Blood Song. Book Review

blood-song-uk-cover-anthony-ryanBLOOD SONG by Anthony Ryan

Orbit, h/b, 592pp, £16.99

Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins

The Hope Killer, who once ruled this place, has spent five years imprisoned and is now being escorted to his death. He is still a young man, but the years have not been kind to him. He has led battles and left many dead in his wake. He has worn many names but Hope Killer is the one that stuck the most. Hope Killer is the one he wears as he begins to tell his story.

Vaelin Al Sorna is the only son of the king’s Battle Lord, yet at 10 years old he finds himself abandoned on the steps of the Sixth Order and inducted into a new life. All Vaelin knows is that he recently lost his mother and now his father has handed him over to brothers of the faith with no explanation. What message can that give a young boy other than that his father hates him?

Vaelin’s new life will see him trained, often brutally, relentlessly, and with great discipline, to become a warrior himself. His brothers are his family now, and his mission will be hunting and persecuting those who follow ‘the other faith’. That is if he passes the tests that the early years of the order will put him through. Wolves, dark magic and loyalty will all become obstacles, and Vaelin will have to decide what he really wants to become.

Blood Song was self-published by the author and received highly positive reviews and gained him comparisons to the likes of Patrick Rothfuss and David Gemmell. It is now being released by Orbit as a hardback and is the first book in the Raven’s Shadow series. Indeed upon reading one can identify touches of Gemmell’s influence – great battles, warriors swinging axes and dark magic – and the framing device of the ‘then’ and ‘now’ of the story is very Rothfuss.

The plot follows Vaelin’s life as he is given over to the order and learns the skills and faces the trials that eventually lead him towards the man we find him at the beginning of the story, and each of the novel’s five parts, when he is known as Hope Killer and faces death. Whilst the book is a hefty tome, and utterly immerses the reader in Vaelin’s story, the pace is certainly moderate – all of the individual events that turned Vaelin from young innocent into Hope Killer are outlined in detail, which means there is a slow journey towards the main climax.

The main narrative follows a fairly classic story arc – young boy thrown into a new world, facing multiple trials while on a journey to discovering who he is and why he was put into this situation. What is possibly most enjoyable about this book is that despite the focus on Vaelin, and despite of the fame and notoriety placed on him right from the start, the reader is shown his ‘true’ personality – he makes mistakes, he does stupid things, he gets himself into awkward situations and has to dig himself back out of them. And it is that characterisation that makes the reader read on, despite the slow pace, because Vaelin is likeable in spite of his obvious flaws, and an epic fantasy of this scale with a likeable hero cannot go far wrong.