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A blog about books and other things speculative

Review: Queen of Fire by Anthony Ryan

Queen of Fire
Author:  Anthony Ryan
Series:  Raven's Shadow 3
Publisher:  Ace, July 7, 2015
Formats:  Hardcover and eBook, 656 pages
List Price$28.95 (Hardcover); $14.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780425265642 (Hardcover); 9781101612989 (eBook)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Author
Trade Paperback to be published on June 7, 2016

Review: Queen of Fire by Anthony Ryan
In the thrilling conclusion to the “deftly and originally executed” (Booklist) New York Times bestselling trilogy, Vaelin Al Sorna must help his Queen reclaim her Realm. Only his enemy has a dangerous new collaborator, one with powers darker than Vaelin has ever encountered…

“The Ally is there, but only ever as a shadow, unexplained catastrophe or murder committed at the behest of a dark vengeful spirit. Sorting truth from myth is often a fruitless task.”

After fighting back from the brink of death, Queen Lyrna is determined to repel the invading Volarian army and regain the independence of the Unified Realm. Except, to accomplish her goals, she must do more than rally her loyal supporters. She must align herself with forces she once found repugnant—those who possess the strange and varied gifts of the Dark—and take the war to her enemy’s doorstep.

Victory rests on the shoulders of Vaelin Al Sorna, now named Battle Lord of the Realm. However, his path is riddled with difficulties. For the Volarian enemy has a new weapon on their side, one that Vaelin must destroy if the Realm is to prevail—a mysterious Ally with the ability to grant unnaturally long life to her servants. And defeating one who cannot be killed is a nearly impossible feat, especially when Vaelin’s blood-song, the mystical power which has made him the epic fighter he is, has gone ominously silent…

Trinitytwo's Point of View

Queen of Fire is the third and final book in the Raven's Shadow series by Anthony Ryan. Blood Song, book one, and Tower Lord, book two, should definitely be read first. If you haven’t had the
chance, start there. They are remarkable epic fantasies.

Queen Lyrna awakes to find she is miraculously healed through the power of one of the Gifted. Realizing these people are to be valued, not put to death as wielders of the Dark, she rescinds the old law at an assembly of her supporters and her newly unified army. There, she rallies her people to march to Varinshold and retake the Unified Realm's capital from the Volarian invaders, seeking justice for the death and torture inflicted upon them through the malignant machinations of the Ally . Lady Governess Reva Mustor, has warily accepted the mantle of Blessed Lady by the masses and makes plans to lead a contingency of her own to join the Queen's crusade. Meanwhile Frentis and his group of fighters also make for Varinshold, continuing on their quest to retake cities lost to the Volarian invasion along the way. Frentis is haunted by dreams of his former master, the woman who through a dark binding forced him on a rampage of murder that culminated in the assassination of King Malcius and his family and the horrific burning of Lyrna. He is well aware that when he reaches Varinshold and the Queen, he will face judgment for the crimes he committed, albeit against his will. Vaelin, the queen's Battle Lord, receives instructions to seek the Song of a man who cannot die, to learn the true nature of the immortal Ally in order to defeat him and bring balance back into the world. Since he no longer has a Song of his own, he must now rely on the aid of other Gifted to find the answers he seeks and his mission takes him on a hazardous journey far to the east. All paths are fraught with peril and bloodshed and ultimately lead to a final showdown at the great arena in Volar with the fate of humanity hanging in the balance.

Finishing Queen of Fire, the epic conclusion to Anthony Ryan's high fantasy trilogy, left me with a mixed bag of thoughts and feelings. Truth be told, I was slightly let down. Not because it was a bad book, or had a bad ending but because by the conclusion, many of the characters didn't matter to me. They seemed to have lost their heart and soul. Part of the problem was that there were so many characters that I had a hard time keeping track of who I was reading about. I understand why multiple POV's were introduced; the scope of this novel necessitated it. But when they died or suffered I felt no connection or loss. They failed to matter to me. Another problem was the war itself. Ryan did a fantastic job of describing the brutality and waste of human life that is war, but after a while it became business as usual. The shock value was lost to me, and so it seemed, to some of the story's characters.

That being said I was truly impressed with the novel's complexities and Ryan's masterful orchestration of its considerable characters and events. I loved the complicated relationship between Frentis and the horror show of a woman who was once his master. Their connection through dreams ranged from uncomfortable to perverse, but ultimately it was inspired. I found Queen Lyrna's inner dialogue fascinating as she experienced the power rush of her newly minted monarchy. I also really enjoyed Reva's story arc, and her character's strength of will and legendary fighting skills kept me rooting for her. On the other hand, I was disappointed that Vaelin, the darling of Blood Song, who after being sent out to the frozen wastelands to discover more about the Ally, became simply another ensemble player.

