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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Review: Blood Song (Raven's Shadow 1) by Anthony Ryan

Blood Song
Series:  Raven's Shadow 1
Publisher:  Ace, July 2, 2013
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 592 pages
Price:  $27.95 (print)
ISBN:  9780425267691 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Blood Song (Raven's Shadow 1) by Anthony Ryan
From “a new master storyteller” comes the beginning of an epic fantasy saga of blood, honor, and destiny…

“The Sixth Order wields the sword of justice and smites the enemies of the Faith and the Realm.”

Vaelin Al Sorna was only a child of ten when his father left him at the iron gate of the Sixth Order. The Brothers of the Sixth Order are devoted to battle, and Vaelin will be trained and hardened to the austere, celibate, and dangerous life of a Warrior of the Faith. He has no family now save the Order.

Vaelin’s father was Battle Lord to King Janus, ruler of the unified realm. Vaelin’s rage at being deprived of his birthright and dropped at the doorstep of the Sixth Order like a foundling knows no bounds. He cherishes the memory of his mother, and what he will come to learn of her at the Order will confound him. His father, too, has motives that Vaelin will come to understand. But one truth overpowers all the rest: Vaelin Al Sorna is destined for a future he has yet to comprehend. A future that will alter not only the realm, but the world.

Trinitytwo’s Point of View:

Vaelin is left at the gates of the Brotherhood of the Sixth Order by his father when he is just 10 years old. Before his father rides away he whispers "Loyalty" to his young son. Vaelin begins training the day of his arrival and, with other boys in his group, must endure strict regimens and even stricter punishments to survive. They are taught that The Brotherhood is now their only family and they must pass various survival tests to prove themselves worthy of remaining behind the relative safety of its gates. During his first test, Vaelin, kills an assassin sent to murder him. A mysterious wolf comes to his aid when, while fleeing, he stumbles upon the assassin's companions. During the next trial, Vaelin hears voices outside his shelter during a blizzard. He comes to the aid of two travelers, a mute girl and a warrior. He finds that they are the Dernier, non-believers of the Way, and are being hunted by Brothers of the Order. An inner voice persuades Vaelin to help aid the travelers and he returns to his Order more confused than before. Blood Song is Vaelin's journey to fulfill his destiny. What is this mysterious voice Vaelin hears, and how does the wolf fit in? There are many factions at work and Vaelin's journey is one of brotherhood, faith, unseen opposing forces, ruthlessness, love and ultimately truth.

Blood Song is the type of book I always search for, but so seldom find. It’s the tale of a well fleshed out hero whose journey to manhood, quest for knowledge and pursuit of destiny are fraught with peril. Anthony Ryan's world building skill is flawless. It takes little effort to imagine yourself in Vaelin's Unified Realm and see people and places through his eyes. It is hard to believe that Ryan is a debut author. This story reads like a masterpiece of sights and sounds; battles and blood; longing and honor. After the first chapter, I tried to savor each page because I knew this was the kind of book that you don't want to end. There are 575 pages, but I found myself wishing for 500 more. The journey was magical, but magic combined with harsh realism. I could almost hear the creak of leather, the grunt of men, the crackling of fire. I could almost smell smoke, horse and soldier's sweat, the perfume of flowers in a secret garden. The sensations were tangible and each page sprang to life. Reading the last page filled me with elation and sadness, excitement and impatience for the next book. Blood Song is epic fantasy at its brightest and best. I absolutely loved everything about this novel.

Blood Song is a remarkable and wonderful book, and frankly, the best fantasy I have read all year.

Read our interview with Anthony Ryan here.

Review: Red Planet Blues by Robert J. Sawyer - July 23, 2013

Red Planet Blues
Author:  Robert J. Sawyer
Publisher:  Ace Hardcover, March 26, 2013
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 368 pages
Price:  $25.95 (print)
ISBN:  9780425256824 (print)
Review Copy: Provided by the Publisher

Review: Red Planet Blues by Robert J. Sawyer - July 23, 2013
Robert J. Sawyer, the author of such “revelatory and thought-provoking”* novels as Triggers and The WWW Trilogy, presents a noir mystery expanded from his Hugo and Nebula Award-nominated novella “Identity Theft” and his Aurora Award-winning short story “Biding Time,” and set on a lawless Mars in a future where everything is cheap, and life is even cheaper…

Alex Lomax is the one and only private eye working the mean streets of New Klondike, the Martian frontier town that sprang up forty years ago after Simon Weingarten and Denny O’Reilly discovered fossils on the Red Planet. Back on Earth, where anything can be synthesized, the remains of alien life are the most valuable of all collectibles, so shiploads of desperate treasure hunters stampeded to Mars in the Great Martian Fossil Rush.

Trying to make an honest buck in a dishonest world, Lomax tracks down killers and kidnappers among the failed prospectors, corrupt cops, and a growing population of transfers—lucky stiffs who, after striking paleontological gold, upload their minds into immortal android bodies. But when he uncovers clues to solving the decades- old murders of Weingarten and O’Reilly, along with a journal that may lead to their legendary mother lode of Martian fossils, God only knows what he’ll dig up...

*The Globe and Mail

Trinitytwo’s point of view:

New Klondike, a domed frontier town reminiscent of the old west, was built on Mars after two explorers discover the first Martian fossils and bring them back to Earth. As actual evidence of extra-terrestrial life, these fossils are the ultimate status symbol, making them the most valuable treasure in the universe. “The Great Martian Fossil Rush” ensues, but good specimens are a rarity. The “Alpha Deposit” or mother lode is still out there but the secret of its location has died with the two original fossil hunters, Weingarten and O’Reilly. Or has it? Enter Alex Lomax, Private Eye. Things are slow until a client comes in with a missing persons case. While searching for clues, a paleontologist hires Lomax because he is suspicious of NewYou, a company that “transfers” biological minds into virtually immortal bodies for a hefty sum. Add another client with ties to the original explorers, and the private eye finds his dance card full. Lomax knows there is a common thread but between dodging bullets and escaping hit men, he just hopes he can solve the mysteries and collect his fees without getting killed in the process.

SciFi noir at its best! I knew I was onto something epic when Star Wars was referenced in the first few pages. Alex Lomax is a futuristic gumshoe with an endearing penchant for old movies, topless barmaids, (one in particular who has caught his eye and a tiny piece of his heart), and snappy comebacks. He is as funny as he is fearless. Red Planet Blues started out almost ten years ago as a prize winning novella called “Identity Theft." I am so excited that Robert J. Sawyer decided to give Private Eye, Alex Lomax a second chance in the lime light! This book is such a superb romp on the red planet that I reread it for this review with the excuse that I needed to check facts. The truth of the matter is that I may have fallen slightly in love with Lomax. His self-deprecating humor amid murder attempts and mayhem have completely won me over. If possible, I’d hop the next spaceship and journey to Mars just so I could hang out with Lomax and have a few drinks, cognizant of the fact that I’d be buying. Sawyer’s delightful combination of action and humor make this suspenseful tale of crime on Mars one of my top reads this year.

Review: Blood Song (Raven's Shadow 1) by Anthony RyanReview: Red Planet Blues by Robert J. Sawyer - July 23, 2013

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