Brandon Zarzyczny's Reviews > Blood Song

Blood Song by Anthony  Ryan
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Aug 25, 12

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Read in August, 2012

I think that I first found this book from some reddit /r/fantasy book recommendations, and when I checked the Amazon page and saw the horrible cover, I almost didn't check it out. However, since the book had so many good reviews and it was only 3 dollars I bought it, but didn't read it for a couple months. Now however, I'm kind of sad that I didn't read it earlier and that I only paid 3 dollars for this beast of a book. After the introduction, the book immediately grabbed me and there were multiple times where I would just read for hours, unable to put my Kindle down. The flavor of this novel is similar to the books from Patrick Rothfuss and Robin Hobb, but he doesn't copy anything from them other than just being similarly awesome. This novel spans many years, I'd say 10-20, and most of the conflicts and questions are resolved by the end, with the only ones remaining setting up a perfect starting place for the sequel. There aren't too many problems with this book, and the ones that are present could probably be fixed for when Anthony Ryan has his big publisher debut in 2013. These problems are mainly some grammar and spelling mistakes (most of them aren't too glaring), some confusion that stems from the narrative jumping around in time, possible problems with the perspective, and the voice of the character possibly being too aged starting off when he's 11 years old.

For the world building, I like it, it's relatively similar to a medieval version of our world, with versions of European, African, Asian, and Middle-Eastern cultures peoples. However, I think that this world is much more cramped, causing a lot of fighting. This world's magic relies a little on hand-waving, but I definitely like the style of it, where it's very much in the background and then it becomes more involved as the story moves forward, almost similar to A Song of Ice and Fire. I also like how the powers resemble innate gifts, kind of similar to the knacks in the Alvin Maker series. The role of Religion is also very interesting in this book. The main character and his country's Faith is almost a combination of Atheism and Spiritualism, where they believe God is a Lie, but when you die there is an afterlife where your hard work will be rewarded and the passed ancestors are always watching down on you. The Faith is an interesting idea, but even more intriguing is how the religion is still the cause or excuse of many of the conflicts, where they try to convert the Deniers and teach them that their religion and god is a lie. I really liked this, and I also liked how there are 6 (or 7) different orders in their faith that rule it, with the 6th being the one the main character Vaelin al Sorna is given to at the age of 11. Their order is an advanced military service, where the brothers are violently trained to be a type of Warrior Monk. There is a lot of depth in the parts of the book covering this, and I immensely enjoyed it. I especially liked the psychology of this brotherhood, especially the main group of 5 featured in most of the book. There is some interesting looks at PTSD and the life of a child turned death-dealing soldier.

While the story relies on a few cliched gimmicks, mainly someone in the present orating their life-story for a scribe/historian, the author masterfully uses it to push along the plot. However, there some annoying parts dealing with the perspective. The Scribe/Historian is in first-person, but when it switches to the past, it is in third-person, but there are multiple times where the tense is broken and he offers some sort of insight as to how he would replay this moment multiple times in the future (or something like that). Also, there are some very interesting but slightly confusing moments where we learn that while the reader learns everything that happened, what he's actually orating to the scribe is a lie or an altered version to keep his secrets safe. I liked that, but at the same time it confused me a bit, so I assume that as the reader we are witnessing Vaelin's life story in his mind before he modifies it for the in-world audience. This could also probably explain how around the beginning of the book when the main character is around 11 years old, that he seems so adult. That we are actually experiencing all of the events through the filter of the mind of a late-twenties? year old warrior. There are some instances especially towards the end where parts of the story are left out to increase the tension and drama, for when we actually learn all of what happened. I liked these parts, but I was confused at times with how the narrative jumped back and forth. Some of this could be fixed by just including some sort of "5 Years Ago" or "Present Time" header so the reader isn't wondering at all when/where the character is (especially if the reader has trouble remembering the odd names of different places). The great thing though, is that by the end of this book we are all caught up, so hopefully in the sequel there won't be a lot of jumping around.

For the story, this is definitely where the book shined. I loved how all of the characters, while being perfect killing machines, are very flawed beings. They make mistakes, perform thankless acts of heroism, and are reviled for for horrible acts they or their forebears committed. There is a lot we don't know about all of the main characters, and when the characters do let their secrets be known, they were all the more important. There are many coincidences and unbelievable moments, but they are almost always very entertaining, and these can be explained by Vaelin's gift and certain undercurrents in the story trying to get rid of him. All of the characters are very complex, and I enjoyed all of the time I spent with them. The time where Vaelin and his Brothers are being trained and going through the trials are probably the best parts of the book. I love the things that come after, but the pace could be a little jarring at times, I felt like it was rushing to the climax at times. Still, all of the plot twists and different political and religious schemes are very interesting, even when they all fail miserably. Vaelin al Sorna is really the ultimate badass in this book, and all of the action involving him was incredibly visceral and entertaining. He's almost too powerful at times, but there are multiple times where he's brought down by extenuating circumstances which increases the drama. I don't want to go to in depth with the story to avoid spoilers, but I will say that I loved all of it. The only thing is that with the ultimate ending, even though it answers a lot of questions, I found it lacking in a little power. With what happens, I think that the author was going for something really emotional but I felt much more emotion (even a few tears) at other parts of the book, and I for some reason wasn't too sad or upset with the end. Still, I was left wishing that I had the sequel to read immediately, so I could see what happened with all of the other characters in the book and how they will react to seeing Vaelin 5 years later. I can hope that being picked up by a publisher doesn't delay his next book.

Ultimately, I loved this book and I think that Anthony Ryan has found a place in my list of favorite authors. He's gained a life-time fan, and I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone, especially if they're a fan of epic fantasy.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Ryan S R\fantasy is both a gift for the recommendations and a bane for the massive amount of books on my to-read list. Excellent review! Just finished it and I agree fully with what you have to say. And now I have another sequel I'm foaming at the mouth to read.


Brandon Zarzyczny Ryan wrote: "R\fantasy is both a gift for the recommendations and a bane for the massive amount of books on my to-read list. Excellent review! Just finished it and I agree fully with what you have to say. And n..."

Thanks, and yeah, I'm looking forward to a sequel too. I think that it's already written, but it had to be delayed with the publishing of his first book. I actually pre-ordered it to help support him, I should reread the book sometime coming up, but I might wait until closer to the release of the sequel.


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