I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy recently as I am, like thousands of others, writing a fantasy novel. Fantasy was one of my favourite genres throughout my teens (science fiction predictably being another). It was all sparked by a mixture of reading Conan the Barbarian books and comics and also by the fact that I grew up in the 80s and played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons. My childhood was awesome.
Apart from A Game of Thrones and Joe Abercrombie I haven’t really read many new fantasy authors as I have been reading a lot more scifi and historical fiction. So after perusing Amazon (sorry bookshops but your fantasy sections are usually lacking), I came across a new author that seemed to have ridiculously good reviews. His name is Anthony Ryan and the book was his debut novel Blood Song: Book 1 of Raven’s Shadow.
Blood Song revolves around a character called Vaelin al Sorna. The book begins with his dad dropping him off at a school that turns out to be the military wing of the Order. These guys are more than just soldiers though – they are the SAS of their particular Kingdom and Vaelin is the best of them.
The first half of Blood Song is basically just Vaelin and his mates at school. Kind of like a violent Harry Potter. It well enough written that you want to keep going with it and by the second half it really starts to pay off. There are a lot of hints that there is more going on. Politically, the King might not be so great and his daughter might also be up to something (as she is hot and therefore suspicious). The Order itself might not be so great ethically and keeps its fair share of secrets. The element of magic is also slowly weaved into the narrative and there are hints of destiny and things going on that I can’t explain without giving too much away.
These added elements make what was feeling a bit of a ‘been there seen that before’ fantasy tale into something a bit deeper. I’m not necessarily saying deep, but by the end I was sufficiently satisfied that interesting things are afoot.
The characters are great and believable with a variety of individual needs and character arcs. The story is well told and written. The fact that the Faith of the Order is one that worships the spirits of the dead and believes that they are being guided and supported by them is an interesting twist because this allows them to justify killing infidels who believe in a deity.
If you like fantasy books you will very probably enjoy Blood Song. Anthony Ryan spins a good yarn which, although at first feels pretty similar and unoriginal slowly evolves into a pretty damn good story. It certainly had me hooked and I have preordered the sequel. Recommended.
Anthony Ryan’s Amazon US page
Anthony Ryan’s Amazon UK link