377 of 421 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2012
So I just spent the entire day (starting at 10:00 am and now it's 2:00 am) reading this book and it completely blew me away!! I'm not very good at writing comprehensive reviews, so I'll just highlight two things that I really loved about this book that I think is missing from a lot of other really good fantasy works (the ingredients that make it go beyond five stars).
1) I really hate the endless pages of self-loathing that many fantasy authors feel compelled to write whenever heroes need to kill. It's a very important point to carry across that killing, even in the name of "good", is sometimes necessary, but never without an incalculable price. Necessity cannot alchemize an evil act into something other. The heavy handed way in which this is usually done in fantasy fiction is when the hero rails ceaselessly against their own actions, decrying themselves as monsters, at which point they are embraced by some love interest who tells them that they are really a good person after all. It just always seemed to me that such self loathing is unbecoming in a hero since it's purely a selfish feeling that doesn't help anyone else. I can usually put up with this for like 20 pages but when it becomes a recurring theme, I get really annoyed. There's none of this in this book. I'm not sure exactly how the author managed to convey it, but there's a certain sense of dignity about Vaelin that tells you that he feels the weight of the lives he's taken without him resorting to whining (so he actually whines for about 2 paragraphs before he essentially gets slapped and told to stop feeling sorry for himself).
2) The author has a real gift for introducing plot details that take a while to understand (adding flavor to the story along the way) but which are satisfactorily resolved in the end (very few loose ends here). My favorite was the story of the "Witch's Bastard" which we are introduced to halfway in the book. At first, I had no idea what the story was supposed to mean in the context of the plot, but I think by the end, I could make a pretty good guess, and trying to interpret the story really allowed me to see everything that happened in a new light (very cool!).
Please, please get this book. It was absolutely awesome! Best fantasy I've read in the past five years.
168 of 188 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 2012
This book is in a class of its own. Engaging, fast-paced, an epic that doesn't bog you down with a hundred different point of views or side story arcs.
The story itself follows that of Vaelin Al Sorna, a scared young boy who grows up to be a natural born leader and strategist, feared and respected throughout the world. He reminded me of Inda from the Sherwood Smith books, destined from birth to be of great import to the realm, bonded to his brothers through shared hardships, denied satisfaction and relief to fulfill his duty. Cunning and intelligent, with enough compassion to walk the line between warrior and murderer, he fights with ruthless efficiency to make a difference, to try and do the right thing when all it seems his actions accomplish is more suffering, all the while battling his own inner demons and self-doubt. There are some strong themes present, of growing up and of lost innocence, of sacrifice and of betraying your morals and beliefs.
The structure of the book was reminiscent of "The Name of the Wind" in that it's told from the perspective of a scribe/historian chronicling the deeds of our protagonist as he narrates his tale in the present. This device does not detract from the story and break the immersion, rather it serves to set the scene for each consecutive portion of Vaelin's life, bringing the events that take place full circle; it does not in fact reveal the plot, but only adds to the suspense.
The world-building was solid. Never did I lack for any visual representation of the lands discussed, magical/religious/cultural systems mentioned, or felt confused about how things came to be.
The fact that this enormous tome could be purchased for the price of a soda astounds me. With such a high degree of writing and storytelling that kept me enraptured almost a full day and a half, I'd have expected it to have cost at least ten times as much and come with a number of literary awards attached. It really is one of those books I'll probably remember for the rest of my life.
61 of 67 people found the following review helpful
NOTE: This is the same book which was earlier being sold for $2.99 however it was sold by the author. Now that it has been picked up by Penguin, they have set the price and its still not that much. This is still a 500-plus page story with a slightly different cover & of course the author mentioned this would be happening nearly 9 days ago on his blog.
ANALYSIS: Blood Song is another of those books that I discovered a few months earlier, thanks to Amazon's cool algorithm for suggesting titles I might like based on my previous "Buying and Search" history. Previously I had stumbled upon Zero Sight by B Justin Shier the same way and the way that book turned out to be, I have learnt to keep an eye out for such Amazon recommendations.
Blood Song begins with a first person narrative featuring Lord Verniers Alishe Someren, a chronicler that has been chosen to write about the main character Vaelin Al-Sorna and about the journey that they both will undertake. The story then begins Vaelin's past as when as a child he's commanded to join the Sixth Order of the Faith of the Unified Realm. Thus begins Vaelin's journey wherein he will learn to wield weapons and become a famed warrior of the unified realm that will also earn him many names all across various nations and regions. Friends and foes alike will be drawn to him in differing amounts. But when all is said and done, Vaelin's journey has only begun as the reader will learn more about his past as well as that of his realm.
