Blood Song (Raven’s Shadow I) – Anthony Ryan

Let me preface this by saying that I have owned this book for a good year, but, as is my usual fashion, I did not get around to reading this until last week because, books. Not to mention the Australian cover is pretty chat and the title sounds like the title of every epic fantasy novel EVER. But, a good number of my friends on Goodreads were reading Book II of the Raven’s Shadow series, Tower Lord, in preparation for Queen of Fire, Raven’s Shadow Book III, which came out at the end of June in Australia, and since I’m a rather chronic sufferer of FOMO, it was time to get into this one.

He had many names.

Blood Song begins Interview with a Vampire style, whereby a Historian from an enemy Empire, has been given the task of recording the last days of the ‘Hope Killer’, who is our protagonist in this tome, otherwise known as Vaelin Al Sorna.

Sword of the Realm to the mad king who sent him to plague us

We learn early on, that Vaelin has been a prisoner of the Alpiran Empire for five years, and must now face a duel to the death, where no matter the outcome, he is to face his end at the hands of his captors as penance for the crimes committed by his Father, the former Battle Lord of the Unified Realm, the land from where Vaelin hails – notably, the Battle Lord’s crime of burning of the City where the duel is to be held.

The Young Hawk to the men who followed him through the trials of war.

We then cycle way back to when Vaelin was ten years old, and is left by his father – who has only recently resigned his post of First Battle Lord of the realm– at the Sixth Order, one of the six Brotherhoods of the Unified Realm, a realm of four factions, unified by a mad King, which do not always see eye to eye. Vaelin has been left to begin his training in the order devoted to battle. The other Orders devote themselves to healing, learning, communing with the dead, spreading the faith and the hunting of heretics.

Darkblade to his Cumbraelin enemies

Vaelin’s mother has recently died of illness, and he does not understand why his father has left him to this place, where the weak are weeded out from the group through a series of punishing trials that see Vaelin lose friends along the way. The brutality, losses and an interesting discovery along the way cause Vaelin to hate his father, which becomes motivational throughout the remainder of his training.

Beral Shak Ur to the enigmatic tribes of the Great Northern Forest

Going back to the Orders devoted to protection of the Faith, the Faith itself is a strange one in comparison to your average fantasy novel, in that there is no God as such. The realm’s fifth instead centers around the worship of the ancestetors from ‘The Beyond’ who can be communicated with by those of the First Order of and the truly faithful. The Fourth Order goes so far as to hut down God Worshipers as heretics.

The Shadow of the Raven

What stands out for me in this one is that Vaelin is a character with an obvious purpose, and seems that he is being dragged along by destiny. Through so many epic fantasy novels, the hero out to fulfill their destiny, is an unlikely one. In Blood Song however, Vaelin’s father is the First Battle Lord of the Realm, his mother is a notable healer, and King Janus himself had once hoped for Vaelin to marry his daughter to stand by his side in place of the ageing King’s supposed weak willed son. I’m as yet unsure if it is Vaelin’s ‘purpose’ or ‘destiny’ that is altered when his father left him at the Order. It seems to me though, he may yet fulfil both – if he can survive the treason and plotting all around him.

But my people knew him by but one name

The support characters in this story are wonderful, from Vaelins’s ‘brother’s’ in the Sixth Order to the Masters and Healers, and to say I am a little bit intrigued by the King’s Daughter would be a gross understatement – I have a feeling the female characters are going to play a very big part in this series, and not in the way you might think.

And it was this that sang in my head continually the morning

There is a series called ‘The Deed of Paksennarion’, a three book series I LOVED despite the sudden and a little odd finish to book three. Blood song has a similar feeling to that first book which tells the story of a girl warrior and her rise through her own Order in the kingdom to her eventual place as Paladin of the realm and complete legend. ‘The Deed of Paksennarion’ is written by Elizabeth Moon, who also wrote a killer sci-fi series called ‘Vatta’s War’ – in case you are interested. ` Her books are unassuming and in-depth, but wonderful.

Hope Killer.

 

Soon you will die and I will see it. Hope Killer.

 

Finally, I’m not sure about the ‘Magic System’ in this one. Now, there is a good chance I was drunk for some of this book, so I may have merely missed it, though I just can’t remember seeing it really explained. Basically, throughout the story Vaelin ‘hears’ this Blood Song, which is mostly an inbuilt warning detection centre so far, acting as a guide, and saving him from death on several occasions. I’m not sure he has much actual control over it, and I really can’t remember how it got it. Is it a thing you get? Can I get it? Just a lucky guy or what?

If you happen to know more about this Magic System or could better explain it to me, please feel free to comment. I wasn’t joking about being drunk. I was having a bad week….

Overall, Blood Song was a five star read for me. I’ll be getting on with Book II, Tower Lord, later today.

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