I'm currently behind on reviews, so don't be surprised if the recent reviews are a bit sparse.

Blood Song

Cover of Blood Song.

Blood Song is the start of the Raven’s Shadow series by Anthony Ryan. It was hard to make up my mind about this book โ€“ it changed a lot over the course of the story.

We start off with a young protagonist who is given by his family to an order of warrior monks to be trained. And while the worldbuilding (which is only hinted at at this point) is solid, we get a third of a book’s worth of a mix of brutal Hogwarts and training sequences. This isn’t bad per se, but I started to see this book as one of those guilty pleasure fantasy reads: I’m a sucker for training stories, and I know it, and that’s fine.

But then our protagonist grows up, and joins the wider world, and has to contest with larger issues than just learning and fighting and dealing with the occasional attempt on his life. This part tends to skip long stretches of time, years at times, and only shows us the highlights of our protagonist’s experiences in his adult life. And then, the last part of the book follows him into battle, and has him face (and eventually follow) his moral qualms. All the while the worldbuilding is growing wider and deeper. The content of this book could have easily made a trilogy in the current state of Fantasy, so I’m very happy to see this amount of storytelling. Going from a young boy in training, via a young adult struggling with the world, to an adult who stands up for his convictions is no new story by far โ€“ but Ryan presents it without making it feel stale. Part of that is that the protagonist isn’t always right โ€“ he’s certainly capable, and not stupid by far, but he does make mistakes, and not only ones that spell “I’m only a mistake to advance the plot”.

So, yes, if you’re into fantasy that makes use of known tropes without being stale or boring, you should definitely check this one out!