Review: Blood Song

Posted: May 15, 2020 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: Anthony Ryan, Dark Fantasy, Fantasy

Seems like forever ago that we had someone comment on the site that we should check out this series. (Bonus points to anyone that knows where that suggestion is located…) So it’s been sitting at the back of my head ever since then, just worrying away at my sanity, while I watched my TBR pile ebb and flow. In fact, I’d all but forgotten about it when I came across an available audio book copy at my local library. Public Libraries ftw yet again.

BLOOD SONG is the first book in the Raven’s Shadow series by Anthony Ryan and looks to have been his first traditionally published fantasy novel. Being at the back end of this read and noting that fact made me pretty impressed indeed. Because the story doesn’t exactly read like someone’s first published novel and this makes me realize that I’ve likely been missing out by not getting to this book, and this author, until now.

Vaelin Al Sorna is a Brother of the Sixth Order, one of the relatively few groups of people trained to provide a service to the realm and their king. Those within the Sixth Order are trained to be ready for battle, to defend the faith of the realm, and to defend those within it. Vaelin was left with the brothers of the Sixth Order when he was still quite young, after his father gave him away rather than deal with him after the death of Vaelin’s mother. This is a fact that grates on Vaelin and drives him to become one of the best that the Order has ever seen.

The story is told within the frame of Vaelin as an adult, now known as the Hope-Killer, as he is transported by boat to another realm to fight a duel to the death. It is fully expected that this fight will end in Vaelin’s death, and as he travels toward his doom, we learn about the events that have led him to this point, from the time that he was left at the door of the Sixth Order until now.

It’s always nice to find an author that can string words together well enough that I can forget about the fact that I’m reading a book and just enjoy the story. Mr. Ryan does a great job of pulling us into his world, filling it with breadth and depth and color that a fully defined world needs. There’s space built into nearly every aspect of the world. From its peoples to its places to its history, everything is laid out and built with a fine touch.

BLOOD SONG is the tale of Vaelin Al Sorna, as he's raised and trained as a Brother of the Sixth Order. A man of strength, honor, and protector of the realm.

Characters are well-wrought and well-defined. Vaelin grows up surrounded by boys of his age that are all learning and training the same as him. They grow to have a true bond of brotherhood and connectedness that I love to see in stories. The bonding of people in a group as they struggle and learn brings a level of commitment and loyalty that comes out in every aspect of who they are.

The magical element in the story, the eponymous Blood Song, only ever plays a minor role in what happens. An important role to be sure, as Vaelin’s access to this magical source leads him to make several decisions that might have otherwise turned out poorly for him. It also leads to him being protected on occasion by a Wolf. However, it’s nothing so in-your-face or ostentatious as you’ll typically find in other fantasy stories. So it’s more like Song of Ice and Fire in that regard, than say, Wheel of Time.

Although I do tend to enjoy stories that are more magical (or at the very least speculative) in nature, I don’t know that my overall opinion of the book fell at all because of what was or was not in this one. The big piece of the story that colored my final opinion was how much “concentrated” story was to be found in it. I don’t come across books like this very often, where so much of the story seems even-keel and ultimately mundane, but they do come along every once in a while. Where even though everything is happening in a new and fascinating world with interesting characters, there’s a lot of story that is very “everyday” to the character of interest, and I end up losing a lot of my excitement about it. Now, when things of note do happen… I mean, this guy really knocks it out of the park. Super good. Loved those moments. It’s just that they end up being so relatively few and far between, and the story is such a big one, that I really didn’t end up getting overly excited about it.

Apparently the author is in the middle of writing a follow-up trilogy to the one that begins with this book and continues the story of Vaelin. I definitely think that his is a story that I’ll continue with, but not necessarily something that I’m going to rush out and buy them all. Yeah? Good solid story that, I think, lots of people will enjoy. Especially those with a love of well-crafted, well-wrought stories that take their time and savor every last step along the way.

  • Recommended Age: 16+
  • Language: Occasionally strong
  • Violence: Lots of death and bloody battle with occasional gore
  • Sex: Several references and a single scene with some detail


  • Chris T. says:

    I’ve read the original trilogy and also the new book ‘The Wolf’s Call’. Unfortunately the first book is the best of them all.

    • Writer Dan says:

      That’s too bad. Did something change about the stories to make them not as good?

      • Chris T. says:

        I don’t want to reveal spoilers so i’ll just say that the next two books focus more on other characters and not so much on Vaelin, also many characters are killed off without being replaced by someone interesting. That’s my opinion anyway. It’s possible that you’ll enjoy them. They’re not bad but i felt that the first book introduced a really interesting world.

        • Writer Dan says:

          Absolutely, and thanks for being cognizant about spoilers. The world was absolutely interesting. Will likely keep the series on my list of TBR, but it’ll stay fairly low priority.

  • Christoph says:

    I have read the three books so far and I really enjoyed them. The world is absolutely interesting. The different faiths and also philosophies of the various peoples creates a lively background. The story makes sense, even the weirder characters are plausible, not always rational, but plausible. As a roleplay DM, I found a lot of it useable and will incorporate characters and scenes in my games.

    But I must also confess, in the follow-up books, I was always waiting for the next Vaelin section. Even if other characters are interesting too, he stays the most important character.

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