I’m in utter disbelief, I can’t believe this…
Queen of Fire is the third and last book in Anthony Ryan’s Raven Shadow trilogy that began with the incredible Blood Song. By now, if you’ve heard about this trilogy, you’ll most likely have heard from several readers that the series didn’t end as good as the first book. I, unfortunately, have to agree with them completely. Anthony Ryan himself is great as an author and person, it seriously pains me to give this or any of his book a low rating but I really have to be honest that I didn’t enjoy reading Queen of Fire at all. I’m not angry at this book, but I’m genuinely sad and disappointed. How is it even possible that a series that began so brilliantly can derail this much? Even coming into this with the lowest of expectation, I still found myself disappointed at the final product of this tome.
Where do I even begin? Pretty much every cons I mentioned about Tower Lord exponentially worsen in Queen of Fire. Vaelin in Blood Song and Vaelin in Tower Lord/Queen of Fire seriously doesn’t sound the same. None of his voices, actions, and internal thoughts (when there’s any) contained any resemblance of his character in Blood Song. Not only that, his POV here ended up being one of, if not, the most boring storyline of the entire series. Reading an autobiography about someone’s journey in Antarctica would’ve made for a more engaging experience than reading Vaelin’s journey here, which was full of him walking and doing nothing in the snow. I don’t get it, I can’t see Ryan’s vision and what he tried to achieve with Vaelin in this trilogy. Ryan has spent the entirety of the first book Vaelin’s character, making the reader love and cares about Vaelin; he’s badass yet flawed, kind, and empathetic. The friendship he built in the brotherhood of the Sixth Order was one of the best parts of the first book; ALL of these are gone. It has gotten worse up to the point that if you don’t read Blood Song, you’ll still be able to understand both Tower Lord and Queen of Fire; frankly these two books made me disliked Vaelin more and more, Ryan really threw away everything that’s great about Vaelin.
The thing is, if the other characters have the power to balance things out, I would’ve accepted it more. But the other characters were also unlikeable. The main problem is that there’s literally none of the characters that I feel invested in; deaths happen and I would be like “oh okay bye bye adios wait who are you again?” Reva also goes against every incredible development that Vaelin had in Blood Song. Vaelin was never a Gary Stu, seeing him slowly learn and practice with bows or non-Sword related ability made readers realize that maybe his true talent lies only in a swordfight, he has to start and learn from scratch for other talents. Reva is the exact opposite of this. I’m never a fan of her, not in Tower Lord where her first appearance as Mary Sue appeared, and definitely not here. Lyrna was at least great to read in Tower Lord, but here? She was just outright hateful and despicable.
To be honest, the only characters that ended up being slightly compelling to read was Frentis (which, as I said before, resembled Vaelin from Blood Song more than Vaelin himself now) but his dreamscapes were annoying to read. None of the characters—except Verniers—have distinctive voices and the addition of another new POV here made things even worse. I’m serious, except for Verniers, if you switch around the names of the POV characters, it would be bloody difficult to tell whose POV you’re reading. Plus, there were so many names within this installment but the majority of them doesn’t have any anchor value for remembrance; I recently reread Blood Song and read Tower Lord, it was crazy how fast I forgot the side characters. I couldn’t tell anymore whether it’s because I genuinely forgot the characters or because I just met them here; most of them don’t have any value other than making things more confusing than necessary anyway.
“But people are still people, however comfortable their surroundings. They lie, they feud, they betray and however much you give them, they always want more.”
Also, let’s talk about the narrative tone and expectations set in the first book of a series. If you want a series to turn completely grimdark, there needs to be something at the first installment of the series that shows glimpses that it has the potential to turn this way. Blood Song didn’t show any inclination that the story will turn this way. There’s so much gory violence and they ended up being shock factor—that’s not shocking—to show that the enemies are ruthless. If you spend the entirety of the first book on a single character, you don’t make this character become pointless and super pathetic to read. It almost felt like Ryan hated Vaelin so much that after Blood Song he degrade Vaelin more and more with each installment.
In the end, as I said before, Tower Lord and Queen of Fire should be treated as a different series to Blood Song. There were still many more negative factors that I could elaborate—sluggish pacing, villain’s weak motivation, the anticlimactic ending—but honestly? I’m too exhausted and disappointed to write more about it. I’ve spent too much of my time on this book already, I don’t want to spend any longer by prolonging the review too. Let’s simplify it this way: I’ve never seen such a unanimous disappointment from this many readers towards a single book to be proven true; simple as that. For now, I really can’t recommend anyone to continue past Blood Song. Queen of Fire is easily the most disappointing final book of a series I’ve ever read. The disappointment was magnified because I utterly loved Blood Song and I never read any series that began with 5 stars rating but concluded as low as 1.5 stars in the final installment. I’m so sorry, Anthony Ryan, but as a book reviewer, I must always be honest with my reviews.
Despite all this, I’ve read Ryan’s Draconis Memoria trilogy and A Pilgrimage of Swords, I have a good feeling that The Wolf’s Call, the newest book in this world, will be a return to the glory of Blood Song; I’ve heard that Vaelin will be prominent like he was in Blood Song again. Fingers-crossed! (This is me trying to be positive…)
Raven’s Shadow: 9/15 stars
You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)