Themes: / fantasy / warrior /
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’ 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’ 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.
How do you follow up a debut novel that seems to be almost universally loved by those who have read it? By writing a book that may be even better in my opinion. My opinion may not be shared by everyone who loved Blood Song. This is definitely a different book from that.
Instead of a single narrative about Vaelin told in the form of a flashback, we are instead given three new point of view characters in addition to Vaelin and the interludes from the perspective of the chronicler. Two of the characters, Frentis and Lyrna, will be instantly familiar from the first novel. The fourth, Riva, was probably my favorite. As a new character she probably got the most character development of the four. I think having two male POVs and two female ones gave the novel a good balance.
I found Lyrna’s story to start a bit slow, but I was quickly grabbed by the book as a whole and eventually sucked into her narrative as well. Much like Blood Song this is one of those books that grabbed hold and didn’t let go. I hated to put it down and loved to pick it back up.
I’m glad for the format change as I think Mr. Ryan was able to tell a much larger story as a result. There were parts of the story where the various POV’s overlapped, but there were also a lot of things that would have gone otherwise unmentioned if he stuck with just Vaelin’s story.
There are some excellent action scenes, though probably fewer overall than the first. While the first book was more a hero’s journey, this book is more epic fantasy with larger implications to the realm as a whole.
There are answers to many of the big questions I had from the first novel. Often times it seems like authors jealously guard all their book’s secrets and wait until the last possible minute to reveal them. Not so with this series. I felt there were several big reveals in parts 2 and 3 that other authors might have held back. There are plenty of new questions to take the place of those that are answered that kept me wanting to keep listening and find out what would happen next.
Mr. Ryan has put himself in a precarious position of writing two really excellent novels in what I believe is supposed to be a trilogy. Now the expectations are that much higher for the finale of what has quickly become one of my favorite series.
Stephen Brand is a great narrator that could stand to have his volume boosted. He does an excellent job with voices and inflections, but can be frustratingly quiet in places.
If you haven’t read this book yet, do yourself a favor and pick it up. And if you haven’t read/heard of this series you should check out Blood Song as soon as you can.
Review by Rob Zak.