Blood Song by Anthony Ryan
Just finished reading Blood Song by Anthony Ryan which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m rather late to this particular party so there’s probably not a lot extra that I can bring to the multitude of already glowing book reviews that exist for this book but I’ll give it a go and add my voice to the growing chorus of praise!
At the start of the story we become acquainted with the Hope Killer – in captivity and being transported to face trial by combat. Vaelin Al Sorna is feared and hated. Feared because his talents with the sword and the prophecies spoken of him have turned him into something of a legend. Hated by the Alpiran’s after slaying their Hope in the war to unite the realms. During the voyage Vaelin begins to tell his story to the man accompanying him – Verniers, a chronicler of history who has already written much of the wars and subsequent capture of the Hope Killer. He’s about to be given the story from a different perspective.
And so we begin with Vaelin as a young boy, given by his father to the Sixth Order where he will learn how to become a warrior who serves the realm or die in the process of trying. A good portion of the book is spent with Vaelin as he faces various trials with the other boys who have also been ‘given’ to the Order. I really enjoyed this part of the story. There’s never a dull moment as we’re taken through the boys steps. They are driven hard by their masters and face strict trials which if they fail will mean eviction. This part of the story really cemented the feelings that I came to have for Vaelin and his fellow trainees. Like the boys themselves, as a reader, you can’t help but develop attachments. As they bond together into a tight knit group of hardened students you really do care for them more than you ever imagined and are fearful for them when they face their trials, until the ultimate trial by sword where they will face three convicts in a fight to the death!
We then move onto the second part of the story where the Order and Vaelin and his crew become embroiled in politics and plots where religion is used as a device to provoke war. Vaelin is manipulated by the King into a desperate situation, we begin to understand the nature of the magic, we traverse many miles across different landscapes, uncover various truths and go in search of ‘the one who waits’! I won’t really go any further into plot and I realise that’s barely scraped the surface but I don’t really think I can do the story justice other than to say that if you enjoy epic fantasy then you simply must read this book. That’s really all there is to it. Go and read it.
The swaying factor for me is that inspite of the fact that there’s nothing really ‘new’ here, and undoubtedly certain parts of the story will bring to mind certain aspects of other fantasy stories, the story telling voice is just wonderful. It’s almost hypnotic in it’s ability to sink you into the pages to the exclusion of everything else. I found myself sitting in bed until ridiculous o’clock just trying to get to the next chapter, and then the one after that! I was totally immersed and frankly resented any intrusion into my reading. I think you could accuse Mr Ryan of having a blood song of his own here – he’s practised his dark arts on me and held me in his thrall. Not that I object. This is such an interesting story, the pace is consistent. There’s plenty of action, bloodshed and intrigue plus a very engaging romance (that, believe me, plays only a very minor role) with another really well drawn character.
I thought the ending was excellent although it does leave me wondering where on earth the author is going to go with No.2! I’m intrigued and can’t wait to find out what’s next.
In terms of criticisms. Well, I did have a number of points where I thought certain elements put me in mind of other tales, in particular Rothfuss and Hobbs – but, they were only very fleeting thoughts that I quickly forgot as I read forward. This is by no means a copy and stands perfectly well on it’s own two feet! I think my main struggle was that the book was so damned big it was almost difficult to keep the pages open but that’s a niggle of a different variety and a lesson for me that seems to have been reinforced when reading Sanderson recently – read these tomes on your kindle instead!!
I would really recommend this book without hesitation and look forward to the next instalment. And, the beauty of being ‘fashionably’ late to this particular book gathering is that I don’t have to wait too long. In fact, with the next book due out in just weeks it’s the perfect time to pick this up – if you’re one of those few remaining people who haven’t yet done so that is.