Why do I love this book? The simple answer would be because this is a book that has everything I love in epic fantasy and that it hit all the right notes for me. I could practically end my review with that answer but that wouldn't do justice to how great this book is. Now, it's time for me to take on the role of the Chronicler and inform you why it's essential for you to read Vaelin Al Sorna's coming-of-age story.
The Sword of the Realm, the Young Hawk, Darkblade, the Shadow of the Raven, and Hope Killer; it's not an exaggeration to say that Vaelin has obtained many names throughout his life. Told in the same storytelling style as The Name of the Wind, the plot of the book mostly revolves around how Vaelin received all these titles. To do that, he's going to tell the coming-of-age story of his life to the Imperial Chronicler, a story which began when his father left him alone at the iron gate of the Sixth Order in order for him to learn and grow into a warrior.
"The Sixth Order wields the sword of justice and smites the enemies of the Faith and the Realm."
It's simply incredible how Anthony Ryan weaved this slow-paced coming-of-age story into an addictive page-turner, at least that's how it was for me. I was engrossed in this book from cover to cover; right from the moment I read the prologue, it became immensely hard for me to focus on anything else but reading this book because of the strong gravitational pull the narrative held on me. Blood Song contained every wonderful element and resonating theme necessary for a fantastic epic fantasy debut: intriguing mystery, engaging plot line, brotherhood, politics, religions, faith, home, abandonment, dark magic, and war, all of which were written exceptionally well.
"War is always an adventure to those who've never seen it."
Blood Song is thoroughly a character-driven coming-of-age story, and if you've been following my reviews until now, it shouldn't come as a surprise that it's my favorite kind of storytelling narration; always has been, always will be. I was filled with emotions seeing how Vaelin developed throughout his journey. It was very compelling to read about how he grew up and faced all the challenges in his military school for the purpose of becoming a full-fledged warrior of the Sixth Order. However, my favorite part of the book is definitely the brotherhood and comradeship he found on his journey to adulthood.
"Comradeship, he realized. Also a warrior's lot. You share your life with those who would die for you."
I absolutely love reading all about a character's growth: how they learn from their mistakes, how they come to terms with the situation forced upon them, how they find and build their own brotherhood; it's emotionally rewarding. The characterizations were top-notch and that made the well-placed cinematic action scenes in each chapter more pulse-pounding because the characters were easy to empathize with.
Although the world explored in this book isn't that huge compared to many other fantasy debuts out there, don't let this fool you into thinking that the world-building is inferior. The Unified Realm is rich with a history of bloodshed and war. All the mystery, legends, and magic were all introduced gradually and seamlessly without being info-dumpy, strengthening my point that this is an utterly compelling book to read.
Ryan's wonderful prose is evocative, immersive, vivid, and easy to follow without being too simple, making it so easy for the writing to fully absorb me into the book. It's truly a spectacular work for a debut and also, this book was originally self-published; were it still, this would easily be the best indie book of all time for me. It won’t be easy for any author or Anthony Ryan himself to top this masterwork debut for me, but I’m hopeful and looking forward to the day that Ryan reattains or surpasses the greatness he achieved with his composition of Blood Song. If I have to be nitpicky, there are some sentences that definitely required commas for the prose to flow even better. But this didn't bother me at all, especially knowing that the novel was originally self-published. I seriously think Ryan did an amazing job with this book.
"A life without experience provides no contemplation."
If you have heard about this trilogy, you've probably heard about the mixed reception the sequels received, especially the last book. Regardless, that shouldn't change your motivation to read this book. Not only does Blood Song work perfectly as a standalone, you'll be missing out on one of the finest books in the genre should you choose not to read it.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie, Malice by John Gwynne, Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames, and now Blood Song by Anthony Ryan; I'm truly blessed to have read all of these superlative debuts that made it into my favorite debuts of all time list.
Honestly speaking, the year 2017 has been a harsh year for me outside of my reading. Ironically, I found hope in a warrior called Hope Killer. The Sword of the Realm became real to me as it cleaved through my despair. The Young Hawk taught me to soar above my problems, and as the Raven's Shadow swept across my heart, I realized that every second I spent in my escapism was worthwhile.
Now, it's time for me to put down my pen--or keyboard in this case--and end my review here. Thank you, Anthony Ryan, for one of the best literary journeys I've ever had the chance to experience. It was truly an honor to have listened to the breathtaking tune you composed, the Blood Song. I completely recommend this book with all my heart to every fantasy reader; it's without a doubt a masterpiece that every fan of the genre must read.