I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
Anthony Ryan's epic fantasy novel Blood Song (2011), first in what I hope is only a trilogy in progress, begins with Lord Verniers, the Imperial Chronicler of the southern Alpiran Empire, recounting the time he met the legendary war hero of the northern Unified Realm, Vaelin Al Sorna. Among Vaelin's many names is Hope Killer, for in battle he killed the Hope of the Empire, the Emperor's chosen successor from among his people and Verniers' best friend (at least). For that "murder," Vaelin has spent the last five years in an Imperial dungeon, and has only now been released so that he may face certain death in a duel against the champion of the Meldenean Islands. For their part, the Meldeneans want to watch Vaelin ("the Spawn of the City Burner") die because when his father was Battle Lord of the Realm he torched one of their cities along with its men, women, and children. Verniers' italicized first person narration beginning each of the five parts of Ryan's novel reveal the Chronicler's scornful view of Vaelin's "savage" culture and his hatred of Vaelin. Verniers is also fascinated by the man with "an innate inability to be diminished" and can't resist asking Vaelin to tell his life story so he can write it down as they sail towards his impending doom.
The five parts of the novel, then, narrated in third person from Vaelin's point of view, appear at first to be Verniers' version of Vaelin's story, but the farther the novel progresses, the more it becomes apparent that Vaelin is hiding things from Verniers. . . This raises uncomfortable questions the novel may not answer: why does Ryan begin by making us think Verniers is telling Vaelin's story and then suddenly reveal that he's not, and if he's not, who is?
Be that as it may, the bulk of Blood Song is the account of Vaelin's life from age 11 when he was put by his father into the monkish Sixth Order of the Faith, the Order dedicated to smiting the enemies of the Faith and the Realm. Vaelin is shaped like tempered steel into a Brother of his new "family" (the Brothers are supposed to sever all ties to their former biological families), undergoing harsh martial training, bonding with his fellow young initiates, and gradually learning more about his biological family, about the seven Orders, about the Faith (based on ancestor worship), about its "heretic" Deniers, about realpolitik, and about his "blood song," a gift or a curse that warns him when something bad is going to happen and helps him read people. Vaelin is a compelling protagonist, a person of courage, sensitivity, empathy, morality, and kindness, as well as an instinctive, skilled, and fearsome fighter, able to kill unthinkingly and then to feel his soul soiled by the act.
Ryan writes many great lines. Pithy ones: "War is always an adventure to those who have never seen it." Humorous ones: “The smell was enough to make Scratch get up and slink away.” Ultra violent ones: "[Vaelin] heard rather than saw the geyser of blood painting the ceiling and walls, as the headless corpse continued for a few steps before collapsing." Numinous ones: "He wondered if he would dream of wolves." Sublime ones: "It was the strangest and most unfamiliar landscape he had seen, a broad expanse of mostly bare rock pocked by small pools of rainwater and rocky tors rising from the undulating surface like great deformed mushrooms." And one recurring line of intense pathos, when Vaelin protests too much: "I have no father."
Stephen Brand has an appealing and affecting slight northern England accent, by which the "o" in words like love, up, and some becomes "oh," which expresses Vaelin's "barbarian" speech as heard by a "civilized" Empire listener like Verniers. In general, Brand's voice is quite appealing, intelligent, raspy, British, and sparse, a perfect match for Ryan's text. He modifies it for different characters, as with Frentice's street cockney, but never egregiously, not even when doing voices of female characters or children.
Blood Song has plenty of elements typically found in the heroic epic fantasy genre: different histories and cultures in conflict; small-scale and wide-screen graphic violence; supernatural abilities or gifts; a natural born leader hero with prodigious fighting ability, strong moral code ("I'll kill but I won't murder"), sensitive conscience ("I am a murderer"), and vital destiny; a brilliant and beautiful princess chafing in her role; a mysterious evil entity with occult evil minions; a melting pot world (no elves, dwarves, or orcs, but plenty of hunter gatherers, pirate captains, European-esque knights, British-esque longbowmen, Chinese-esque merchant princes, African or Arabic-esque nobles, etc.); and so on. But Ryan tells his story with such humane conviction, complex characters, spare prose, skillful revelations, exciting and horrifying violence, modern political vision, bracing imagination, and unsentimental pathos, that reading Blood Song was a page-turning pleasure I didn't want to end. Ryan's world creation, fantastic imagination, and narrative approach are not as weird and unique as something like J. M. McDermott's Last Dragon, but Blood Song is authentic and compelling, and fans of heroic epic fantasy should enjoy it.
The narration is dull, you can not distinguish between characters and even scene transitions. I found myself lost in several areas, rewinding to hear portions over again to figure out what was going on. I am hesitant to purchase Book 2 but want to find out what happens to the characters. Might purchase a hard copy instead.