One searches for the next best thing in fantasy, often going through many books in search of the book that will enthrall you completely. I almost missed on this beauty by buying it but then never getting around to reading it. I owe thanks to Michael Sullivan for reminding me about this book and what a book it is. Beginning from the events in the past to the current story going on currently, this setup has been explored in various fantasy, historical and other genre novels.
The most recent famous example being The Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. In fact a similarity between those two books can be seen in regards to the protagonist's story and their growth via a university/military school setting. What differentiates these two books is a terrific conclusion to the book as well as themes about war and its follies. Also this was my observation but I found some shades of David Gemmell in Anthony Ryan's storytelling style and prose. It is heartening to see a Brit take up the mantle of heroic, epic fantasy from one of fantasy's most distinguished writers as well as a fellow British writer.
This book is more akin to a traditional epic fantasy wherein it's set in a pseudo-European setting and with a world history that is unveiled slowly and tantalizingly. At the same time, there is a core mystery at the heart of this plotline, why was Vaelin sent to the sixth order? What really happened with his parents? Who is the One Who Waits? These questions and much more abound this volume and will tempt readers into coming back for the later parts of this trilogy. The book focuses in the past as well as the present and the author has tantalizingly kept both time periods shrouded in mystery. This thread is what powers the book throughout and makes the story such a strong one.
Characterization is also a strong point in this opening volume, even though we get a singular narrative voice for the majority of the book. The author has created a fascinating side character cast particularly King Janus, Princess Lyrna just to name a few, these characters make the story even more fascinating and with the increase in POV character cast in "Tower Lord" (book II). I can't wait to see which other characters get their own narrative voices. The book ends on a strong note and with a twist that is hard to anticipate, giving the readers a complete story if they want to read just this book however I'm sure once the readers finish this book they will want to read "Tower Lord" the next in the Raven's Shadow trilogy.
Anthony Ryan's Blood Song is a tremendous debut; it has a fast paced, action packed and character driven story. Qualities to admire in any genre story and most of all in an epic fantasy one. Give this book a read, if you have ever felt that Indie books have no quality to them, give this book a read if you are tired of the same morass of stories in the epic fantasy genre, give this book a read if you want a well written story by a newbie author and lastly give this book a read if you want to read a story that's closest to those written by David Gemmell.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2014
I read a great deal in many different genres, but fantasy has been, and always will be one of my literary "comfort foods." I've read quite a bit of good fantasy, some average-to-mediocre fantasy, and (thankfully) very little bad fantasy.
Yet in my experience, just as there's very little truly bad fantasy (at least that's published by reputable entities), there's also very little truly GREAT fantasy.
Obviously your definition of "greatness" is likely different than mine.
But when you find a book that tantalizes you, where you hang upon every word, where every turn of the page becomes an emotional experience unto itself, where the characters could literally be sitting across the room from you because their voices are so clear . . .
To me that is literary greatness. You do not read books such as these; you feast upon them.
Blood Song is one of those books.
What is it, exactly, that makes this so?
Is it the story? Perhaps, though there's little that might convey this to a potential reader before hand. On the surface Blood Song appears to be a somewhat "run-of-the-mill" fantasy coming-of-age tale, with the requisite knights in armor and magic orders and kingly politics.
But Anthony Ryan melds you into the life of Vaelin Al-Sorna in such a way that you transform from a mere reader into a reflection of the character himself. His struggles become yours, his anguish, his triumphs. I cannot fully describe the experience, but if I were to make the attempt I might say that Vaelin matters to you as a reader because his place in the fiction MATTERS, both as an individual and as a grounding force of human perspective. It's rare to find a book that asks the reader to perform such meaningful reflection as Blood Song, rarer still to find one that is a fantasy novel.
Yet this is not some meandering, ponderous, philosophical hodge-podge. The pacing is crisp, electric even, with nothing in the way of filler. As other reviewers have commented, there's a refreshing honesty to Vaelin's admission that yes, he has been trained to kill, and is more than exceptionally good at it, but Ryan never betrays the core of Vaelin's motivations. Everything you see is true and meaningful to the character. Unlike Patrick Rothfuss' unaccountably over-praised Wise Man's Fear, Blood Song never assaults you with useless filler, nor does the hero act in out-of-character ways that cause you to question the protagonist's (and author's) motivations.
