I opened the book, and right on the first page I encountered a chronicler jotting down the events taking place in first person. For a moment I assumed that the book deals with one of those historical accounts. The first thing that came to mind was the Peloponnesian War.
I thought it was a hard read as I turned the first few pages and questioned myself if I would be ever able to read it to the end. However, I was proved wrong. Soon I became engrossed as the main characters began to emerge. Slowly, it dawned on me that this is a fantasy epic with an engaging plot and storyline. And just like a fantasy game, it was gripping, thrilling, intriguing and exciting — with lots of blood and gore, not to forget love and passion as well.
Although the account of the chronicler is in first person, as narrated to him by the main protagonist, the author has done a very good job to keep the prose succinct with a halo of mystery.
So naturally, on finishing one chapter, I could not take a break and stop there. I wanted to know what happens next? Who is the next kill? Will Vaelin Al Sorna rise up to the challenge? Will he fall or unite the Realm?
The story revolves around Vaelin Al Sorna, Brother of the Sixth Order, and Lord Verniers Alishe Someren — Imperial Chronicler, First of the Learned and honoured servant of the Emperor — who is ordered by the king to write in detail the execution of Vaelin.
Vaelin is the defender of the Faith, but his soul is tormented, torn between peace and war, as the Unified Realm and Alpiran Empire battle for hegemony. The conflict of the warring kingdoms becomes the crux of his very own survival as he has to kill his enemies for him to live.
As the captive Vaelin is being shipped to the Meldenean Islands, he decides to answer all the questions put to him by the chronicler to protect the Realm and end an unjust war. The Meldeneans are known for their savagery. It is said, “turn your back on a cobra, but never a Meldenean”. How he evades his execution and the barbarous Meldeneans is a story of intrigue and bravery that fantasy stuff is made of.
Vaelin was 6 years old when his mother died and his grieving father, a Sword of the Realm, sent the young child to the Sixth Order for his formal training of the Faith.
The Sixth Order is a closed-door institution run by religious zealots who teach children, under strict discipline instilled by monks, how to be merciless and cruel fighters and why they should not fear death during battle to protect the Faith. By the time Vaelin graduates from the Sixth Order, the angelic child is metamorphosed into the ruthless Hope Killer.
Although the end is more or less predictable, Vaelin emerges as a great hero — kind and loving — after his many trials and tribulations as a warrior. But what happens to King Janus, whose only loyalty was to the rule of Unified Realm in perpetuity by the House of Al Nieren? Was he a schemer, a liar and a murderer or a plain fool?
Anthony Ryan, who initially self-published the book, has done a tremendous job in the description of his characters. It is as if he has injected real flesh and blood in them so much so that one can visualise and feel them. Such is the strong narration of Ryan, that it forces you to be drawn into the action and emotions of Vaelin and the other characters, such as Vaelin’s mount — a warhorse of foul temper.
“Blood Song” should make a name for itself and I am sure aficionados of fantasy writing will be all too pleased to read such great stuff, that too from an upcoming young writer.