Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Blood Song Blood Song
by Anthony Ryan

Supplied for review by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed By: Jan Butterworth
Simon Litten

A scribe opens the book journeying on a ship while recording the story of The Hope Killer. The Hope was the popular heir to the Emperor’s throne, much loved by his people until he was slain in battle. As The Hope Killer tells his story to the scribe, we see it in flashbacks.

Vealin Al Sorna was a young boy when his mother died and he was not close to his father, the King’s Battle Lord. One day his father takes him to an imposing guarded gate and leaves, having given him to the Sixth Order, soldier who are defenders of the faith. The Order takes in boys to train as soldiers and Vaelin grows up there with his brothers. The trainees take tests every year pass to the next level of training or die trying.

Michael J Sullivan recommended this book so I had to read it and it was well worth the time it took. A very large book, the story is an epic fantasy that tells the story of how a boy became a legend. The plot is strong, with many twists and turns and ‘of course’ moments. The characters are engaging and there is a loyal dog – awww. The ending had some interesting revelations and I look to continuing The Hope Killer’s journey.

I highly recommend this book if you enjoy epic fantasy tales.

- Jan Butterworth

Blood Song is Anthony Ryan’s first book and originally started life as an e-book before being picked up by Orbit for print publication. I think Orbit has made a very wise choice in backing Mr Ryan’s writing talents.

Blood Song is a story in six synergistic parts. There are the five formal parts of the novel plus the commentary by and conversation between the central character and an historian-cum-archivist, who is seeking to get the enemy’s point of view after a turbulent little war. Each part adds a layer that if missed takes that bit extra away from the whole.

The story of Blood Song is nothing unusual. Boy is trained from young age in martial arts and finds he has a natural talent for them. He is preternatural gifted in a society that fears such gifts and must hide his ability. Over the years, and at odd intervals, he is singled out with murderous intent by a party or parties unknown. And all through this he turns into a character that I, as reader, grew to care about and want to know where-to-now young hero?

However, the delivery is unusual as it plots a path to known failure by way of past successes. This device left this reader wondering how the hero fell so low as to be a prisoner of war given his potentially glittering future as the story progresses. The five parts are told in flashback telling the reader about the life and making of a hero to be, while the bridging commentaries at the start of each part presage and expand upon a failure of monumental proportions. Not the normal projectory at all for a hero.

Of late I have become jaded with the heroic fantasy novel. Through his use of current failure with flashbacks of success Anthony Ryan has freshened my reading pallet and I am looking forward to any further books in this, the Raven’s Shadow, sequence. A piquant dish that can be taken as either first course in a series or by itself as a standalone story, but I would strongly recommend the former choice.

-Simon Litten

SFFANZ is a non-profit organisation and registered charity
designed to bring together fans of the fantastic in New Zealand

Contact us by email at: