|Blood Song, Raven's Shadow, Book 1, by Anthony Ryan
||[Feb. 5th, 2015|02:10 pm]
This book begins with an Arabic-type historian chronicling the capture and upcoming execution of his empire's worst enemy, the Hope Killer. The Hope Killer has invaded the Empire at the head of a huge army at the behest of a seemingly mad king-- the war was unwinnable from the outset, the death toll the only predictable outcome. The historian would chronicle the reason for the invasion, but in order to find that, needs to understand what drove the invader. The reader is encouraged to hate the enemy as he details his story to the chronicler, but we find it as impossible a task as does the chronicler. Once upon a time, the Hope Killer was a young boy being abandoned to the care of a bunch of fighting monks, some of whom are expected to fight on a wall against northern peoples who use magic. Then he wins a fighting dog. So far, does it strike you a bit like GRRM's Game of Thrones? Yeah, I thought so, too. But it grabs you all the same, like with grappling hooks in tender places. I stayed up all night finishing this 597 page book. Though the world-building and prose are thinner, with some humdingers of grammatical errors*, this book has almost 24000 five-star votes on goodreads for a reason: It's that good. And at least there's a chance that the series will conclude in the next three years.
One of the nicest aspects of the book is the misdirection. There are layers of truths and the author is in pitch-perfect control as he strategically unveils them to advance the plot.
The author is a Scot, but the book made me think of America. The Realm's absolute intolerance for other religions screamed America. The invasion of a desert land with no possible hope of winning screamed America. Even the conspiracy theories involving hidden branches of government screamed America. So, a smidgen less escapism in the escapist fantasy. Interesting background for showcasing an honorable man left to account for the sins of his government.
* E.g., an army of hyphens has gone astray, leaving some poor woman with a "white skinned" instead of a "white-skinned" face.