Series: Raven's Shadow #1
Published by Penguin
Published on 2012-11-20
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, General
An epic fantasy exploring themes of conflict, loyalty and religious faith. Vaelin Al Sorna, Brother of the Sixth Order, has been trained from childhood to fight and kill in service to the Faith. He has earned many names and almost as many scars, acquiring an ugly dog and a bad-tempered horse in the process. Ensnared in an unjust war by a king possessed of either madness or genius, Vaelin seeks to answer the question that will decide the fate of the Realm: …who is the one who waits?
Raven's Shadow is the first volume in a new epic fantasy of war, intrigue and tested faith.
Sometimes you encounter that rare book that just grips you the entire time you’re reading it that you wish it never ends. No matter how long the book already is or how much things pile up on your real life to do list is, if the book is so damn good, you’d just like to stay with it as long as you can. But alas, everything has a beginning and an end. When that rare book ends, it leaves you feeling satisfied with a big grin your face for a story well told. But at the same time it also leaves you feeling a small sense of loss for having it end and knowing that finding another one as good or even close to it will be another long wait. This is how I felt when I read Blood Song, it just blew my mind. It is one of the reasons I keep reading and trying out new stuff to read because I might just stumble into something like this. I loved every single page of it.
If you’re a big fan of fantasy books the likes of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, I think you’d definitely like this one. The Name of the Wind is also one of those rare gem of a book that also blew my mind. In some general ways the protagonist and the story of both books are the same, both legends in their own right and both possessing gifts that make them unique and powerful. Traditional fantasy elements are used, but the way of the telling has this magical quality to it that I find so mesmerizing. Both stories are told in a masterful way, that just kept me thoroughly engaged and involved in the story.
Blood Song tells of a different tale of how legendary man named Vaelin Al Sorna became the man that he is ( known by many legendary names) today and how he found himself in the current situation as a prisoner who is being sent to die. The book opens up with Vaelin barely 30 years old and a prisoner of the Alpiran empire, boarding a ship to go to an island to fight a well known and excellent swordsman. He is being accompanied by a chronicler named Lord Verniers to document his fight and much expected and anticipated death. Vaelin is well known and as mentioned legendary, and he is known by many different titles across the realms, stories about his battle prowess abounds, the chronicler knows this and is curious about the real story behind the names. Vaelin set himself the task of telling him what happened and the real events behind the names.
Vaelin’s story starts after his mother died, he was about 10 years old. He was left by his then famous and also legendary battle lord father at the gates of Sixth Order, with barely a word of why he was there or how long he will be there. He was essentially abandoned and given to the order without any other information. The Sixth Order takes in young boys and trains them to be elite soldiers of the the Faith ( their religion) and the Realm. The order is brutal in its training and deadly in its tests. He was there with other boys in the group who were essentially given to the order as well. His experience with the order was a fascinating read. I very much enjoyed reading this part of the book, and as I saw how Vaelin grew up, made friends, dealt with the loneliness of being abandoned and missing his mother and how he coped with the demanding training. Though possessing of natural athletic abilities that made him good with the sword, Vaelin isn’t good at everything, some of his friends were better at other things ( like archery and tracking) , which I think shows him as very human and imperfect. I loved reading about the camaraderie that formed between the them. I especially liked the scenes where they worked as a group to stand by another brother who was in need of help. In spite of harsh teachers and not very nurturing environment, Vaelin was still able to retain his conscience and empathy mainly because of his memories of her mother and her teaching. But that is not to say he won’t fight, because when it comes down to it when thinking time is over, he won’t hesitate and fight with all he has. He doesn’t enjoy killing but he is damn good at it.
Vaelin’s story continues after he finished his training with the order, circumstances led him to work for the cunning King Janus whose plans involved war. Vaelin is already a good swordsman at this point because of his training, but aside from that he also has a special “gift” for battle ( called “blood song”). He is “gifted” like some people in the story are gifted with healing or sculpture and through his work for the king he met others like him. There is still a lot of mystery behind this “gift” and how it works. It’s another facet of the story that I also find fascinating.
I loved the characters in the book. I find them fully fleshed out and interesting. It was easy to care and sympathize for them. That goes for the main character Vaelin and all the other supporting characters as well. Vaelin’s character though highly skilled in the art of surviving and killing, is still very human, with a conscience, and imperfect, struggling with his choices. I also loved the characters of his “brothers” in the order, they have their own unique personality and quirks that adds enjoyment in the story. And I just have to mention I just love that our kick-ass hero has a slave-hound named Scratch and a tempermental horse named Spit. I loved Vaelin’s moments with the dog, it was a break from his difficult time growing up. The animals were adorable and provided some light funny moments in the story.
I loved the characters but I loved the story too. It was long but never boring. Every scene just pulls you deeper and deeper into the story and Vaelin’s world. Anthony Ryan is also master in foreshadowing. I loved the way he did it and he did it quite a lot. He will just give you enough of a hint of what will happen, to make you eager for the next scene and make you question what will happen next. That kept me turning the pages, it kept my mind working on solving puzzling events and how things fit together. It was a delight puzzling it out, as much as it was supremely satisfying to know the answers. I’m happy to report that we get to know all the stories behind all the legendary names that chronicler mentioned at the start of the book. It was a real treat, I thought that the other names will be explained in other books, this being a multi part series. But the story behind every name was told. The book ended well too, most of the questions were answered and story lines were concluded satisfactorily. I’m glad it didn’t end with a frustrating cliffhanger – I feel cheated when that happens.
It’s a good thing I found this book only last December, the next book Tower Lord will be out this July, I’m happy I wouldn’t have to wait long. I can’t sing this book enough praises, it is up there with my favorites. After finishing the book, I just went back right away and re-read it, it was still good the second time around. Finding the tidbits that tied the mysteries together was a delight the second reading. I re-read it a couple of more times after the second one and I still loved it. It’s a real keeper! Its a highly recommended read.
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