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REVIEW: 'Blood Song' by Anthony Ryan

The Sixth Order wields the sword of justice and smites the enemies of the Faith and the Realm.

Vaelin Al Sorna was only a child of ten when his father left him at the iron gate of the Sixth Order. The Brothers of the Sixth Order are devoted to battle, and Vaelin will be trained and hardened to the austere, celibate, and dangerous life of a Warrior of the Faith. He has no family now save the Order.

Vaelin’s father was Battle Lord to King Janus, ruler of the unified realm. Vaelin’s rage at being deprived of his birthright and dropped at the doorstep of the Sixth Order like a foundling knows no bounds. He cherishes the memory of his mother, and what he will come to learn of her at the Order will confound him. His father, too, has motives that Vaelin will come to understand. But one truth overpowers all the rest: Vaelin Al Sorna is destined for a future he has yet to comprehend. A future that will alter not only the realm, but the world. 


This was a good book.  I'm a bit sad that I missed out on it when it first came out last year, but happier that I'm closer to volume two coming now that I've read the last page.

As you can see from the blurb above, the book focuses on one character, Vaelin Al Sorna, and tells the story from his point of view as he grows up in an organization of warriors that serve the "faith" of their realm.  Because he is the son of a great commander for the King, he is drawn into his plots and ends up fighting as much for the kingdom as he does for his faith.  Broken up into several parts, the story takes small jumps as Vaelin grows up and serves his king, focusing on key points in his life without taking too large of a leap in time to leave the reader feeling as if they missed something.

The world is well described considering the focus is kept around Vaelin and what he encounters.  Fortunately for the reader he tends to get around quite a bit.  The Faith that he serves plays an integral part of the story, but stays somewhat mysterious deeper into the organization throughout much of the book.  Vaelin often questions the purpose of their order and the disputes they have with other faiths, but never as much as he disputes the actions of their own manipulative King.  The Faith also plays a role in anchoring magic in the world, often called the "dark" by Vaelin's society.  It isn't widely practiced.  Many simply possess abilities, like Vaelin's, and keep them hidden or go on the run from those that enforce the Faith.

The book may remind some of The Name of the Wind because of the nature of its opening.  It begins, told in first person, as a sage meets with Vaelin on the way to a duel he is expected to die in.  The sage is from a culture that has been at war with Vaelin's people and hate him for what he has done, but he cannot help but want to hear his story, how he became the man he is and what brought his people to their shores with war.  The story then changes to third person, with Vaelin as the focus, beginning as he is a young boy dropped off to train at the Sixth Order of the Faith.

I felt the comparisons ended there however.  The pacing is a bit higher, taking us through his life somewhat more quickly and the story a bit darker.  The fairy-tale aspect that lives in The Name of the Wind and its sequel is non-existent here, instead offering the grittier realism that has become more popular in fantasy.  The story-teller aspect also wraps up in this novel, offering the reader a bit more resolution, but with still much more for Vaelin to do in the world.  This novel was very much the beginning of his story with the "dark" and not a continuing chronicle of a life already lived.


Comparisons to The Name of the Wind are well deserved -- but in my opinion more due to quality than style -- readers who enjoyed Rothfuss' work should definitely give Blood Song a try.  Though, I believe fans of Martin and Abercrombie would enjoy Anthony Ryan's work here as well.  Whichever direction you approach it from, I highly recommend this novel.  Blood Song's pacing and characterization are outstanding, the story has depth past the basic plot of this first volume, and it offers a grand story without the need to sift through dozens of points-of-view.

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