Indeed, from a prose standpoint, Ryan may be on an opposite end of the spectrum from Rothfuss. Blood Song's language is purposefully sparse, but if not prosaic, full of meaning and imagery. Ryan's writing is emotive in the best sense possible; it effectively creates the scenes, then leaves to you to find what is meaningful within. Blood Song is not a difficult read; it's merely difficult to disengage when you finish, for the life of Vaelin Al-Sorna will remain in your head days, weeks, and months afterward.
Is the text perfect? No. Without revealing too much, one of Vaelin's key character aspects, the relationship with his parents, is under-developed. And while Ryan's scene settings are generally excellent, there are a few times where he tries to purposefully build a feeling of sensory vagueness but only partially succeeds.
Yet ultimately these are only the minor-est of quibbles for what is in the end one of the most engaging works of fiction--of ANY genre--I've ever read. This is not "just another fantasy novel." This is literary excellence of the best kind.
29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2012
If this is a "budget" e-book, the author had me fooled. Great story, great writing, good editing. I put this author up there with Sanderson, Weeks, Rothfuss, and the other recent "greats".
I started it Sunday mid-day, thinking it would be another short e-book. I was very wrong. It is long, and it is worth every penny and all the time spent reading it. Maybe it shows how poor my self-control is, but I was up until 3:00 AM, and had to drag myself into the office the next day.
I have made this author a favorite, and will definitely buy his next book.
Storytelling - Great
Plot - Great
Editing - Good (a few small typos)
Action - Great
Worldbuilding - Stunning
This story is partly the beginning of a legend, partly coming of age, and partly fulfillment of old prophecy. The author is honest and brutal about his characters, and unafraid to use them in order to best tell his story.
To the author: Please continue your daily goal of 2000 words writing the next novel (based on statements on the author's blog). I will be waiting to buy it.
167 of 206 people found the following review helpful
on June 29, 2012
I try to be completely honest in my reviews, so hopefully this will give readers an idea of the book.
If you want a original, intriguing story, i advise you to at least try this book. Its a good story with a few flaws, which if you can ignore, makes it a worthy read.
If you want to quit after the first chapter, i advise you to keep reading, it does get better.
I plan on buying the next book in the series.
When i go to buy a book, i usually read some of the 2-4 star reviews to get a better idea of the true nature of the book. At least in my experience it seems that the 1 star reviews are usually just hate reviews, usually people who didn't finish the book. Same with the 5 star reviews, there always seem to be alot of reviews that heap tons of praise but never address the negatives of the novel.
I wasn't sure what to expect when i started this book. There was 80 5 star reviews at the time and 1 4 star review, which wasn't very reassuring- lets be honest, there is no book that every single reader is going to give five stars. However it had been a while since i had last read a fantasy book, and i was intrigued about how the author would carry a single character POV and whether he could do it successfully. So i bought it, and started reading it a few days later.
I almost didn't get through the first chapter.
-(Punctuation/Grammar/Spelling) One of the other reviewers brought up some of the spelling/wording issues. In my opinion these are not book killers, i can look over such things if the book is enjoyable and has my attention. In this book, while there were some, i don't think they should stop you from reading it.
However the thing that makes a book hard to read some times is sentence structure and punctuation. The author seemed fairly loose about these aspects, especially early in the novel. As the novel progressed the structure got better however. For some incite into what im talking about, lets take a look at the first paragraph of the first page of the book. I have copied this paragraph exactly how it is in the book, word-for-word, and placing punctuation where it is shown.
"He had many names. Although yet to reach his thirtieth year history had seen fit to garner him with titles aplenty: Sword of the Realm to the mad king who sent him to plague us, the Young Hawk to the men who followed him through the trials of war, Darkblade to his Cumbraelin enemies and, as I was to learn much later, Beral Shak Ur to the enigmatic tribes of the Great Northern Forest - the Shadow of the Raven."
If you made complete sense of that on your first read through- then kudos to you. The lack of punctuation, mixed with all of the unknown information (remember its the first paragraph of the book), made me have read it 2 or 3 times before i was able to understand it. As it reads here, it looks like a list of titles. The first time i read it, without the punctuation, it looked like the author was saying that one of the titles was: "Sword of the Realm to the mad king..." not that the mad king considered him the "Sword of the Realm". It is also not clear what the "Shadow of the Raven" refers to. Is this the translation of "Berak Shak Ur"? Or another title?
Does this take away from the book? Yes. Especially early on. The first couple chapters drag bad. I think it is because of the reading difficulty. However like i said it gets better, most of the book was better.
-[Content: Minor Spoilers follow:] For most part the book was logical (or at least explained in places it wasn't). There were a few instances where i did kinda scratch my head. Alot of these are small things that i wont mention. Some of these include:
1) A bear running off a cliff.
