𝗗𝗲𝘀𝘁𝗿𝘂𝗰𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻, 𝗶𝘁 𝗮𝗽𝗽𝗲𝗮𝗿𝘀, 𝗡𝗼𝗿𝘁𝗮𝗵 𝘄𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗼𝗻, 𝗮 𝗴𝗵𝗼𝘀𝘁 𝗼𝗳 𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗼𝗹𝗱 𝘀𝗺𝗶𝗹𝗲 𝗼𝗻 𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗹𝗶𝗽𝘀, 𝗶𝘀 𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗽𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗶𝗽𝗮𝗹 𝗴𝗶𝗳𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗹𝗱, 𝗯𝗿𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿. » […] « 𝗦𝗮𝗹𝘃𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝘁𝗼𝗼, 𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗰𝗰𝗮𝘀𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻, 𝗩𝗮𝗲𝗹𝗶𝗻 𝗿𝗲𝗽𝗹𝗶𝗲𝗱. »
- Author : Anthony Ryan
- Series : Raven’s Blade
- Release date : July 25th 2019
- Publishing house : Orbit
- Number of pages : 432
- Second book : The Black Song
Anthony Ryan is one of my favourite author and when I learnt that another book about Vaelin was going to be released, I was really glad !
Peace never lasts.
Vaelin Al Sorna is a living legend, his name known across the Realm. It was his leadership that overthrew empires, his blade that won hard-fought battles – and his sacrifice that defeated an evil more terrifying than anything the world had ever seen. He won titles aplenty, only to cast aside his earned glory for a quiet life in the Realm’s northern reaches.
Yet whispers have come from across the sea – rumours of an army called the Steel Horde, led by a man who believes himself a god. Vaelin has no wish to fight another war, but when he learns that Sherin, the woman he lost long ago, has fallen into the Horde’s grasp, he resolves to confront this powerful new threat.
To this end, Vaelin travels to the realms of the Merchant Kings, a land ruled by honor and intrigue. There, as the drums of war thunder across kingdoms riven by conflict, Vaelin learns a terrible truth: that there are some battles that even he may not be strong enough to win.
Vaelin Al Sorna : I have loved him since the Raven’s Shadow trilogy. I liked him because of his intelligence, his bravery, his talents to fight and to lead. All along the books, Vaelin exhibited maturity and growth. Furthermore, he was not whiny as a lot of fantasy heroes are.
In this book, Vaelin has grown even more because he is now in charge of the Northern Reaches. He has to care for his inhabitants and protect his territory from the thugs enslaving the Gifted or normal people.
He is as emotion-driven as he was because the reason he crosses the sea is the woman he both loved but betrayed for her own good. He knows that if he were to leave without her Queen’s permission, he’ll have to pay the consequences when he returns. Nortah said that the only bring destruction but Vaelin answers that they also bring redemption by protecting the people from madmen/women like Kehlbrand’s army.
“An old love, born in youth, but now stained by bitterness and regret. The wounds left by betrayal never truly heal.”
I felt that the book relies a lot on the reader’s liking of the main character’s past actions. His past life often reemerges, and each decision he took, each friend he saw dying, he bears with all this and you can feel his regret through the memories. While it isn’t necessary to have read the first trilogy, I advise you to do so, otherwise you’ll not be able to fully appreciate and understand Vaelin.
Anthony Ryan did a good job at capturing Vaelin’s battle experience and leadership. Both of these qualities show in the way he leads his men, he assesses the battlefield to find ploys to repel the enemy or to find weaknesses in the structure of the buildings.
The story takes place about ten years after the events in The Raven’s Shadow. Unlike the trilogy where the story was in the Unified Realm, we discover the unexplored side of the world : the Venerable Kingdom in the Far East. I felt like the Venerable Kingdom’s customs were close to China’s while the Iron Steppe’s were close to Mongolia’s. The Venerable Kingdom’s inhabitants were haughty and considered those living in the Unified kingdom as « monkeys » and « savages ». But ironically, they asked them to show them how to build some of their weapons as they were better than theirs.
We now have two point of view : Vaelin and Luralyn (Kehlbrand’s sister). Her chapters are not numerous (two or three) but they are important because she describes the lives of her tribe, her brother’s path to being the leader of the Iron Steppe, and her growing dislike for him.
“Mercy requires strength, compassion demands courage and wisdom compels truth.”
Her brother, Kehlbrand, later known as Darkblade was a very interesting villain. He becomes Mestra-Skeltir (leader) and everything he will do will be to complete his dream : to unify the world under one God : him. He begins to put a stop to slavery so that the people enslaved were given a home, a salary and were not treated like cattle but as real humans. They see Kehlbrand as their messiah and begin to venerate him. In order to grow his army, he unifies within a few years all the tribes living on the Iron Steppe whether by killing the leaders or by forging alliances. At the end, his arms number roughly three hundred thousand people.
« Kehlbrand was no longer playing the role of a god. Now he was a god, a living god who would tolerate no worship of any other. He had become the Darkblade, and so was no longer my brother. »
Several old acquaintances from Vaelin return from the previous trilogy and we are also introduced to new characters. The new set of characters (the Jade Princess, Chien, Sho Tsai, Tsai Lin…) was a great add to the story, especially as we get to know more about them. We learn a bit about their past, the struggles they have been facing, their anger, just enough not to lose our focus on the story but just enough to keep us interested in them.
Vaelin’s epic adventures continue in a new and well-crafted world. The book kept me on tenterhooks, partly because of the plot twists. The story concludes on a cliffhanger which made me want to read The Black Song right away.