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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A WORTHY RIVAL TO GRR MARTIN, 21 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: Blood Song: Book 1 of Raven's Shadow (A Raven's Shadow Novel) (Kindle Edition)
Maybe it's because I just expected this book to be a moderately entertaining fantasy novel, with lots of sword wielding, that the superb nature of it sneaked up and mugged me before I realised what was happening. Like lots of fairly prolific readers, I have my 'champions' in my chosen genres. So Bernard Cornwell is unassailable in his mastery of historical fantasy novels and, until now, George RR Martin is just the master at 'medieval fantasy' and the best thriller writer, by far, is Jeffery Deaver. I also confess to a guilty craving for the odd Jeremy Clarkson when I need a boost of irreverent comedy raving but don't tell anyone! Each of these 'masters' tops the list because of something special in their style. But it never occurred to me that there might be an author that could combine elements of these styles in a single book. Until now.

Blood Song is, quite simply, an excellent book when judged by any normal standards. The story is sweeping in scale, the heroes believable and imperfect, enough action to keep the most bloodthirsty satisfied and all told with an engaging and inclusive style. Every element of this book is judged to perfection; just the right amount of romance, gore and a sensible plot line. Too many books of this genre are little more than pastiched computer games in written form but not this one; it has real depth.

The structure of the book in general and the world in which it is set is very close indeed (possibly plagiaristically so) to George RR Martin's A Song of Ice & Fire series (or Game of Thrones as it's better known these days) but Mr Ryan's writing style is so fluid and engaging that this hardly matters. The point is that everything that I love in Mr Martin's books is here too and, here, the action moves a bit more quickly than in GRR's glacial style. Given that GRR Martin is, presently, the top of this tree, that's praise indeed.

But here's the thing. No one writes thrillers like Jeffery Deaver, What is unique is his ability to trick the reader into 'seeing' a story picture that is false. So the last person you suspected is the villain. "That can't be right!" you cry and you re-read sections only to find that, sure enough, the author didn't actually SAY that, you just allowed yourself to follow that route. Furthermore, obscure and unimportant trivia half way through becomes hugely significant at the end. It is delicious stuff and, no matter how many Deaver novels you've read, he will still fool you. Well, that style is evident, in spades, in Blood Song. This isn't just light entertainment, it's a very clever and devious book that will hook you big time. At the end you will be saying "Ah, now I see!".

So what I now have is a fantasy novel that blends the styles of two of my favourite authors into a truly wonderful story; I never thought that it could be done! Each of my 'masters' has achieved that rank through many readings of a large body of work (and it's not always consistent) so I won't depose GRR Martin on the basis of this single effort by Anthony Ryan. But if the next in this series is anything like as good as this, then move over GRR 'cos there's a new king.

By the way, there is another nod to Ice & Fire in that, in Mr Martin's books there is a board game frequently mentioned (called cyvasse). Aficionados asked to be told the rules of this game but Mr M was forced to admit that he never created any rules for this fictitious game as it isn't important to the story, so fans have made up their own (!) In Blood Song, the author uses an appendix to set out the rules of his similar game, keschet.

That this is just the first in a series of these books is clear from the outset and, here, the ending of this book is perfectly set up to lead into the next stage of the saga. The ending isn't clumsy, as is so often the case with series, and the whole pace of the overarching story seems to be leading to a trilogy.

If there is but one complaint, it is one that others have also commented upon; there are lots of quite complex names used throughout. Keeping them straight in your mind is hard enough but the fact that some 'goodies' become 'baddies' (and vice versa) and some characters have more than one name means that the occasional mental pause to gather your thoughts is necessary now and again. But this isn't a book for the stupid so, unless you think that reading more than two books a year makes you a 'swat', the names shouldn't spoil your enjoyment.

I absolutely loved this book and just can't wait for the next in the series. It fully deserves its five stars.
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