Friday, 3 April 2015

Review: Blood Song by Anthony Ryan

Publisher: Orbit
Format: Paperback / eBook
Released: February 20th, 2014
Rating: 9/10

Amazon summary:

Vaelin Al Sorna is the Sixth Order's newest recruit. Under their brutal training regime, he learns how to forge a blade, survive the wilds and kill a man quickly and quietly - all in the name of protecting the Realm and the Faith. Now his skills will be put to the test. War is coming. Vaelin must draw upon the very essence of his strength and cunning if he is to survive the coming conflict. Yet as the world teeters on the edge of chaos, Vaelin will learn that the truth can cut deeper than any sword.


Blood Song is one of a handful of epic fantasy novels I've read, and it's up there with my favourite fantasy in general. It's a brilliant, visceral look at the life of Vaelin Al Sorna, engrossing right from the start and very, very difficult to put down. It's a hefty book but don't be put off by its size - it's easier than it looks, and you'll find yourself lost in the story within mere pages. Anthony Ryan writes well and his characters are all people you'll root for, even when things aren't as black and white as they may initially seem. Apologies for being cryptic, but I don't want to spoil anything!

This book follows Vaelin's life from when he's a young boy and just joining the Sixth Order, when he's learning to fight and wield a sword, as well as how to hunt a man and kill an enemy. It focuses on him and his group of friends as they find their way in this brutal, dark world, and what happens to him is truly shocking at times. I absolutely loved his character, his resolve and determination being stand-out traits and part of what makes him so strong. He's a true warrior, and that all becomes apparent as he gets older and leaves his training. A war is coming and the Sixth Order is one of the only forces that stands in its way - Vaelin's life is about to change, and there's not a single thing he can do about any of it.

Blood Song is a long, detailed book, but time passes quickly and it never feels like a chore to read. Each character is a joy to get to know, whether good or bad, and I particularly enjoyed the earlier sections that take place when Vaelin is a young boy. The regime and training they all go through to be part of the Sixth Order is pretty harrowing, and how they learn to be men is, at times, even worse. Anthony Ryan doesn't hold back on anything - battles are bloody, lives aren't always spared and there's no guarantee of a happy ending.

I found myself pulled into Vaelin's story almost instantly, so much so that I couldn't bear to put the book down. I read it on trains to London even though it makes me travel sick, and I couldn't stop until I'd finished it. Although this story isn't the typical kind of fantasy I usually read - there aren't any dragons or wizards - I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed it. Vaelin's the kind of man I imagine would fit right in if he went to live in Westeros, and I can see why he turns out how he does. He's been surrounded by a life of brutality and order from a very young age, and for him that's all there is. His life is all about duty and honour, and he serves the Sixth Order like his whole existence depends on it. He's amazing!

Blood Song is one of the best books I read in 2014, and I'm not sure why it took me so long to write this review. It's stuck in my mind as a favourite fantasy novel, one that I'm really glad I decided to read and one that features one of the most memorable characters I've had the pleasure of meeting. I'm hoping to get around to reading the sequel, Tower Lord, sooner rather than later, and I just hope it's half as good as this. I'm looking forward to seeing what's in store for Vaelin, thought I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little worried about how his story will end. I guess I'll just have to carry on reading and find out!

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