However, even with all my complaints I still think it's quality reading. Anthony Ryan will draw you into the world he created and it will hold you in its thrall. Ryan truly is a brilliant writer; Vaelin will always remain high on my list of favorite all-time literary characters. I would definitely recommend the series to lovers of high fantasy although, at 637 pages for this book alone, be prepared to invest a good chunk of time. I am truly looking forward to reading more from Anthony Ryan in the future.


Blood Song
Raven's Shadow 1
Ace, February 3, 2015
Trade Paperback, 592 pages
Previously published in Hardcover and eBook, July 2013
Previously published in Mass Market Paperback, June 2014

Review: Queen of Fire by Anthony Ryan
“Fans of broadscale epic fantasy along the lines of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series and George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire novels should find this debut much to their liking.”—Library Journal
The first in the “powerful” ( New York Times bestselling series

Vaelin Al Sorna was only a child of ten when his father left him at the iron gate of the Sixth Order—a caste devoted to battle. 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—and Vaelin’s rage at being deprived of his birthright knows no bounds. Even his cherished memories of his mother are soon challenged by what he learns within the Order.

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.

See Trinitytwo's review here.

Tower Lord
Raven's Shadow 2
Ace, June 2, 2015
Trade Paperback, 624 pages
Previously published in Hardcover and eBook, July 2014

Review: Queen of Fire by Anthony Ryan
New York Times bestselling author Anthony Ryan returns to the “wonderful universe” (Fantasy Book Critic) of Blood Song, as Vaelin Al Sorna continues on his inevitable road to destiny…

King Janus’s vision of a Unified Realm has failed, drowned in the blood of brave men fighting for a cause that was forged from a lie. Sick at heart, Vaelin Al Sorna, warrior of the Sixth Order, returns home, determined to kill no more, seeking peace far from the intrigues of a troubled Realm.

But those gifted with the blood-song are not destined to live quiet lives. Vaelin finds himself a target, both for those seeking revenge and those who know about his gift. And as a great threat once again moves against the Realm, Vaelin realizes that when faced with annihilation, even the most reluctant hand must eventually draw a sword.

See Trinitytwo's review here.

Tracey/Trinitytwo’s Favorites of 2014

Tracey/Trinitytwo’s Favorites of 2014

Tracey/Trinitytwo’s Favorites of 2014
William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Trilogy: The Royal Imperial Boxed Set by Ian Doescher is my top choice for humor. The gorgeous set, which was released this October, includes Verily a New HopeThe Empire Striketh Back, and The Jedi Doth Return. This series delivers laughs along with a few tugs on your heartstrings. Who would have thought iambic pentameter combined with Star Wars would be the books you’re looking for? (See TrintyTwo's reviews of the Star Wars Trilogy here.)

Tracey/Trinitytwo’s Favorites of 2014
My favorite sci fi for 2014 is The Enceladus Crisis by Michael J. Martinez. Why is it a standout? It’s smart and exciting with the added bonus that Martinez created characters I care about. I really enjoyed its unique historical fiction meets sci fi element. (See TrinityTwo's review of The Enceladus Crisis here.)

Tracey/Trinitytwo’s Favorites of 2014Tracey/Trinitytwo’s Favorites of 2014

Looking for exceptional adventures? You’re in luck as I have two in the fantasy category. Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan and The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley are such brilliant fantasies that I simply must mention both. Staveley and Ryan are both wonderful world builders and although I give Tower Lord a slight edge, The Emperor’s Blades is an extremely close second. (See TrinityTwo's reviews of Tower Lord here and The Emperor's Blades here.)

I’d like to give honorable mentions to three more books that I really enjoyed this year: White Heart of Justice by Jill Archer (review), Night Owls by Lauren M. Roy (review) and Phoenix Island by John Dixon (review) . I think I am bending Sally’s rules a bit but I read a lot of really good books. If you haven’t done so already, get out there and buy a book! You deserve it.

Tracey/Trinitytwo’s Favorites of 2014Tracey/Trinitytwo’s Favorites of 2014Tracey/Trinitytwo’s Favorites of 2014

Review: Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan

Tower Lord
Author:  Anthony Ryan
Series:  Raven's Shadow 2
Publisher:  Ace, July 1, 2014
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 624 pages
List Price:  $28.95 (print)
ISBN:  9780425265628 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Author

Review: Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan
In Blood Song, Anthony Ryan introduced readers to “a fascinating world of conflicting religions and the wars fought in the name of those faiths” (Library Journal). Now Ryan’s epic tale continues as Vaelin Al Sorna discovers that there is no escape from the call of destiny…

“The blood-song rose with an unexpected tune, a warm hum mingling recognition with an impression of safety. He had a sense it was welcoming him home.”