Hi, I'm an alumi of NYU and I'm also huge into MMA. I love books I read a lot and review the stand outs. I'll give you guys the goods.
I took a chance on this novel and it paid off big. I simply couldn't put this one down, if you like epic fantasy this is a must have.
Yes, it's a great story, robust characters, interesting mysteries, good world building.
In some ways, the narrator has a good voice for this kind of epic: A bit gravelly, as if the story is being told by an old soldier.
But there's no attempt to give voices to the different characters, and at some points the narration gets monotonic. Depending on the text, the narrator will recite sentences in the same cadence and inflection. There are moments when you find yourself anticipating the rhythm of each sentence as the narrator repeats the same cadence.
It was distracting at times, but ultimately didn't interfere with the enjoyment of the story itself.
Read with great skill and subtlety, excellent job.
To be honest this was an accidental purchase, and I thought I'd give it a chance before returning it. Yep, it is in the vein of Game of Thrones, but it stands just fine on its own, not at all the disappointment I expected it to be. Very well-written and engrossing, this book got better and better as it progressed and left me wanting more. I was ready to move on to the next entry in the series right away, and was sorry to see that it hasn't been released on audio yet. Will be on the lookout -
I really wasn’t sure about this novel at first since I listen to mostly romantic fantasy filled with magic and otherworldly creatures. However, from the beginning of this novel I was captivated by the narrator and the story of a young boy enveloped into his path to become a warrior. The plot is fantastic and the descriptions of the realm, the battles, and the environments are easy to visualize. The characters are thought provoking and interesting, while the politics and intrigue are captivating. I highly recommend this book, and hopefully soon the series.
Grandslam out of park
There are really no other high fantasy that I have read that can compare. I had read the first Game of Thrones, and liked it until the best character died. I have read the first 6 books in the Wheel of Time series, by book seven way too many characters which had an impact in the books were developed. With the Wheel of time I would spend a whole book and read only two chapters on characters that I liked. I know I initially attempted to compare Blood song to Tolkien, but Brand doesn't, or I should say at this time, he hasn't brought in eleves or dwarves, this series of books would be more along Game of Thrones, political intrigue, with good battle scenes, and a protagonist who recognizes he isn't perfect. I cannot wait until Tower Lord comes out in July!
A fantasy version of star wars, heroes, villains, the dark used for the good, and dark used for evil. Power corrupts, and total power corrupts totally.
This is the only book I have purchased in over 7 years of audio books, that I also bought the kindle version. I am a speed reader, so I could read faster than the narrator. But I also listened to the whole audio book. This Anthony Rand, is another Chistopher Paolini, a great writer coming out of no where. If he isn't careful, this series could end up on TV, as a HBO series. Rand, has the potential, if he can move beyond this series to be another Orson Scott Card.
Likes to listen while doing chores; likes to write reviews while he should be doing chores.
This book is a variation on the “kid goes to warrior school” epic fantasy genre. It’s a pretty good one. There are some fresh ideas in storytelling that keep it new and interesting. The main story arc is told as if to a historian, however, you come to learn that the reader is getting a “true,” insiders account, but the historian character to which the story is being recounted, is being told something else. In other words, you get the secrets, but for some reason, the main character is telling his conversation partner something less meaningful. Also, the depth of the features of this world, magic, religion, people, sects, are only being hinted at. The author has so much setting left to fill with story, it keeps you wanting more.
The story begins a little slow and there are some significant breaks in action. However, it does heat up and progressively becomes more intriguing. Twists and plots aren’t immediately apparent until you realize you’re up to your neck in them.
Characters are well developed and Ryan fears not killing them off which raises the stakes of the various challenges. The dialogue is neither particularly good nor bad. It is just kind of there.
This book really suffers because of its narrator. He doesn’t apply himself to characterizations so you often lose who is talking in a particular conversation. He blows the accenting of certain sentences which changes the meaning in odd ways. Overall it feels like what you are hearing is the reader’s first attempt.
Despite harvesting the old warrior school trope, this book goes in interesting directions. The story leaves off at a good point too. There is an ocean of possibilities at the end, leaving you very interested in what comes next. All in all a good read. I would recommend this to fantasy fans.
This mountain of books isn't going to listen to itself.
I didn't read it in print. I think this book would have been better if I would have taken the time and read the book. Most of the time a narrator will make a book even better. This was not the case.
I really liked the beginning of the book. His trails and tribulations at the beginning were interesting and fun to listen too. Later on the story starts to get driven by politics and war. I kind of felt this is where to book went the wrong way.
I am sorry NO.
Yes. I was mad. A few hours into the book, I was like this is a really good book and this Narrator is horrible.
I would pass on this book and read the print version. I think you will have a better appreciation for the book.
I also wished for a little bit of a better understanding of the Blood Song (his special power) I still feel I never really grasped what it does. I guess my complaint is the author left the whole magical system in a vale of mystery.