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109 of 114 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very, VERY impressive.
You can get the gist of the story from other reviews here, I won't bore anyone with another summary.

What I will say is that I am a picky so-and-so and, as an example, I recently read Mark Charon Newton's first book (Nights of Viljamur)- didn't like it (dull characters and too many quotes lifted directly from 'The God Delusion', etc) despite other rave reviews,...
Published on 12 April 2013 by A. C. F. Guile

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much fighting, too little delving into promising characters
Well, it had potential. But truth be told, endless fighting gets really boring, so I put it down after I pushed myself three quarters along.
Published 18 days ago by Oda Faye B.


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109 of 114 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very, VERY impressive., 12 April 2013
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You can get the gist of the story from other reviews here, I won't bore anyone with another summary.

What I will say is that I am a picky so-and-so and, as an example, I recently read Mark Charon Newton's first book (Nights of Viljamur)- didn't like it (dull characters and too many quotes lifted directly from 'The God Delusion', etc) despite other rave reviews, and have given up on various other traditionally published books over recent years despite the time, effort and money spent on publishing them. There was a time I would finish a book even if I found it dull or hated it, I can't do that these days. I just don't have the patience for bad writing or stories that I don't like or don't grip me.

This is self published and is the best fantasy read I have had this year - though Mark Lawrence's Prince & King of Thorns is a close second.

It's not all constant action, it's a slow burn novel (like Robin Hobb and others) but you're always kept interested and the depth of character achieved and the nature and strength of the bond between the 'brothers' is great stuff. There's plenty of intrigue and the authorial 'reveals' along the way as the story unfolds have been paced very well indeed.

Ok, there are a few typos (names spelt wrong and a coma or two missing ...IMHO) but those issues are irrelevent and I forgive the author 100%. This is an amazing effort and a fantastic story.

Thank you, Anthony you have given self publishing a good name!

Bravo!!!

EDIT - I have the self published version. I see that Mr Ryan has quite rightly been picked up by a traditional publisher now. Quite right too. Well deserved. Comparison to David Gemmell though is something I don't understand. Ryan has his own voice. DG was indeed an Legend and while Ryan might quite enjoy the comparison, I think he stands up perfectly well on the strength of his own efforts.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The honourable and reluctant killer and general, 20 April 2014
By 
JPS - See all my reviews
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This is a rather superb piece of “heroic fantasy”, especially for a first novel, and it is indeed well worth the five stars that so many other reviewers have given it. It is not perfect, but then no book really is, and it all depends upon what is meant by “perfect” anyway! However, it has just about all the ingredients that make a piece of “heroic fantasy” outstanding: world-building, plot, characterisation, action, and talent in keeping the reader engaged.

The first quality of this book is the world-building, and the way it is done almost incidentally, in a seamless way as you read through the book.

You do not get “treated” with pages and pages of glossaries, because the author has accumulated so many characters and names of places that you would be simply lost and confused in the absence of such glossaries. You do however get a few maps: a general one at the beginning, and one blown up section of this general map that corresponds to each of the main parts of the story.

The story of Vaelin Al Sorna is told by one Lord Vernier, a historian and a noble of the Alpirian Empire and each part of the book begins with his account and comments on the events as told by Vaelin. However, each part is followed by a much longer piece that tells what really happened, as opposed to the rather “sanitised” version served by Vaelin to Lord Vernier. This is one of the tricks that keeps the reader engaged and interested all along, at least that is how it worked out for me as I looked out for (the many) discrepancies in the two tales.

The world in which the story is set is that of the Unified Realm, a northern continent made up of what were formally four kingdoms which one of the Kings forcefully unified a few decades before. Here is where there might be some inspiration drawn from Martin’s Westeros, although the form of the Unified Realm made me thing of an enlarged Ireland rather than Britain. To the South-West of the Unified Realm lie the Meldenian Islands inhabited by pirates/traders. Far to the West is another mysterious continent that seems to be an equivalent of China and which is controlled by various merchant princes. To the South, across the Erinian Sea, lays the Alpirian Empire, which reminded me of a version of the Byzantine Empire that could somehow be set in Africa, which its northern part including a trio of ports and deserts.

Then there is the story itself, on which I will be brief because many other reviewers have already commented. The lonely boy left by his cold and apparently ruthless father to the “tender mercies” of harsh learners at the age of eleven - here the “Sixth Order” (inspired by Medieval Orders of warrior-monks) – and who goes through a gruelling training to become one of the most accomplished warriors of the Realm is not exactly original, although it is well told. Neither is the bonding with his fellow apprentices into a “band of brother-warriors”, with each of them having their own “speciality” (the sword for Vaelin) very original, although it works mostly well. Having – predictably – graduated, Vaelin, who has very much become the leader of his little band, serves the King of the Unified Realm as the commander of one of his infantry regiments where his duty takes him across the whole Realm and then across the sea against the Alipirian Empire.

