Cover illustration by: Cliff Nielsen
The Black Song by Anthony Ryan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Raven’s Blade (Book #2 of 2)
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Pages: 442 pages (US Kindle edition)
Published: 28th July 2020 by Orbit (UK) & 4th August 2020 by Ace (US)
Anthony Ryan has delivered a satisfying action-packed conclusion to Raven’s Blade while leaving room for one or two more books in the world.
“He lies. They all do, these servants of things unseen. Long ago I learned that prophecy is always built on shifting sands and destiny an illusion used to banish fear of the chaos that is life. I trust what I know. I’ve seen what waits on the other side of death so I know it’s always better to cling to life.”
The Black Song is the second book in Anthony Ryan’s Raven’s Blade duology. The main story—after the long prologue—picks up immediately from The Wolf’s Call cliffhanger ending. Now, I know what you’re thinking, Ryan has received quite a mixed reception for Queen of Fire, the conclusion to Raven’s Shadow trilogy, and honestly speaking, Queen of Fire didn’t work for me, too. So you might be wondering whether this duology is worth the read. With the cautiousness I attained from reading Queen of Fire in mind, I do believe that The Black Song is Ryan’s best-concluding installment—out of all of his series—so far; I loved it more than Queen of Fire and Empire of Ashes. To answer your questions, yes, if you’re a fan of Blood Song, you should read this duology.
“’Time,’ he told me, ‘is both precious and worthless. It is eternal and fleeting. Like clay, you may make of it what you will, if your hands possess the skill to do so.’”
The story structure in The Black Song is divided into four parts. In the first book, each part starts with Luralyn’s Account; in The Black Song, contrary to my expectation, Luralyn didn’t reprise her role again. Instead, we have Obvar’s Account, and this is genuinely a nice surprise for me. I didn’t think I would find Obvar’s Account so compelling, but I really did. Obvar’s Account sections also allowed readers to look into Kehlbrand’s and the Stahlhast’s point-of-view much closer than Luralyn could’ve, and I think all four of Obvar’s Account highlighted some of Ryan’s best writing in his career so far. The main story is still told solely through Vaelin’s perspective, and I’m so grateful for this. I personally think that every story in this world that Ryan crafted is so much better when it’s told exclusively through one main character’s POV. Ryan didn’t spend as much time on building Vaelin’s characterizations here; technically, this is the fifth book with Vaelin in it, and most of his characterizations were implemented already in Blood Song. Because of this, Vaelin can come across as stoic and emotionless at times, except when he’s dealing with the conflicts from gaining his new power, but I think for those who’ve read Vaelin’s journey since the beginning, they’ll find that he’s just more delicate in showing emotions. After everything that has happened to him, it’s not a surprise that he’s not willing to display any sign of perceivable weakness unless it’s to his old companions that he trusts the most.
“In war, only the final victory should be celebrated. All others are just bloody footprints on a road best untraveled.”
There’s one element you should know about the content of The Black Song, war and action scenes dominated this book. I’m thankful to a few early reviewers of this novel who have mentioned this because excluding Part One that’s more centered towards world-building, history, and philosophies, the rest of the book leans very heavily towards non-stop battle and war sequences. Violence, blood, deaths, barbarians, pirates, and military tactics filled most of the pages in The Black Song, and it can get exhausting if you’re not in the right mindset for this kind of story. I was prepared, and I found Ryan’s war scenes here to have improved a lot from his previous books. Ryan has done a great job building the legend of Kehlbrand the Darkblade and his conquest. Although I did find the final confrontation to be slightly anticlimactic because it ended too quickly to my liking, this was more of a minor issue on the grander scheme of the narrative. It was so darkly fulfilling seeing the rampage of the black-song as it craves for death.
“He is not just engaged in conquest, he is writing scripture. He chose me as the villain, his own sister he cast as the great betrayer, all to build the epic of the Darkblade. He knows simple conquest is not enough, not if he is to truly reign as a god. To defeat him, we need to craft our own tale, the tale of the reborn emperor, hailed and blessed as such by the Servants of the Temple of Spears.”
With The Black Song, Ryan has splendidly concluded Vaelin’s new adventure satisfyingly. Raven’s Blade has come to an end, but don’t think of this as the true final volume for stories set in this world. Assessing based on Raven’s Blade conclusion, I’m sure there will be one or two more books to come eventually. I honestly don’t see how this will go beyond one more book, but I’ll refrain from a final judgment, and find out what Ryan has in store for the future. This was a great series, and in my opinion, Blood Song finally got the sequels it deserved.
“I’ve grown comfortable behind these walls. Here, apart from my occasional visits to the second tier, I am left in peace to paint as I wish amongst people who respect my privacy. The world outside was never so kind to me. I have no great desire to see it again.”
The Wolf’s Call: 4/5 stars
The Black Song: 4/5 stars
Raven’s Blade: 8/10 stars
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