In Blood Song, Anthony Ryan introduced readers to “a fascinating world of conflicting religions and the wars fought in the name of those faiths” (Library Journal). Now Ryan’s epic tale continues as Vaelin Al Sorna discovers that there is no escape from the call of destiny…
“The blood-song rose with an unexpected tune, a warm hum mingling recognition with an impression of safety. He had a sense it was welcoming him home.”
Vaelin Al Sorna, warrior of the Sixth Order, called Darkblade, called Hope Killer. The greatest warrior of his day, and witness to the greatest defeat of his nation: King Janus’s vision of a Greater Unified Realm drowned in the blood of brave men fighting for a cause Vaelin alone knows was forged from a lie. Sick at heart, he comes home, determined to kill no more. Named Tower Lord of the Northern Reaches by King Janus’s grateful heir, he can perhaps find peace in a colder, more remote land far from the intrigues of a troubled Realm.
But those gifted with the blood-song are never destined to live a quiet life. Many died in King Janus’s wars, but many survived, and Vaelin is a target, not just for those seeking revenge but for those who know what he can do. The Faith has been sundered, and many have no doubt who their leader should be. The new King is weak, but his sister is strong. The blood-song is powerful, rich in warning and guidance in times of trouble, but is only a fraction of the power available to others who understand more of its mysteries. Something moves against the Realm, something that commands mighty forces, and Vaelin will find to his great regret that when faced with annihilation, even the most reluctant hand must eventually draw a sword.
I never properly reviewed Blood Song. I was on vacation at Dragon Con at the time, and well, cons make generally poor times to try and review things as through a lack of food and sleep coherent English can be come something of a rarity. While it didn’t break any molds, I thought it was a fine example of traditional epic fantasy, the richly developed religion and relative eschewing of magic helping to elevate it above much of its brethren. Vaelin Al Soren was a likable and interesting protagonist, further helping it set apart. So yeah, I was looking forward to finally reading it.
I’m kind of disappointed.
On the one hand, Ryan opens up the world, and initially, that excited me. Instead of one narrator, we get four: Al Sorna, Brother Frentis, Princess Lyrna, a woman named Reva, introduced here. It works at first, because we get to see more of the world. But it’s quickly squandered. For example, early on the in book, Lyrna undertakes a long and rather dangerous journey to meet with the leader of the Lornak. We get to see some glimpses of that people’s religion and where their ruler sits. But quite literally, after a some-what lengthy conversation, the business is done and they head out. I couldn’t help but react like “that’s it?” a feeling amplified when you realize that the journey was kind of pointless, it could have been done by courier.
Another disappointment were the new characters. We had two main ones: Reva, and a nameless woman who keeps Frentis as a slave for a good chunk of the book. Ultimately they both feel underdeveloped. Although the direction that Ryan takes with them is different, they’re still born of the same single note: a kind of religious fanaticism. With Reva, it’s especially problemmatic as we’re meant to believe that she left a large impression on Al Sorna.I just wasn’t convinced.
Ultimately these combine with a pretty perfunctory plot as the Unified Realm is plunged into warfare. The war takes up a good chunk of the second half of the book, and it ultimately feels a bit of a slog.
As one might expect, this isn’t the final book, so things aren’t really resolved. Ideally, you should be looking forward to (what I’m hoping) is a conclusion, and right now, I’m a bit indifferent.
To me, at least, it’s lost those little touches that elevated Blood Song above the majority of the books in this genre and it’s a shame.
It clearly has its fans, and I’m not going to say they’re wrong, it’s just not quite as special as the first book was. If you liked Blood Song though, it’s still worth a look. It just may or may not be what you were looking for in a sequel.
Verdict: Borrow it