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
I picked up this book after seeing it recommended several times on Audible, and after reading numerous positive reviews here. I was not disappointed. This is a major work in fantasy, and Anthony Ryan will be a name to watch as this series matures and expands.
The main narrative is set within a frame story, similar to that of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles books (e.g., the main character is giving an account of his life to an interviewer). The circumstances of the interview are different enough, though, from Rothfuss, that it still feels original. The similarities to Rothfuss end there, however. This is a fairly dark fantasy, though not so grimdark as Joe Abercrombie or George R.R. Martin. We witness the training of Vaelin Al Sorna in the Sixth Order, an organization that’s a cross between samurai, agoge (the training of Spartan boys) and Jedi knights. The first half of the book, which covers Vaelin’s time in the Order, is fascinating, coming-of-age stuff. Numerous mysteries present themselves right off the bat, and most go unresolved by the end of the book. Vaelin’s camaraderie with his fellow trainees is the best part of the book. The other characters are well fleshed out, especially Norta and Caenis. Vaelin is an heroic character, and it’s very clear he’s got a big destiny, but he is grounded by self-doubts, guilt, and a consistent, genuine humility. He’s a wonderful character, embodying the escapism we crave in fantasy, while remaining a very human character with whom we can easily identify and sympathize. He is a living weapon who accepts his position, but not without regret.
The second half of the book deals with Vaelin’s adventures in service to the Realm. This part of the book was less engaging than the first, I found, if only because the internecine politics of Ryan’s world get tossed around in rapid succession, and are hard to keep straight at times. The focus of the first half of the book is traded for more broad-scoped world-building, and while it’s intriguing, it lacks the fundamental humanity and direction that the training segments had. Still, toward the end it builds some powerful momentum, with suspense sustained by the frame story. Eventually, the frame story and the past narrative merge and many things fall into place. It’s a nicely-designed narrative structure, and is quite satisfying once it reaches its end.
Ryan’s world feels familiar, yet unique. He doesn’t try to subvert every cliché like Martin or Abercrombie, but instead relies on good characterization and believable political/religious structures. One of the main themes of the book is man’s proclivity toward religion and the myriad gods we invent. This is a subject I’ve never seen tackled in such a direct way in a fantasy story before, and it’s a most welcome addition to the genre.
This is, of course, the first in a series (whose ultimate number of volumes I don’t know). The book sets up many compelling plots to be resolved in future books, and raises the stakes by the end to be bigger and more important than the book first promised. I am greatly looking forward to book 2 when it comes out. I highly recommend this book to any fan of modern, mature fantasy. Ryan deserves to be listed among the modern greats in the genre; I look forward to his continued career.
A note on the narrator: Steven Brand does a good job with the text. His husky voice lends itself well to Vaelin’s personality, and his pronunciations and speech rhythms are generally fine. He does stumble now and then (possibly from turning a page?) but these are negligible. The only complaint I have with him is that he lacks range. He has basically only one voice characterization, and while it works for many characters, it does not for all. Moreover, during dialogue between two or more characters, or even internal asides from one character, it can sometimes be hard to tell who is talking, or what is being spoken aloud or in a character’s mind. He is no Steven Pacey, but then again, who is? That said, he still does an adequate job with the story, and because almost all of the tale is told from a single character’s perspective, it gets much easier to tell who is talking as the story progresses. I would have liked a little more variety and emotion from Brand, but I’ve heard much, much worse.
In my top ten books. . and one of the biggest surprises. I have over 100 audible books. I got this one for a cross country road trip and was totally sucked into it, , almost ran out of gas cause i was so engrossed. Looking forward to more from this author.
I highly recommend this book.
Steven Brand's voice is wonderful, his narration was the perfect tone for the book. I read this first as a self published novel on Kindle, and even still I can't imagine the protagonists voice to sound any other way.
I still am floored that it took so long for a publisher to pick him up. If he can continue this story with the pacing, twists and enthralling characters he will quickly join Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan, Patrick Rothfuss and George Martin as the great living writers of Fantasy.
