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
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.
I enjoy Epic Fantasy & Sci-Fi. Some of my favorite series are: Game of Thrones The Riyria Chronicles The Farseer Trilogy First Law World
Of course you do! That's one of the main reasons one listens to "epic" fantasy books. And as far as EPIC fantasy books go, this one will not disappoint…. Except when you get to the end and realize you have to wait for the next installment to this series.
The main character in this adventure is a hero of all heroes. If I could take all the fantasy books I've ever read and pick just one brave blade wielding man of all men to be, it would be Vaelin Al Soma. I've read all the Riyria Chronicles and although both Royce and Hadrian are two of my all time favorite characters, I would still chose to be Vaelin.
The Blood Song has all the things you're looking for in an epic book. Hero… check! Swords…. check! Blood… check! A bit of magic sprinkled in to make everything interesting… check! Did I mention that this book has the best "hero" main character I've ever read about?
My fellow audible listeners, I make few guarantees when it comes to books. However, I can tell you with tremendous confidence that you will never regret using a credit on The Blood Song.
This book frequently switched between being somewhat interesting and boring to the point where I almost quit listening to it. I know a lot of people loved it, and it was good enough that I don't regret buying it, but it never really felt either especially beautiful or particularly exciting to me. Unlike many books, I actually felt that this one got slightly worse as it progressed and there wasn't much of a payoff at the end.
I liked the world the author set up in this book. I enjoyed the different religious orders meant to serve the realm in different ways. I would have liked to have seen more detail given to characters' emotions and inner lives. I found myself wanting to know more about who they were, really. The author did a great job introducing characters I cared enough about to want to know more! I began to feel disconnected with the main character as the book progressed. That being said, it was a great read with a very cool world setup.
Thirty-something geek who loves sci fi and fantasy.
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.
Love epic fantasy, war stories, monsters, and zombies.
I agree with what everyone is saying: this is a complex (but not overly so) novel that scratches all of my Epic Fantasy itches, and then some. Upon completing it, I immediately restarted it to see if the seeds of the ending were present. Of course they were. Nothing in this book is extraneous. It is multi-layered and accessible. I loved our hero almost from the word 'go.'
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.
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.
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