Raven’s Shadow – Review

Publisher: Indie
Genre: Fantasy
 
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Book Description:

Publication Date: January 21, 2012
An epic fantasy exploring themes of conflict, loyalty and religious faith. Vaelin Al Sorna, Brother of the Sixth Order, has been trained from childhood to fight and kill in service to the Faith. He has earned many names and almost as many scars, acquiring an ugly dog and a bad-tempered horse in the process. Ensnared in an unjust war by a king possessed of either madness or genius, Vaelin seeks to answer the question that will decide the fate of the Realm: …who is the one who waits?

Blood Song is the first volume of Raven’s Shadow – a new epic fantasy of war, intrigue and tested faith.

 
 
Review:  I had once again began to lose hope in the indie publishing field, having been disappointed with the last few indie books I’ve read.  A few of them started with great promise, but left me quite disappointed in the end.  But all hope was not lost, at least not since stumbling across Raven’s Shadow by Anthony Ryan. I haven’t been this excited about an indie book since Progeny by Ryan Kaelin (http://www.rtkaelin.com ).  What is it with Ryans writing exceptional stories?  Anyway …on with the review.
 
The story starts with our protagonist, Vaelin Al Sorna – known as a Brother of the 6th Order, the Sword of the Realm, Young Hawk, Darkblade, Beral Shak Ur, and Hope Killer, being led as a prisoner by Lord Verniers Alshe Someren, Imperial Chronicler, First of the Learned and honored servant to the Empire, to face a judgment by a country and people whom his Battle Lord father had almost decimated when he was but a small child.  Already prejudiced against him for being the son of their most hated rival, Vaelin is also the killer of their beloved Hope, the successor to the Emperor’s throne in their latest skirmish with King Janus and the Realm. As they travel across the sea to face a trial by conquest, Vaelin tells this chronicler the story of his life and how the most hated of villains he became.
 
This prologue pulled me right into the story and piqued my interest to the point I just had to read on.  That’s one of the formula’s I love best – have a despicable state of being and then go back and show me how one achieved such a state.  It is the basic fundamental aspect of humanity – to understand how someone reaches a certain state in their life, either deplorable or exceptional, so we can better understand and see the path to that destruction or success and apply the principles to our own lives. 
 
The real story begins with Vaelin as a mere child dealing the death of his mother, along with losing that innocent childhood, as his Battle Lord father abandons him to the Brothers of the Sixth Order, a sect of the Faith that focuses primarily on the art of war.  It is his time with the Sixth Order that we fall in love with Vaelin, and his other brothers, as they are transformed from weak, innocent boys, into a close-nit team of merciless assassins.  We are carried right along with Vaelin as he develops his skills, face his trials, and nurtures the hate for the father that abandoned him.   You can’t help but root for him and his Order brothers as they transform from the fearful into the greatly feared.  Anthony Ryan does an excellent job of sewing the reader so perfectly secure into all the emotion and action that has you completely solidified and connected with the protagonist.
 
What is a great adventure without a little love to soften the hardness, – bring a little light into the darkness, than to have a splash of romance?  I love the way the author didn’t douse the reader in sappy syrup, but sprinkled just enough to allow the sweetness to be savored on top of the spice.  My mind went into three different directions on this aspect of the story, but I’m very pleased with how it turned it out.  I loved the twists and turns the story took, but can’t express how much I loved how the author kept the priorities in line.  This is usually where a writer plunges off an unseen cliff, especially with epic fantasies – they allow the romance to overcome and dominate the story, instead of balancing it.  It’s hard to do, because it’s so easy to get carried away with emotion, but Anthony Ryan handled it very well.  At least, I’m well pleased.  I hate seeing a great super strong character lose all his strength and integrity for a woman.  As a woman, I want a strong-willed man; not a limp-wristed, love sick puppy.  A valiant warrior, who has strength to lead and fight, must also have strength of mind, yet time and time again you find these oxymorons posed as heroes, men who can stand against all the world, but can’t say no to a woman???  Okay, time to move away from this particular rant and on with the review.
 
There is another twist I absolutely LOVED in this story, but I don’t want to say too much about it because it will give it away.  Let’s just say – I didn’t see it coming, and it broke my heart – literally.  THAT is hard to do.  I’ve read and written so many stories that I’m rarely surprised, but in this – I was absolutely blown away.  Not only was the foundation and story thread brilliantly laid, but exceptionally executed.  Well done, Anthony!  If I had any criticism of this entire story, it would be this: Put it through one more round of edits (especially where commas are concerned) and get this traditionally published so it can receive greater exposure. 
 
I don’t know Mr. Ryan, but I’ve come to admire his work, just as I know you will too if you dare to delve into the adventure of Raven’s Song. 
 
Till next time,
~T.L. Gray
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