From "a new master storyteller" comes the beginning of an epic fantasy saga of blood, honor, and destiny....
The Sixth Order wields the sword of justice and smites the enemies of the Faith and the Realm. Vaelin Al Sorna was only a child of 10 when his father left him at the iron gate of the Sixth Order. The Brothers of the Sixth Order are devoted to battle, and Vaelin will be trained and hardened to the austere, celibate, and dangerous life of a Warrior of the Faith. He has no family now save the Order.
Vaelin’s father was Battle Lord to King Janus, ruler of the unified realm. Vaelin’s rage at being deprived of his birthright and dropped at the doorstep of the Sixth Order like a foundling knows no bounds. He cherishes the memory of his mother, and what he will come to learn of her at the Order will confound him. His father, too, has motives that Vaelin will come to understand. But one truth overpowers all the rest: Vaelin Al Sorna is destined for a future he has yet to comprehend. A future that will alter not only the realm, but the world.
©2013 Anthony Ryan (P)2013 Penguin Audio
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
There’s virtually nothing in Anthony Ryan’s Blood Song that fantasy readers haven’t seen before. Vaguely European medieval world? Check. Protagonist with a special magical gift? Check. Walled-off academy wherein a young protagonist learns many diverse arts? Check. A set of religious/mystical Orders that safeguard the realm and its affairs? Barbarians in the north? Hidden secret Order? Check, check, check.
Yet, this is a confident, unapologetically traditional novel that will likely please fans of military and warrior epics. Ryan, to his credit, doesn’t go in for a lot of world-building or the potential flab of multiple character perspectives. Other than the framing device of introducing the story from the perspective of a scribe from a southern empire, who interviews the now-legendary captive, Vaelin al Sorna, much of the narrative follows the experiences of the man himself. As we soon learn, Vaelin was left as a boy by his father at the gates of the Sixth Order, which trains warriors to serve the faith, a sort of medieval Army Ranger battalion.
Roughly the first third of the novel is taken up by Vaelin’s training, an increasingly harsh series of lessons and tests. It’s a little comparable to events in Patrick Rothfuss’s popular The Name of the Wind, but this school is much more martial than university-like. It’s stuff we’ve seen before, but I enjoyed watching Vaelin and his fellows grow in skill and maturity, with glimpses of the outside world and its issues, which occasionally intrude on their training.
Most good military fiction involves the hero learning, over many bloody battles, that the purity of the warrior’s ethos doesn’t always align with the slimy nature of realpolitik. This is true here. As he graduates from his final test, Vaelin finds himself falling into the favor of a manipulative, ambitious king, who sends him on sham missions against an insurgency of heretics in the north, then into actual set battles against the empire to the south, for reasons that sound worthy on paper but reek of the king’s self-interest.
While the too-noble-for-this-war-too-dutiful-to-stop-fighting-it themes are familiar, Ryan does a great job with the savage crunch and clamor of battles, and capturing the many small details of a warrior’s life and its hard disciplines. There’s a bit of droll humor, too. There’s even beauty in the writing, in the depiction of a primeval northern forest, or in a pod of orca whales pacing a ship. Fantasy can so easily crumble when modern sensibilities or glibness creep into it, but Ryan seems to recognize the importance of a believably mythic world, of keeping the basic themes simple and clear.
That said, there are weaknesses. The story suffers from a few cliches, and only a handful of characters are more than a sketch. The Princess, whose calculating nature makes it unclear whose side she’s on, is interesting, but there wasn’t very much to distinguish Vaelin’s brothers-in-arms from one another. I was a little disappointed that the Faith, so central to what the Order does, was never explained in much detail, and that the magic-related side of the plot, while seemingly important to the larger series Ryan has in mind, felt a little shoehorned into the story.
Still, such issues are to be expected in a debut and I think much of the praise from readers is warranted. If this isn’t quite the next Game of Thrones, it takes many ideas that worked well in that series and channels them into one hero and his reality. Audiobook narrator Steven Brand doesn’t do a wide range of accents, but he has a confident, unpretentious voice that fits the text. While some readers have complained about grammar issues, they weren’t evident to me in this format.
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.
This is one of the best books I have 'read' in a long time. Wish the narrator used different voices for each character like other narrators do. While the narrator did a fine job of reading his lack of voices was irritating and made some scenes confusing. I had to buy the Kindle version and refer to it in order to understand who was saying what during some conversations. This book deserves a better narrator. Michael Page would be fantastic.