Several that would be spoilers if shared.
No, but even though his only other work on Audible is WAU outside of my normal reading I am considering picking it up just for his narration.
A dangerous man without malice?
BloodSong is surely going to be the beginning of a long and glorious relationship with these characters. The world that Anthony Ryan has created should exist. It is cohesive, realistic and functional. The magic reminds of something that Robin Hobb might have produced, the characters of something Orson Scott Card might have created and a world epic and grand enough to rival any George Martin has envisioned.
When I paid 99 cents for this on Kindle I had low expectations, but after one read and two listens I can say that it stands nearly as high on my can't wait list as the next Way of Kings book or the final book of Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller chronicles. If any of these names are on your hit list then you will not be disappointed.
Having invoked those names I should mention that the next novel is 100% complete and is only being heald back for a year by his new publisher to give time for this book to sell and the third is well underway according to the author so great writing, without the typical 2-3 year wait between books for this style of fantasy.
I am a writer from Toronto. I am 34 and hooked on audio books.
If you love epic fantasy buy this book! Great story and awesome narration. Anthony Ryan and Steven Brand are up and coming stars. With all the crap out there that gets 5 stars, I rarely write reviews. However, this book is so good I just had to.
"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.
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...
Third after King killer and Stormlight
The telling and the format
The final song
Not really, but i did feel his pain.
I'm not really good with words but this book is something all audible members should have.
I do not understand how this book has so many 5 star ratings. I found it incredibly boring. I had to force myself to keep listening and finally gave up about half way through.
The characters are one-dimensional and I had absolutely no emotional investment in them. I could not have cared less if they lived or died. I couldn't even tell most of the characters apart.
Ryan relies too much on telling the readers rather than showing us. For example, Vaelen is supposed to be a leader and yet nothing he does distinguishes him as particularly suited to lead. One day his trainers suddenly tell him that he's a leader and the reader is just supposed to accept that. There was no mention before that of his fellow trainees looking to him to lead them, no mention of him inspiring anyone or helping anyone succeed. He didn't even speak of an inner motivation to see the other trainees do well.
Vaelen also suffered from a disappointing lack of curiosity. He meets interesting characters and then seems to forget all about them. He doesn't ask questions of them, he doesn't investigate. Perhaps Ryan was trying to hook the reader by dangling tidbits and leaving them mysterious but it just frustrated me.
There was no humor in this book. None. There should be light-hearted moments and fun, even in a book that is mostly dark and serious.
The dialogue was stilted and unrealistic. Every character spoke the same way, same accent, same syntax, etc.
Finally, there was a disappointing lack of female characters. The ones who were included were not developed enough.
My friends don't really get into fantasy/sci-fi but if they did I would certainly recommend this to them.
Well Vaelin of course. He makes the tough choices throughout the story, a very admiral and likable character/hero(?).
Not really... I read the reviews and people seemed to like the narrator but I did not. He made no effort to distinguish between characters and I found it very hard follow the conversation when I could not figure out who was talking. It surprises me that people liked him after listening to all the others.
Yes... there were a couple places to laugh and many places of sadness especially at the end. Heartbreaking but I won't say what because I'm not a spoiler... just read it!
I can't decide whether to listen to this once more before moving on to the next book because I feel I missed a lot because of the narration. I may end up buying the books and reading them if I find the next piece as hard to follow. This really is a good story and I hate that I feel this way about the narrator. Usually I can acquire and ear for them even if I don't like them but I could never seem to do that with this guy.
I got this book because the reviews claimed this is an amazing book. I believe those reviews are bogus and possibly even written by relatives or friends of the author. If you like 80% politics with almost no character development then you might enjoy this book. Granted I could only stand the first 4 hours before I became too bored to continue. In the first 4 hours there was two big battles but with zero character development I didn't know what was going on or who to follow.
Narrator has almost no voice inflection. Often I didn't know who was talking. If I notice him on another book I will not download it.
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