Blood Song – Raven’s Shadow Book 1
Bleak. Foreboding. Breathless.
I’ve read, listened to, read again, and re-listened to this book. It is excellent. I could just end my review there, and hells, you should read it, but I’ll go on…
When I started to read Blood Song for the first time, I was initially a little put off by the introduction. It features the initial sequence of an exchange between the lead, Vaelin and the Imperial Chronicler, Vernier. I think, perhaps, I was just not prepared to emotionally invest in a historian as the principle lead. “Hissboo”, you say, “what of Indiana Jones?” Technically, he was an archaeologist.
I’ve been reading fantasy for the best part of twenty-five years, and so, I’ve read a lot of good, bad, and ugly. What really defines a quality book, in my opinion, is how much do I care for the characters.
In Blood Song, we are treated to outstanding cast of well realised characters, and some fantastic, original plot work to boot. After an initial way-laying by Vernier (he is well worth his place), we are introduced to a sullen young boy, ‘abandoned’ as he sees it, to a militaristic institution by his famous warlord Father. Amidst the cold, cruel and frankly brutal college-for-killers, our lead gradually finds his fortitude, friends, ferocity, and female interest. It is in this journey to manhood that Ryan fantastically weaves a story rich in characters and mystic (and threat, oh so importantly, threat) that readers cannot help but become deeply invested in the characters. And I mean all of them. There are poor bedraggled souls amongst his tight-knit group of comrades that may (or may not – no spoilers here) make it back from the various tests of The Order. It is testament to great writing that we end up caring for these bit part players.
The landscape of the world is vivid: the description of ghostly woodlands, cold, briny rivers, and isolated mountainous lands is superb, and they really help to bring the dark and foreboding plot to life. You can almost smell the mossy, rotting woodland of the Urlish as young Vaelin struggles through his Test of the Wild.
The threats arising from the manipulations of the King, Janus, and the Void, as well as the fractious relationships between the six orders, keep the tension and unease bubbling along nicely. All the while you are wondering, “why is Vaelin sat on a ship, in chains, with a historian? And who or what is ‘The Hope’?”
I have not, for a long time, felt so connected to characters. Not since in David Eddings’ awesome The Elenium Trilogy, have I been so worried about the well-being of the cast! Anthony Ryan manages to weave a fantastic, rip-roaring story amidst the growth of characters who’s moral and physical constitution you will be breathlessly concerned for.
Absolutely worthy of 5 stars.
And if you haven’t already, check out the Audio Book version – Steven Brand’s narration is moody, gritty, and brings the bleak excellence of the book to life.