One interesting streak in the story is the theme of religious intolerance, with a faction of fanatic defenders of the Faith busy persecuting the “Deniers”, meaning every sect and belief within the Realm that does not conform to the true Faith. As hinted at in this book, and as will be no doubt made more explicit in the following volumes, the truth is much more complicated than the “official version” and the various legends and accepted stories of the past hide a number of less than palatable events.

Another interesting feature is the careful mix of elements that this story includes. You get a hint at a couple of non-human races which pre-existed the arrival of the now dominant inhabitants of the Unified Realm. You will also have some supernatural powers and magical bits, including the “blood song” in itself and what looks like a daemon from the otherworld. You also get plenty of adventure, fights, plotting and intrigue, battles and assassination attempts, so that the story is fast-paced, but not excessively so.

What I particularly appreciated with all this was the measured way in which all these elements were introduced and carefully balanced and blended together. Some twists of the story are somewhat hard to believe however. One of these is the decision of the huge Alpirian army to attack the two strongest ports held by “the Northerners” instead of the weakest one defended by Vaelin, and this after Vaelin having given them plenty of reasons to go after him.

Then you have what I believe to be the third strongpoint of the book: the characterisation of the hero. The most prominent example is that of Vaelin Al Sorna himself who is indeed an honourable and reluctant killer but who will do whatever needs to be done because of his very high sense of duty to Crown and Faith, even when he knows perfectly well that he is being played with and used. However, and as other reviewers have also noticed, although a reluctant at killing and waging war, the hero is also very efficient at it, quite ruthlesss and does not indulge in any self-pitying that some authors feel obliged to introduce in their characters. He does not like it. He would prefer to do otherwise, but since he does not have a choice, he does it as efficiently as he can, even if others are going to see him as a monster as a result of his deeds.

Some of the other characters are also well-designed, such as the arrogant and prejudiced Lord Vernier, the ageing, cynical, unscrupulous and utterly ruthless King Janus who spent his life unifying the Realm and is ready to do just about anything to ensure that it survives him, his devious but vulnerable daughter and his noble but allegedly naïve son and heir. Other secondary characters are perhaps not so well drawn. In particular, I found that Vaelin’s brothers somewhat lacked depth.

Even the end of the story is rather good, with the author tying up all lose ends as his hero, after a long captivity and a near-suicidal mission that he was not expected to survive, heads for home where a new King has come to power. Five stars for this superb first novel, despite the few glitches noted above, and largely because you get (or at least I got) totally immersed in this book once you pick it up. Needless to say, I am rather impatiently waiting for volume 2 and hoping it will be at least as good.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We Have No Banners, 30 Jun. 2014
By 
Mr. T. Stacey "Laresistance4" (Sheffield, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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I won't bore anyone with another summary. I'm just here to point out a few of the reasons why I enjoyed this novel so much and to add my own 5 star rating to the masses.

> The Characters - No black and white heroes/villains or run down cliche's here. Just characters that are all too real, with their own unique personalities, world views and faults. And as they go through deep life experiences, they actually develop! For example, when we first met Nortah, I envisioned him being your typical spoilt, petty brat. Very quickly I was disspelled of that impression - by the end of the book, he was one of my favourite characters. People shouldn't be judged solely based on first impressions, and they can change.

> The Pace - Considering the first 300 or so pages are dedicated to the 'training' section, there are a surprising amount of significant moments, many of which foreshadow later events. It nevers gets boring. Mr Ryan finds a fine balance when building his carefully crafted world, never cramming too much information in, yet not leaving his readers hanging either. It kept my interest, left me wanting more.

> The Intrigue - So many mysteries, large and small, are scattered throughout this novel: from the reason Vaelin was given to the Sixth Order; The Witch's bastard, the One Who Waits, and many questions surroundings the plot and various characters goals and motivations. What I especially enjoy is the fact that many of the answers are within the text before the reveals! Mr Ryan has created a consistent world, where every action makes sense within the context of his world. Learn the rules, then pay close attention.

All in all, a fantastic debut and an excellent start to the Raven's Shadow Trilogy. I will certainly be purchasing the next book, 'Tower Lord'.

(Additional Note: part of my motivation for writing this review in the first place was to counter a couple of the ridiculous negative reviews for this book. I can respect opinions that differ from my own. That's not the issue. But to give a book a low rating simply because the reviewer was stupid enough to buy the same book twice is sacrilege in my opinion. Reviews are intended to measure the quality of the product, not the IQ of the reviewer.)
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent fantasy, 25 Jun. 2013
By 
Keris Nine - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
There's a lot to recommend about Anthony Ryan's Blood Song. In most respects it's a traditional fantasy novel that respects the genre's conventions, but's it's well-written and engaging and it has an interesting perspective that gives it a little bit of an edge and sets it apart from most works of this kind.

