I’ve always loved learning, and I love learning vicariously through others, even if the subject matter has no practical application. This is why Hogwarts will always feel like home, and why Battle School and all it inflicted on Ender Wiggin will always resonate for me, no matter how many times I visit. I’ve found another school that resonates, and that’s the within the cloister of the Sixth Order.
Vaelin Al Sorna is delivered to the Sixth Order when he is still just a boy of ten. The masters are harsh and the lessons are harsher, but Vaelin flourishes here. He builds a family from the boys in his training group; a band of brothers, if you will. And those brothers and the deep bond they have with one another is the heart of this story. And the person who keeps that heart beating is Vaelin, their leader and brother and the best of their friends. And Vaelin is aided in his leadership by the blood song, the otherworldly intuition that seems to course through his veins and direct his path, though sometimes Vaelin refuses to heed its cry.
This book reminded me of two other series I’ve read in the past: The Kingkiller Chronicles and A Song of Ice and Fire. As in The Kingkiller Chronicles, we have an incredibly interesting and infamous individual as a protagonist, and we have a framework surrounding the story, this frame being that said protagonist is dictating the true story of their life to a chronicler. Both Vaelin and Kvothe are fascinating characters, who endure much and accomplish much at a young age. Although I enjoyed The Name of the Wind slightly more than Blood Song, I have much more respect for Vaelin. I don’t know that I’ve ever come across another central character in a fantasy novel with more empathy and loyalty and selflessness than Vaelin. I was blown away by his character development.
What reminded me so much of A Song of Ice and Fire in this novel was the magic system. By which I mean that there wasn’t really a system. The magic was mysterious and feared by many, and was never explained in the novel. This made the magic feel ancient and wild, and like it was a foundational element of the created world but alien to the people of that world. I absolutely love unexplained and wild magic, so this was incredibly appealing to me. The users of the Dark - or the Gifted, depending on your point of view - were born with their power, and learned to either nurture, abuse, or ignore that gift depending entirely on themselves and their personalities and situations. I believe that if magic really did exist on Earth, it would resemble this more closely that any learned magic system.
For the first 65% or so of the book, I truly believed that this would be a 5 star book for me, and would take up residence on my favorites shelf. But the last third of the book really dragged for me, focusing too much (for my taste) on war campaigns and sieges than the character development I had loved so much in the first half of the book. I’m not trying to be sexist, but I kept feeling like I would’ve enjoyed the novel so much more had a been male. My friend Petrik (who adored this book) told me that this book partially inspired Red Sister, which I loved, and that Lawrence’s take appealed more to women. I have to agree, though I think that Blood Song has some of the best central character development I’ve ever experienced.
Because I haven’t heard good things about the rest of this series, I will be treating Blood Song as a standalone. If you’re a fan of coming-of-age stories, training schools, and incredible character development, I think you’ll enjoy this book. If you’re a fan of the aforementioned offerings as well as warfare and the ins and outs of battle campaigns, I can’t recommend Blood Song highly enough.