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4.7 out of 5 stars
726
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 30 June 2014
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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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 April 2014
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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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 6 May 2017
WOW, an astonishing first book in the series and most definitely its high point. I have cracked through most of the big and smaller names names in the fantasy genera and this one has fallen under my radar until now. I am writing this review after having read the whole trilogy back to back over a span of a week (yes my eye's hurt now) and this book is top stuff.

This book follows Vaelin Al Sorna, and his growth through a order and eventual fights. As the blurb may indicate he is inducted into the apex group of leaders / worrier order and to this effect we see him grow from a young boy into a leader towards the end of the book. The initial part of the book is all about growth and this is fleshed out in tantalising detail, yet unlike many other books, they details do not feel weighed down or unnecessary padding, it works well. The training regime and brutality of it also serves to create bonds between Vaelin and other member's of the groups which feels genuine and also develops throughout.

Throughout the book you see morality in plenty of shades of black and white and everything in between and this is written very well, with plenty of characters motives not becoming apparent until the book is fleshed out. We also see the elements of a larger overarching story and while it does finish sooner then I would like, it does transition well into the second book.

Overall, this book is amazing and a smashing entry in the Trilogy. Sadly however this is the highlight of the trilogy with book two being slightly weaker and book three being absolutely shambolic that I nearly cried and had to read other reviews part way through to ensure I was not going mad. In that sense it makes it hard to judge this book fairly as a standalone book, if I was not writing this review having already read the others, it would earn 4.5 stars (will round to 5 in this case) but as a whole series, it really comes out to 3.5 stars, never have I seen a series that drops off in quality so significantly and that includes Wheel Of Times middle books which go off the rails.
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on 15 August 2016
The book is interesting to read. The only thing is. I don't think it was ever meant to be a series. The book is about Vealin. As for the 2nd book I'm reading now, it is purely dragging it out for money reasons I suspect. The story of Vaelin is finished but the author introduces a couple new characters and explores some old ones. The fact is that I don't care to read about them. They aren't interesting. I find myself skipping whole chapters of the 2nd book just to read the chapters titled Vaelin. The 1st book I could not put down. The 2nd I just want to find out the conclusion of Vaelin. The 1st book was interesting and fast paced, the ending is left open and I'm shocked that Vaelin didn't just leave with girl. The 2nd book is so dragged out and waffling that I can't bring myself to read it. I know this review talks about both books but you need to know the comparison. Book 1 - Vaelin. Book 2 - Vaelin and other characters you don't care for to fill the pages and make it a series to get more money from anyone hooked on book 1 and just wanting to know the ending. If I knew this I would have tried to find a synopsis.
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on 21 January 2014
Ok..so you may see a bit of Abercrombie, Rothfuss, Lynch and Gemmell in there ...and your problem is?? I Chose this based on the excellent amazon customer reviews and was not in the least disappointed. An absolute gem of a read. Perhaps a few more than the usual amount of grammatical errors, but who really cares when you're being given a story as good as this with strong characters that you care about and a pace which just keeps you reading and reading..... This was my first read on my new Kindle paperwhite [great too by the way] but beware, because you won't get Amazon's quoted figure for use before recharging if you read this, because you won't turn it off. More than once after not being able to keep my eyes open at night and having waken later during the night I started reading again....just one more chapter... Not many books have done that to me.
For storyline read other and far more eloquent and informed reviewers, If you are selective in this genre like me and like your fantasy with more than a hint of substance with not much more than a smattering of magic, try this. Yes there were certain similarities in style and content with the aforementioned and a bit of "Left hand of God" in there too, but there's nothing wrong with any of that in my opinion. This author has obviously troubled himself to learn what makes a damned good story and how a good story should be told and the reviews bear this out. I believe this is the authors first novel and self published?... if so, another pat on the back is due. The last few years have produced some excellent firsts and this well deservedly joins them. I eagerly await the next installment of what has been a great start.
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on 20 July 2016
Blood song has a great vision but for me doesn't hit all the marks, I find where aspects of the book get my curiosity stirring and want me to find out more, it never really satisfies my need for fulfilment.
I enjoyed the build and the characters were interesting, the story is good but promised a lot more, Blood song prepares you for an adventure but the plots never lead to the explosive climax that you expect.
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on 4 August 2014
Very interesting book which describes the early life of the main character and how he became the man / legend he is. I only gave four stars as the story develops quite strangely almost as though the author developed the story / changed his mind as to the outcome. That's only my opinion but the developments don't seem to quite fit. After being away from fantasy novels for sometime this was a great intro back into the fold, looking forward to the next book
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on 6 June 2017
Excellent book with an intriguing world. I only wish I hadn't read any of the other books in the series as this one was near perfect. The others were severely lacking.
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on 30 March 2015
Complex multi-faceted plot, many strong characters, and beautiful writing make this a superb read. 'Blood Song' is a remarkable creative achievement. It is 'Game of Thrones' meets 'Hunger Games' with 'Golden Compass' frosting and rivals Paolini's 'Inheritance' trilogy for all-consuming escapism. I'm off to buy book two...
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on 14 April 2015
Ryan, has weaved a wonderfully gripping and imaginative tale. His characters come to life with depth and feeling, you can't help but be swept along on the journey he takes his characters.
For readers of Fantasy this is a must. Anthony Ryans stories remind me of the late great David Gimmel
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