Even if the early part of the book seems to be fairly standard plotting, there's an underlying unease about the situation then that keeps you involved. This is as it should be since the "blood song" of the title is indeed a guiding sense of warning that keeps the young Vaelin Al Sorna alive throughout the difficult years of his training as a warrior in the service of the Sixth Order, defenders of the Faith and the United Realm of King Janus. The first part of the book then goes through the standard template of apprenticeship, the honing of Vaelin's skills through tests and bonding with fellow warriors, but in addition to being well told, you do get a sense of other elements of the wider problems in and beyond the Realm that will undoubtedly come into play once we get to the world outside.

Even that seems fairly familiar territory, with war being on the horizon and conflict not only with foreign states, but also with Deniers of the Faith and from mysterious agencies that use the power of the Dark, Vaelin seeming to play a part in a Destiny that has been foretold in ancient books. It doesn't take too long however to recognise that it's not all peace, love and goodness under the rule of King Janus, that the expected divisions between the forces of Good and Evil aren't that clear and that Vaelin - known now as Hope Killer - might not even be on the side of Right.

It's this kind of touch that makes all the difference. How often do we really get to see and understand the working of the "forces of darkness" from an insider's perspective? It's the way that it's told however that really counts, Anthony Ryan building up credible characterisation that takes into account the usual motivations of greed and ambition but also how fear, personality, power and the weight of history have a part to play in the shaping of Destiny. It's not just all about some ancient prophesy then, or the wielding of mysterious powers, but Blood Song becomes a question over how much power we have over our own destiny. And that's interesting.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning Debut, 16 Sept. 2013
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I bought this book on the basis of earlier reviews and have to say it is one of the best fantasy books i have ever read (and i have read a lot). I find it hard to believe that this is a first novel and cannot wait for another in the series. There are moments of great characterisation (male and female - and animal!!!) Some parts of the plot you can work out as the book progresses (which i like) and others will have you groan as the oncoming train has been lighting the tunnel for a while. I found it an absorbing read and i wanted to know what happened next. I also liked the level of back detail that created a more believable world but that did not drown the plot or characters. I bought my copy from Amazon, but i think it is a shame that i have not seen a copy in any bookshops Unless they have all sold :-) Buy it, read it and enjoy it.
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63 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Trust the good reviews!, 2 April 2013
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So, minding my own business, I was looking through the recommended section on my kindle and saw this for a few quid. As always I looked at the reviews, and immediately became suspicious. One bad review out of near a hundred good ones- but I took a gamble, and boy was I rewarded.

This is quite possibly one of the best opening novels I have ever read. My normal genre is fantasy, and as such I think I have quite high standards when it comes to these books- I haven't been this impressed with a first book since the farseer trilogy (Robin Hobb).

In terms of the book itself, there was something for me on every page. Not once did I become bored or frustrated with events, characters, story, or, well... anything! The pacing is extremely well done, as are the characters. Whilst it lacks the depth of detail in environments that I am used to with authors such as Hobb, the rest of the factors more than make up for this- character arcs are extremely well done, and I found myself thoroughly engrossed in the fate of almost everyone the book introduces to you.

Literally the only thing I found mildy off putting was initially the names were quite foreign- but this is something that I eventually liked anyway as it does perform the role of setting it slightly apart from standard lord-of-the-rings esque names for everything.

Believe the reviews, I have never been so grateful for taking a risk on a book- which is also minimised by the unbelievably cheap price I got it for. Brilliant read, and I cannot wait for the next book of what I hope is a long saga.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Hours Vanish, 22 Jan. 2014
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If you're like me and read in bed before sleeping you will find this book holds your imagination and attention so fantastically well, you will look up and find 4 hours have passed and you're due up in 5. The characters will stay with you, I didn't find myself thinking "hmm hang on who is that again ?". The lands are well planned out and traveled within the story. This has everything you look for in a fantasy book, I only hope the time passes by quickly so that I can get my hands on the second book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blood Song, 24 Mar. 2015
By 
Jenny, Wondrous Reads (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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Blood Song is one of a handful of epic fantasy novels I've read, and it's up there with my favourite fantasy in general. It's a brilliant, visceral look at the life of Vaelin Al Sorna, engrossing right from the start and very, very difficult to put down. It's a hefty book but don't be put off by its size - it's easier than it looks, and you'll find yourself lost in the story within mere pages. Anthony Ryan writes well and his characters are all people you'll root for, even when things aren't as black and white as they may initially seem. Apologies for being cryptic, but I don't want to spoil anything!