2)(as Pointed out in another review here): Characters refusal to finish the carving. He even admits it is crucial... and then kinda forgets about it.
3) The end combat: Yes, the best fighter of that country didn't know how to hold a sword.
4) Early in the book a character stumbles on a camp with dead bodies. However he never mentions the head of his friend when talking to the main character.
5) An army loses its seige weapons. Instead of attacking the lightly defended city in which the guy they want dead is in, they instead attack two heavily fortified cities... doesn't make much sense.
6) The book is presented as the main character telling his story to the scribe. So you would assume that everything you read the scribe hears/records. Not true. While i understand why he didn't have it this way, it did create a disfunction that could of been avoided.
-[Preluding/Narrative Knowledge:] THIS WAS MY BIGGEST issue with the book.
When i read large books like this im always trying to read between the lines, to understand the mysteries and the hidden thoughts that the author is trying to get across. To me this is what makes a book enjoyable to read, the intellectual stimulation and mysteries. This book took a different approach. Almost every major chapter ended with some kind of preluding similar to the following: "If only he had realized the significance of ...." "He didn't know he wouldn't see her for another 5 years..." "Later he would wonder if he had payed more attention if....". You get the picture. In my opinion these take away from the novel. If you want the reader to understand something then gently nudge them in that direction, don't kick them off the ledge.
Other preluding existed in the way of the scribe who is recording the story (more on this below).
Mainly these are alot of individual ideas, so im just going to list instead of sorting into categories.
-The book was original. More and more newer fantasy novels seem to bring alot of elements from older works (Eragon comes to mind).
-The plot/storyline was engaging. The author has the art of storytelling down. Fix the few issues above and it would be a 5 star book.
-The book wasn't one dimensional: ie it wasn't a story of endless fights. The author does a good job of balancing action and detail. Something that sometimes get overlooked.
-I really enjoyed it. The author does a good job with a single POV character.
-I wasn't sure what to think of the scribe who is listening to the story. At times i thought it helped advance the novel since he brought in a different perspective. At other times the passages seem to give away to much information or to disrupt the stories flow.
-The ending seemed rushed.
The fact that this book has gained 80+ 5 star ratings in the last week, all practically saying the same thing, might be artificially inflated.
62 of 75 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2012
WOW, who is this guy and how come i have never read his work before? action, fantasy, and well crafted characters... by the end i was amazed. the longer i read the deeper it pulled me in, like following the lines of a simple well crafted form and discovering ever more intricacy and depth.
25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2012
I'm highly suspicious of how this novel rates so many 5-star ratings, if I'm being honest. To me, it was a decently written novel, without any glaring editor errors or major problems like many e-books these days. However, it was also not anything overly special or fantastic, and I have a tough time believing that so many people thought it was. But there you go.
I've read a great many fantasy novels in my day, and this one is somewhere in the middle - 3 Stars. It's largely a coming-of-age tale and this type of thing has been done often (and better) by other authors. The story is decent, but not exceptionally compelling, and by the end I kind of just wanted to get the book finished.
The novel's overall story arc is of a boy who trains to become a warrior, but after a long period documenting his initial training (which was the most interesting part of the book) large gaps in time follow, jumping to later points in his life and subsequent chapters focus on specific battles or elements in the larger story. To me, the problem was that I didn't really become engaged and "want to know what was going to happen next", and in the few instances where I was getting into the book, some long time-gap would then occur and pull me out of the story.
I assume this is the first novel in a larger story, but I don't think I'll be purchasing the subsequent books.
30 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2012
The plot, characterization, and pacing are all excellent. I never felt bored, and always wanted to keep reading and find out what happened next. There's enough subplot and intrigue to make it feel like a book for adults, but not so much that I felt like I had to take notes.
The author avoids the whiny, angsty, verbosely introspective hero we see so often, but perhaps a bit too well. There are a few sections in the book, especially the second half, where Vaelin almost becomes a silent protagonist. At one point, he's forced into a promotion and off his chosen path in life, induced to take on responsibilities he doesn't want--and we have little idea how he feels about it, aside from a short word as it was happening that he didn't want it to. The story is told almost entirely from Vaelin's point of view, but we sometimes go through long periods of time and momentous events with barely any idea of his thoughts of feelings. It struck me at one point, as he was performing a long-term duty for a blackmailer, that I had almost no idea as to the main character's motivations. Does he plan on being a pawn forever? Does he mind? Does he hate his life, or is he happy because he's with his companions? What gets him through the day, and does he have a plan for tomorrow? His strong emotional reaction and decision to follow Nortah north is almost a shock.