Vaelin Al Sorna, warrior of the Sixth Order, called Darkblade, called Hope Killer. The greatest warrior of his day, and witness to the greatest defeat of his nation: King Janus’s vision of a Greater Unified Realm drowned in the blood of brave men fighting for a cause Vaelin alone knows was forged from a lie. Sick at heart, he comes home, determined to kill no more. Named Tower Lord of the Northern Reaches by King Janus’s grateful heir, he can perhaps find peace in a colder, more remote land far from the intrigues of a troubled Realm.

But those gifted with the blood-song are never destined to live a quiet life. Many died in King Janus’s wars, but many survived, and Vaelin is a target, not just for those seeking revenge but for those who know what he can do. The Faith has been sundered, and many have no doubt who their leader should be. The new King is weak, but his sister is strong. The blood-song is powerful, rich in warning and guidance in times of trouble, but is only a fraction of the power available to others who understand more of its mysteries. Something moves against the Realm, something that commands mighty forces, and Vaelin will find to his great regret that when faced with annihilation, even the most reluctant hand must eventually draw a sword.

Trinitytwo's Point of View

Tower Lord is the second book in the Raven’s Shadow series by Anthony Ryan.  Blood Song, Book One, should be read first. If you haven’t had the chance, go read it. It is phenomenal. (Review here.)

Vaelin Al Sorna’s journey continues in Tower Lord. In my mind, this book is all about journeys. It is written in multiple POVs which aids in giving the reader a comprehensive view of the vast and complex happenings in the Unified Realm. When we first encounter Vaelin, he is being followed by Reva, a devout follower of the World Father. Her mission: to recover the sword known as Trueblade and return it to the priest who has beaten obedience, knife fighting, and tracking skills into her since she was a young girl. The story then picks up with Frentis, Brother of the Sixth Order and close friend to Vaelin. Frentis, a captive of the war loving Volarians, is chosen by a woman of brutal martial skills and is forced, by a magical binding, to obey her every ruthless order. The book then moves to Princess Lyrna Al Nieren, whose own diplomatic mission begins in the northern regions of her brother’s realm but ends up in an unexpected place with unforeseen obstacles. As in Blood Song, the reader is privy to certain events through Verniers, formerly the Alpiran Imperial Chronicler, currently reduced to the station of slave/scribe and at the mercy of the Volarian General whose ship is poised to crush the city of Alltor.

Confused? I admit to being confused a couple of times. While the various POVs allow the reader to understand the intricate plot on a more intimate scale, they also make it difficult to keep track of minor characters. But not for long, as Anthony Ryan is a master storyteller and through his narrative everything falls into place. For me, the POVs were important because they allowed the main characters to have a voice and through that voice, express their motivations, desires and conscience. Tower Lord is a dense piece of literature and turned out to be quite a hefty investment of time for me. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I am in awe of Ryan’s world building skills and can honestly place him with my all-time favorites: J.R.R. Tolkien, Joan D. Vinge and Frank Herbert, to name a few.

Blood Song was my favorite fantasy of 2013 and Tower Lord is the best fantasy I have read thus far in 2014. Every element is exquisitely wrought and in my mind there are no superfluous details. I love being immersed in this world and can freely admit to developing deep emotional bonds to many of its characters. Tower Lord is high fantasy at its best. There were unexpected endearing moments, callous assassinations, and uncomfortable brutal images. As one would expect with war, many characters are tortured, maimed or killed, but these events are not described in a horrifically graphic or gory manner, so the queasy can rest at ease. There were deaths that I mourned and others that I celebrated. I wasn’t too far into this book when it dawned on me that I was reading something special. To me, Ryan’s greatest gift is that he makes everything seem tangible. Once again, I am transported into his world where I can see determination in an eye, hear the agonized cries of the grieving, feel the spray of the sea, and smell the acrid smoke of a fire raging out of control. This feeling doesn’t happen often; it is truly a magical experience and one that deserves special recognition.

Interview with Anthony Ryan, author of Blood Song (Raven's Shadow 1) - July 2, 2013

Please welcome Anthony Ryan to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge Interviews.  Blood Song (Raven's Shadow 1) is published today in the US by Ace.  Happy Publication Day to Anthony!

Interview with Anthony Ryan, author of Blood Song (Raven's Shadow 1) - July 2, 2013

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery.

Anthony:  Thank you, happy to be here.

TQ:  When and why did you start writing?

