Friday Face Off : ‘…the witch locked her away in a tower…’

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Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .   This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book, compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future week’s themes are listed below. This week’s theme:

“When she was a child, the witch locked her away in a tower that had neither doors nor stairs.” – a cover featuring a Tower

I think there’s quite a few book titles available for this week’s theme.  It will be interesting to see what everyone chooses.  My choice : Tower Lord (Raven’s Shadow #2) by Anthony Ryan

I must say I rather like the cover with the figure riding away on horseback but, I’m going to be predictable this week and go with a cover that I’m familiar with:

Tower1

 

Which is your favourite?

Next week – a cover featuring seeds/spores

Future themes:

30th March – ‘A little soil to make it grow’ – a cover featuring seeds/spores

6th April –  “After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.” – a cover featuring a family

13th April – ‘lawns and rocks and heather and different sorts of trees, lay spread out below them, the river winding through it’ –  a cover featuring a panorama

20th April – Where there’s fire there’s… – a cover featuring smoke

27th April – ‘Those darling byegone times… with their delicious fortresses, and their dear old dungeons, and their delightful places of torture’ – a cover that is positively mediaeval 

4th May-  ‘A Hand without a hand? A bad jape, sister.’ – a cover featuring a hand/hands

11th May – ‘Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth’ – a cover featuring a dinosaur/s

18th May – ‘Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;’ – a cover featuring a gravestone

25th May – Trip trap, trip trap, trip trap – a cover featuring footsteps

1st June – clinging and invasive – a cover featuring creeping vines

8th June – Raining Cats and Dogs – a cover featuring a stormy sky

Queen of Fire by Anthony Ryan, (No.3 Raven’s Shadow)

Just finished reading Anthony Ryan’s concluding episode to the Raven’s Shadow trilogy, Queen of Fire, which brings to a conclusion this excellent trilogy.  If you haven’t already read Bloodsong and Tower Lord I will forewarn you that this review may contain spoilers.   Also, if you haven’t yet picked up this series I certainly recommend you to do so.

Without doubt this is an action packed and bloody finale to the story.  We pick up where the Tower Lord left off.  Queen Lyrna, not content with having cast the Volarians from Alltor is bent on revenge.  She’s gathering her troops and she’s about to take the fight to the Volarian’s doorstep, fight on her terms rather than wait for them to regroup and try their hand at invasion again.  I’m not going to delve too deeply into the plot in this review.  I can say that the book once again follows the format from The Tower Lord with multiple POVs used to take the story forward and I must say this is a very winning formula particularly as the main characters are going to once again go on separate journeys, each following a plan vital to the success of the Queen’s campaign.

So, to the characters.  This time around Vaelin makes a life threatening journey across the ice to meet a man who has lived for many hundreds of years. Along the way he will gather others who wish to join the fight against the tyranny of the Volarians.  I really enjoyed this aspect of the story, particularly meeting different races and experiencing the varied cultures of this world.  We come across warriors who can make wolves, hawks and bears bend to their will.  On top of this Vaelin encounters a good deal of intrigue as he tries to uncover secrets long ago hidden.  We discover a little bit more about the ancient people that once populated the world and look at the events that led to their downfall.  We also make the acquaintance of the ‘ally’ and get more of a glimpse into his plans.  I have to admit that when Vaelin was robbed of his ‘dark’ gift at the conclusion of No.2 I was a bit dismayed and in fact I think in picking this up I started reading firmly with the expectation that he would retrieve his bloodsong in fairly short order!  However, Ryan doesn’t do the obvious here, he let’s not only Vaelin, but us, suffer the disappointment of loss and it’s almost painful to watch as Vaelin comes to grips with exactly how much he really has lost.  Of course he misses his song, it’s been his constant and most reliable companion and whilst we, the readers, may feel a little bereft in it’s absence Vaelin actually starts to unravel a little bit.  It’s almost painful to read as he loses not only his gift but his confidence and even his ability until he eventually realises that his song was something additional.  It wasn’t the complete package and the skills he acquired over his years of training are his with or without the knowledge that the song brought.  You can’t help breathing a sigh of relief on his behalf at this point or in fact give a little air punch that he seems to have returned to himself again.

Then, for me, we have two characters who I felt in a way stole the show.  Frentis and Reva.  Both are set upon different routes.  Frentis to try and find a sneaky back route into the heart of the Volarian holdings.  Rushing boldly into situations, freeing slaves and drawing the steely eye of the Empress (the woman who held him captive and made him commit terrible deeds in the Tower Lord).  He may not be in her thrall but she still has the ability to torment him in his dreams.  Reva sets sail aboard a new ship, accompanied by her archers who frankly worship the ground on which she walks.  She’s not entirely happy with the course of action or the lies she has had to spin in order to raise numbers.  Unfortunately her route will be dogged by misfortune and she will once again find herself at the centre of the action.

Lyrna is a complex character.  During book No.2 I really enjoyed reading her chapters.  In this story I found myself alternating a little between liking and disliking her.  She undoubtedly steps up to the mark in this book proving herself to be worthy of the title ‘Queen’, relaying orders and making difficult decisions where necessary.  She became overly confident in her own pearls of wisdom for a while and suffered and learnt an expensive lesson as a result.  However, in spite of this she had moments where you couldn’t help thinking that she was wandering into the remit of ‘tyrant’ herself.  I veered between thinking her rather brilliant in one moment to wondering about her motives and scheming the next.  I think I do her a disservice though.  She has to make difficult decisions and she does so without doubt – the difference here is that in the previous book Lyrna was a princess, in this she is a queen.

