timeline. He starts almost at the end, then jumps all the way to the beginning with another POV character, then jumps forward again and so on. Until I got what he was doing and why, it was super confusing and honestly, annoying. I have to admit that I understand why he did it – it built quite the suspense and considering that ends most of the chapters with small cliffhangers, this made me turn the page faster than a fat kid devours cake.
Another thing that bothered me is how Deux-ex-machina Vaelin had become. I mean, I agree he deserves to be called awesome, and he knows how to handle his sword but this song of his not only guides him in everything including finding people or seeing through lies but now he can see the future (so to speak) or slow time (in a way) when he fights. Come on! It seems that the only way for him to die is to kill himself. It dispersed the suspense in all of his scenes. I guess it is the writer’s choice, and there may be a very good reason for it, but in my humble opinion, it killed the suspension of disbelief.
I can go on for days but this review is already too long so I will stop here and let you judge the rest by yourselves. I’ll give Tower Lord 4/5 rating. I was really happy in general and I would totally recommend it to the fantasy lovers but there were one too many tiny things for a perfect score.
What about you? What rating would you give? What are your thoughts and takes on Tower Lord?