By using one voice for all characters (even female characters had the same voice as the male characters) it becaming confusing at times as to which character was talking. I finally had to purchase the Kindle book to refer to in order to make sense of some conversations. The worst was when there were more than 2 characters having a conversation.
Easily. I was eager to get back to it when I had to put it down to attend to life's many responsibilities.
While this is Book 1 it can easily be read as a stand alone book. The story is complete with the possibility for the bigger question to be answered in future books without you being left with a cliff hanger at the end of this one. The story is fantastic. I can't say enough about the world, relationships, and writing style of Anthony Ryan. I eagerly await his next book in this series.
Obsessive book hoarder, and intense audible lover.
Yes!! Because it is a well wrought story and relatable characters. I felt despair along with the main character as loved characters died, etc.
Hmm, since they all were so good in the story, I refuse to answer this one :)
He brought life to the characters and narrated with emotion that kept me enthralled.
The story was really good. I enjoyed how the whole story took place across most of his teen years and some adult. At first, I was worried that it was skimming too close to The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (for the sake of originality), but was quite pleased that it took on another light early on.
As for the narrator... there were times that I found it difficult to discern which character was currently speaking. He has little-to-no difference with the pronunciation from character to character. A woman would be speaking with a man and I'd have no idea who was currently talking. No voice lightening, no changes. Though, he has an excellent reading voice, for sure. I never found his narrative boring or dull, so there is that.
All in all, good book! Check it out.
Book was very interesting and held my attention throughout the 21 hrs of the story.
Always wanting to know what happens next.
It was hard to be dragged away from listening to do other tasks...
"When I finish a good book, I feel like I've lost a friend." -- My Mom
We are being totally, knowingly, happily taken for a ride. Anthony Ryan has The Talent. He creates questions, histories, personalities and knows how much to reveal and what to leave unanswered. His characters are likeable, easy to relate to and I worry about them when I’m not listening. The world he has created is similar enough to know but different enough to be interesting. Steven Brand is the perfect voice for this story and these characters.
We are addicted. We are being played like a fiddle. We are enjoying every minute of it.
Say something about yourself!
This book is close to 24 hours long but it it kept my attention throughout. An outstanding epic fantasy that follows the protagonist and his companions through a Spartan childhood and training to become elite warriors battling against their kingdoms enemies. In a world filled with suffering and injustice the story contains friendship and loyalty but with hints of a great malevolent evil, hidden below the surface. Outstanding narration. Looking forward to the next book.
A trilogy. Say it in three. Done.
Told in 3rd person through the POV of only one character (except for the opening chapter of each part). Yay!!! No scene skipping. No head-hopping. The reader journeys through a harsh yet hopeful life as experienced by a heartbroken, abandoned youth, Vaelin Al Sorna. Even though he is dubbed "Hope Killer" he grows to be a kind and good (enough) man, striving to understand his peculiar gift and the strange goings-on in his world.
A wee bit long and occasionally slow, but well-written and quite engrossing for the most part, with heartwarming friendship, poignant growing-up/ becoming a warrior scenes, a touch of romance, bloody battles, grim-dark reality, gods, kings, religions, demons, politics, and some surprising plot twists.
Characterization is decent. It was good to see the abandoned youths grow into fine young men (but most of the focus was on Vaelin). One wonders how anything good could come from the academy since most of the training masters were crazed and/or cruel.
Animals added a nice touch. I loved the Volarian Slave Hound, Scratch, and the nasty warhorse, Spit.
Nebulous magic system. Maybe that will be established in book 2.
I found some high-res maps on the Web. (The maps in the kindle book are fuzzy).
Appendix is helpful, but I wanted a description of the Orders in the appendix. What is the purpose of each Order? Who is the Aspect in charge of each one? Where is each one headquartered?
Narrator has a pleasing texture and cadence, but his voice is fuzzy (not crisp). He mumbles somewhat, making it hard to distinguish some words, and he doesn't differentiate enough between character voices, making it hard to tell when one person stops talking and another starts. I stopped listening and mostly read the book, instead.
I probably won't read the sequels, based on reviews for books 2 and 3 (and a shockingly high price jump).
No, I would not recommend it to anyone because of the language and one or two sex scenes (not graphic, just unnecessary). Also, I had a little trouble keeping up with all the characters, all of the cities, and with the timeline jumping around a lot.
It was very well read with very likeable characters.
I enjoyed when he met the man and the girl during his "test".
If I were to listen to it again, I would take notes so I wouldn't get lost in the story and have to back up so much.
Report Inappropriate Content