While the story is great, the writing needs work; this is why I knocked off a star. You can't go two minutes without a missing comma, or a comma splice, or a misplaced apostrophe, or a missing or doubled or flat out wrong word. In a sixteen-hour book, that comes out to a lot of time rereading sentences to figure out what they should say. There are so many errors that it actually slows down the reading and breaks immersion. I'm sorry, Mr. Ryan, but you need to hire an editor. Your writing is holding your story back.
Still, as a whole, this book is absolutely worth your time, and it's a steal at the price.
Edit: Yeah, jim, really...
If you don't know that there's an error on almost every page, then that's great, but I did, and it was a real problem for me, so I gave the book four stars. It's a good rating, so I don't think I'm tarnishing the rating of the book. If you read my review, you'd see I called it "excellent", "great", "absolutely worth your time", and "a steal at the price." I don't see how that tarnishes the esteem of the book.
Everyone makes mistakes, and I'm not asking for perfection. $30 books from big-name publishers and NYT bestselling authors have errors, too; when you've got 300k words and tens of thousands of punctuation marks, there are going to be some mistakes, and that's inevitable. That wouldn't keep me from giving a 5-star review.
But this book is not possessed of extremely minor editing mistakes, that I had to LOOK for to find. On top of the (in my opinion, rather more than what was) inevitable errors, Mr. Ryan consistently makes the same errors with commas, and the errors with apostrophes came up often enough that I wondered if he was just guessing. There are about 10 rules for commas, and the author clearly doesn't know at least two of them. Those consistent errors are covered in the first 10 pages of every grammar book, and any editor would have caught them automatically.
It is my belief that Mr. Ryan and his story are good enough that an editor is the biggest difference between his book and the ones from the big name publishers, that sell for five to ten times as much. I don't think it does the author any good for everyone to tell him he's perfect when he's not, when he's in fact so very close to being so much more. Find me another book with this many reviews and a 4.97/5.00 rating, that's 600 pages long and has a list price of $3 ($1.50 actual). It's tragic. He should hire some starving linguistics student from the local college for a couple hundred dollars out of pocket to be his editor, quintuple his price, and quit his day job.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2014
I've read 400 fantasy novels. This may be my all time favorite. It's like David Gemmell wrote a Game of Thrones story from the perspective of a commander fighting on the front lines. This book has everything and does it all well!
The story begins with a scribe who encounters a political prisoner Vaelin al Sorna, as he sails to a faraway land to fight a legendary champion to the death. With plenty of time on their hands, Vaelin recounts his adventures over the last 20 years and corrects some misconceptions about his character, history, and the events that changed his life. At a young age, Vaelin's father, the King's Lord of Battle, dropped him off at the 6th Order. A religious military school that turns boys into the greatest soldiers in the kingdom. Vaelin doesn't know why his father sent him away and this haunts him as he undergoes his training. In the 6th Order, Vaelin faces a variety of different trials, picks up some scars, wisdom, skills, and some new friends along the way. Because of his heritage, he becomes drawn into some fiendish plots that rattle the pillars of the kingdom.
Blood Song really feels like classic American Literature and Anthony Ryan has mastered the David Gemmell style of battle hardened heroics. This book has themes of honor, friendship, loyalty, love, and loss. It's also fast paced with just enough description to allow the readers who visualize all the scenes to see them and the readers who love intricate plots to become engrossed in the story.
This feels like an alternate history of the European Middle Ages. There aren't any elves, dragons, dwarves, or goblins, but there is some magic in the world. The kingdom believes in the Departed. When the ancestors die, their souls join a collective universal energy that guide the living. Anyone who doesn't follow this faith is a Denier and must be hunted down. But some people have supernatural abilities that the Order refers to as the Dark. Fearing the Order, people touched by the Dark must keep their powers hidden.
The book is full of deep characters with interesting backstories and motivations that guide their actions. They're all well written and feel like real people.
This book is action packed and you feel every blow. There are duels, assassinations, skirmishes, brawls, and epic tactical battles with consequences. The sword combat and military tactics are also explained and they make sense. There's archery, cavalry, infantry, terrain, feints, and deception. It's all great!
This book is full of action, violence, some offscreen sex, and a complex plot. It's not for kids, but there's nothing in here that would scar anybody for life.
Blood Song has a bit of everything and I have a strong feeling that it will be around for decades! Read it if you were a fan of the late great David Gemmell. Read it if you like the politics of a George RR Martin story and you're waiting for his next book. Read it if you like the story structure and pacing of The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss. This book is amazing!