This book follows Vaelin's life from when he's a young boy and just joining the Sixth Order, when he's learning to fight and wield a sword, as well as how to hunt a man and kill an enemy. It focuses on him and his group of friends as they find their way in this brutal, dark world, and what happens to him is truly shocking at times. I absolutely loved his character, his resolve and determination being stand-out traits and part of what makes him so strong. He's a true warrior, and that all becomes apparent as he gets older and leaves his training. A war is coming and the Sixth Order is one of the only forces that stands in its way - Vaelin's life is about to change, and there's not a single thing he can do about any of it.

Blood Song is a long, detailed book, but time passes quickly and it never feels like a chore to read. Each character is a joy to get to know, whether good or bad, and I particularly enjoyed the earlier sections that take place when Vaelin is a young boy. The regime and training they all go through to be part of the Sixth Order is pretty harrowing, and how they learn to be men is, at times, even worse. Anthony Ryan doesn't hold back on anything - battles are bloody, lives aren't always spared and there's no guarantee of a happy ending.

I found myself pulled into Vaelin's story almost instantly, so much so that I couldn't bear to put the book down. I read it on trains to London even though it makes me travel sick, and I couldn't stop until I'd finished it. Although this story isn't the typical kind of fantasy I usually read - there aren't any dragons or wizards - I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed it. Vaelin's the kind of man I imagine would fit right in if he went to live in Westeros, and I can see why he turns out how he does. He's been surrounded by a life of brutality and order from a very young age, and for him that's all there is. His life is all about duty and honour, and he serves the Sixth Order like his whole existence depends on it. He's amazing!

Blood Song is one of the best books I read in 2014, and I'm not sure why it took me so long to write this review. It's stuck in my mind as a favourite fantasy novel, one that I'm really glad I decided to read and one that features one of the most memorable characters I've had the pleasure of meeting. I'm hoping to get around to reading the sequel, Tower Lord, sooner rather than later, and I just hope it's half as good as this. I'm looking forward to seeing what's in store for Vaelin, thought I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little worried about how his story will end. I guess I'll just have to carry on reading and find out!

4.5/5
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A strong opening book for both this series and a new author, 24 Mar. 2014
By 
GOTTON - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
I've finished this book really wanting to give it 5 stars but sadly that would be doing a disservice to anyone reading this review.

I'm relatively late coming to this book, having had it on my to-read list for a long time but not getting around to it until today. What really interested me was the huge number of five star reviews which of course is rare for a debut novel. Therefore I went into it expecting perfection straight from the start and for the first two thirds I had to keep checking that I had the right book as it really wasn't meeting my expectations. What I was reading was admittedly a well written and intriguing tale but one that lacked both the originality and the strength of character to make me really feel as though this book was anything above average.

This all changes in the final act when everything starts to come together in a very satisfying fashion and introduces enough new elements to the series that suddenly I find myself really drawn in only to find this book comes to an end just when I am really wanting more. I think this has happened because the questions that were raised all the way through the book were answered brilliantly with some really interesting twists that I didn't see coming. I have to admit that getting to the ending I am quick to forget what came before it and I am eager to call this a brilliant book.

However, the truth is that the first two acts really were quite bland. We are introduced to and given a great amount of back story on the central character (who strangely is not the first person character). Whilst this is interesting what it lacks is emotional depth.

As I have read in a lot of books since A Song of Ice and Fire went huge a few years ago, this book relies on the harshness of life rather than the up sides. This is a perfectly valid point of view but what so many authors miss is that life is varied and there needs to be some happiness and hope in order for the darkness to feel more terrible and real. The first two acts of this book are just a constant stream of situations getting worse for the characters with no high points whatsoever until really close to the end of the book. This made reading this part of the book seem like work which is never good.

To prove the point, this book really started to turn around the moment the title character finally reconciled one of his main relationships and for the first time he genuinely had something to lose that the reader cares about him losing. From that moment on this book took on a whole new energy and it had me turning the pages quickly and feeling very satisfied at the end of the book.

Overall as a standalone book I would have found this book to be less satisfying than I did. As the start of a series however, I have to admit that this is a really good book that has introduced me to a new world in a manner that has me really looking forward to the next book in the series.

I would happily recommend this book to fantasy fans, especially those who like dark fantasy where their title characters are forced to go through a great deal and face terrible sacrifices before the end of the story. I now eagerly look forward to the second book in the Raven's Shadow series and I can only hope that it picks up the story in the same manner that this one finished.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than a cheap copy of "The Name of the Wind", 18 May 2014
When I began reading the book, i was afraid, it might turn out as a cheap copy of "The Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss. The beginning with the fallen hero who is interviewed by the imperial/royal chronicler just seemed too familiar.
But though there are also other parallels to other authors visible (like the powers of Sella which are suspiciously similar to Terry Goodkind's Confessors in "The Sword of Truth"), the book really finds and defines its own style.

I liked Vaelin's dual nature consisting of his fanaticism to the order on one hand and his moral principles on the other. Although he sees himself as a killer, it is - in the end - hard to codemn him for his actions.
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