Anthony:  I can't really remember a time when I wasn't writing something. Writing assignments were always the one thing I scored well in at school and as I got older and I read more, writing for a living became something of an ambition. I didn't really start writing in earnest until my twenties though, whereupon I embarked upon the time honoured pursuit of collecting rejection slips.

TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Anthony:  Probably my tendency to get totally immersed when writing. It doesn't happen all the time, but there are days when I'll sit down to start writing in the morning and won't surface until late evening having no sensation of time having passed in the interval. It's why, unlike a lot of writers, I don't listen to music when writing because I just don't hear it.

Also, before starting a new book, I go to the crossroads on the moors at midnight and sacrifice a cat to the dark gods... Just kidding. It's two cats. The dark gods wouldn't be satisfied with just one.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Anthony:  I started out as a pantser but have gradually developed into a plotter. Blood Song was the first book I wrote where I sat down and laid out a plot summary. It was only one page long and I didn't look at it again for the duration of writing the book, but I wanted the security of having an ending before I started. For the second book, Tower Lord, I wrote a much more extensive chapter by chapter outline which was certainly a great help in finishing the book in less than a year. The plan for the third book, currently titled Queen of Fire, is even more extensive. That being said, I will often deviate wildly from the plan when writing the first draft as better ideas inevitably occur to me. For shorter works, like my Slab City Blues novellas, the outline usually consists of a couple of paragraphs and I'm even more likely to deviate from it during writing.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Anthony:  Probably the trepidation before starting the next book. Once I start I'm fine but the run-up period can be somewhat nerve-inducing. Like a runner before the starting gun I guess, although it's been a while since I ran anywhere.

TQ:  Describe Blood Song (Raven's Shadow 1) in 140 characters or less.

Anthony:  It’s a little over the tweet limit but I can't do better than the following lines of dialogue from Master Sollis, which sums up the book without revealing any spoilers:

“We have fought battles that left more than a hundred corpses on the ground and not a word of it has ever been set down. The Order fights, but often it fights in shadow, without glory or reward. We have no banners.”

TQ:  What inspired you to write Blood Song?

Anthony:  It's always difficult to pin down the exact genesis of an idea, especially one I started writing over nine years ago now. I do recall having a yen to write a fantasy novel and conceived a character who was part of a secretive warrior brotherhood of some kind. It didn't really start to gel until I introduced the concept of it being a militant religious order. Themes of religious conflict and political intrigue were also at the forefront of my mind, like many of us in the post-9/11 era.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Blood Song?

Anthony:  I've always been a history buff and was actually studying part-time for a history degree when writing Blood Song, which definitely helped when it came to formulating a believable world complete with its own power structure and system of government. Specific research involved reading books on medieval warfare, mainly to add some credibility to the military aspects of the book: archery is a very difficult skill to master; horses need to be fed; large armies are unlikely to cover more than twenty miles a day on the march - that kind of thing.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Anthony:  Vaelin is the main character and the only point-of-view for the majority of the book, so I supposed I'd have to say he was the easiest because I got to know him the best. However, I probably had the most fun writing King Janus, the dreadful old schemer.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Blood Song?

Anthony:  I think Vaelin's interactions with King Janus and Princess Lyrna work really well. I also enjoyed the camaraderie between Vaelin and his brothers in the Order; their trials and tribulations during the first third of the book give it a narrative drive which, hopefully, carries through to the end.

TQ:  What's next?

AnthonyTower Lord has been delivered and is now with my editor. In answer to the daily question received via my blog, I don't know when it'll come out but summer 2014 is probably the best bet. I'm currently writing Book 3 after which I'll need to think about something else to write about for the next ten years, although I'm certainly not short of ideas. There'll probably be a final installment in the Slab City Blues series in due course, I'm currently thinking in terms of a full-length novel but it'll be dependent on other commitments.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Anthony:  It was my pleasure.

About Blood Song

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)
(US Debut)

Interview with Anthony Ryan, author of Blood Song (Raven's Shadow 1) - July 2, 2013
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.

About Anthony

Interview with Anthony Ryan, author of Blood Song (Raven's Shadow 1) - July 2, 2013

Anthony Ryan was born in Scotland in 1970 but spent much of his adult life living and working in London. After a long career in the British Civil Service he took up writing full time after the success of his first novel Blood Song, Book One of the Raven’s Shadow trilogy. He has a degree in history, and his interests include art, science and the unending quest for the perfect pint of real ale.

Website  ~  Twitter @writer_anthony
Review: Queen of Fire by Anthony RyanTracey/Trinitytwo’s Favorites of 2014Review: Tower Lord by Anthony RyanInterview with Anthony Ryan, author of Blood Song (Raven's Shadow 1) - July 2, 2013

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