Vernier once again is given a number of chapters in which to ‘chronicle’ his stories.  I wouldn’t say that in this book these were my favourite chapters – they’re not bad, just not as compelling as the others.

In terms of plot and action – there are plenty of both.  You certainly can’ accuse Mr Ryan of being tardy in either respect.  This is a fast paced story with plenty of unrelenting tension.

I did have a couple of minor criticisms – there is so much death and destruction to read about that I eventually felt like I became numb towards it and the atrocities at play.  There was also a little of the story towards the latter chapters which felt a bit like a history lesson or info dump, not enough so to be irritating though.  And, yes, I can’t deny that there is a certain sort of bittersweet feel to the ending.  Sorry to be vague!

On the whole this has been a captivating series and one that I have thoroughly enjoyed.  The writing has been excellent, the characters interesting and varied and frankly I can’t fault an author who gives me characters such as Reva and Frentis who I just love reading about.  I would say that on balance I enjoyed the first two books more but, regardless of that this is an absolute must read.

I received a copy of this via the publishers through Netgalley.  The above is my own opinion.

The Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan

Posted On 19 June 2015

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Last year I finally got round to reading Bloodsong by Anthony Ryan which I loved.  For some reason The Tower Lord kept getting put off – and I admit that I’d heard Vaelin didn’t play as big a role in the story which kind of give me pause for thought.  I was wrong.  There it is.  This was so good.  I really enjoyed it.

Without doubt Vaelin Al Sorno captured our hearts and imagination in Bloodsong.  There was such a wonderful coming of age feel to the first half of the story as we watched Vaelin become a part of something much bigger and so to confront us with a story told from many perspectives and with less time for our favourite character, well, I can’t deny it seemed like such a risk by Ryan.  However, for me personally, he has managed to pull of this change of style in the most successful way.  There is plenty of gripping action and a number of different points of view – and they’re all really good to read.  I confess that I never had that sinking feeling when you move away from a character you love to one with less appeal – all of these povs are good.

At the start of the story Vaelin is travelling with a clear purpose.  Along the way however he seems to have picked up a shadow.  Reva is also on a mission – to kill Vaelin and take from him the sword that belonged to her father.  And yet, in spite of that, Vaelin wants to help Reva – she’s had a very strange upbringing, beaten regularly and drilled with one purpose in mind.  You know – I’m going to forgo the plot and move straight to the characters and their different POVs – this will be all your need.

This time we share space with Vaelin of course.  Along the way he reunites with his sister but just as they start to become reacquainted Vaelin is made Tower Lord and sent to the Northern Reaches.  Here he will help those in need and make allies in the places last imagined.

We spend a good deal of time with Frentis who really does have a helluva lot to put up with you – you really feel for him.  He’s in the most dreadful situation.  Bespelled (or something) by a woman with hideous intentions.  She uses him to commit her awful crimes.  By the end you’re almost begging for Vaelin to come to his rescue!

Reva – as mentioned, she’s sort of been brainwashed by the priest who raised her.  She’s very conflicted and in fact Vaelin is the first person to treat her with kindness and in doing so raise doubts within her own mind.  He helps her along the way, progresses her training (not always a wise decision to train somebody to perfection when they’re trying to cut your throat but Vaelin has a feeling about Reva and his feelings are never wrong).  Anyway, Reva and Vaelin forge a tentative friendship but unfortunately part ways after words.  Reva is such an excellent character – I really enjoyed reading her POV and thought she was a fantastic addition to the story.  On top of this she plays a pivotal role and proves to be the focus for Vaelin – the beacon drawing him back if you will.

Princess Lyrna – known of course from the first book – is sent on a mission, a peace mission really where she herself makes friends, receives predictions and proves herself worthy to rule a kingdom.  Lyrna really does come into her own in this story – she herself has trials to withstand, and your heart really goes out to her, She travels back and forth being chased by adversaries, scaling volcanos and pulling together the oddest bunch of misfits who are totally loyal to her.

Finally, Vernier – the chronicler from the first book.  Taken a slave and being used by the ambitious Volarian who is currently leading his army to, presumably, world domination! Vernier is required to record the days events – and, of course, to greatly embelish them.  What I particularly enjoyed about this was the unpicking of events.  Pay careful attention to Vernier’s accounts as they’ll be very relevant as the story progresses.

I really enjoyed this – I’ve probably not elaborated enough but let me just reinforce it here.  The writing is strong.  The storyline is intriguing but, the characters – outshine everything else, and I do so love good characters.  On top of this there are different races and cultures explored, fighting and war that is totally gripping, in fact the siege scenes will have you on the edge of your seat!  And that end – what!!  Really, What?

Fortunately there is very little wait and you can believe I won’t be leaving book No.3 for quite as long before picking it up!  I can totally understand that some people would perhaps be shocked by the change of style but I really liked it to be honest and in fact think it’s a bonus.  It doesn’t feel like we’re getting the same old same old and given that Vaelin is so awesome that could easily have become the case if this had simply been a one man band.

I simply can’t wait to read the next!