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Monday, June 23, 2014

Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website
Order the book HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Blood Song
Read the first chapter (Verniers' account) here

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Anthony Ryan is a pseudonym used by the author as his previous day job prevented him from using his real identity. The has an academic background in history, works fulltime as a researcher and currently lives in London. 

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: The blood-song rose with an unexpected tune, a warm hum mingling recognition with an impression of safety. He had a sense it was welcoming him home.”

Vaelin Al Sorna, warrior of the Sixth Order, called Darkblade, called Hope Killer. The greatest warrior of his day, and witness to the greatest defeat of his nation: King Janus’s vision of a Greater Unified Realm drowned in the blood of brave men fighting for a cause Vaelin alone knows was forged from a lie. Sick at heart, he comes home, determined to kill no more. Named Tower Lord of the Northern Reaches by King Janus’s grateful heir, he can perhaps find peace in a colder, more remote land far from the intrigues of a troubled Realm.

But those gifted with the blood-song are never destined to live a quiet life. Many died in King Janus’s wars, but many survived, and Vaelin is a target, not just for those seeking revenge but for those who know what he can do. The Faith has been sundered, and many have no doubt who their leader should be. The new King is weak, but his sister is strong. The blood-song is powerful, rich in warning and guidance in times of trouble, but is only a fraction of the power available to others who understand more of its mysteries.

Something moves against the Realm, something that commands mighty forces, and Vaelin will find to his great regret that when faced with annihilation, even the most reluctant hand must eventually draw a sword.

FORMAT/INFO: Tower Lord is 608 pages long divided five sections, each of which open with a Verniers account and numbered chapters. This pattern is very similar to that of the first book. Narration is in the third-person, via Vaelin Al Sorna, Reva, Frentis, and Princess Lyrna. The book also feature maps of the unified realm, the Alipran and Volarian empire. There are two appendices for the Dramatis Personae as well as the game of Warrior’s Bluff. Tower Lord is the second volume of The Raven’s Shadow trilogy.

July 1, 2014 marks the North American Hardcover and e-book publication of Tower Lord via Ace Books. The UK version (see below) will be published on July 3, 2014 by Orbit Books UK.

ANALYSIS: Tower Lord is a book that I’ve been waiting for since 2012. Anthony Ryan really announced himself in spectacular fashion with his self-publication success, which then translated into a traditional publishing contract. Two years later, a lot of fans are waiting to see if he can repeat and build upon his success with Tower Lord. In my review for Blood Song, at the end I had written "give this book a read if you want to read a story that’s closest to those written by David Gemmell." With Tower Lord, he not only proves that in spades by giving the readers a siege situation similar to that in Legend and also many more memorable events and characters. There will be mild spoilers in the review below so be wary before you start.

Let's begin with the story, in Tower Lord, we get three new POV characters besides Vaelin who was the sole narrator in Blood Song. Another funny aspect of the story is that this book also follows the same narrative format as Blood Song wherein the events begin in the near past and interspersed between five current accounts of the royal Alpiran chronicler Verniers Alishe Someren. As to why the story is set in such a format and what is Verniers doing will be up to the fans to RAFO. Safe to say it's quite shocking to meet Verniers who finds himself in quite stunning conditions.

We find Vaelin Al Sorna back to the Unified realm and seeks to find his relatives who might be still surviving. The second POV character is Reva a young woman with tremendous martial skills who seeks revenge on Vaelin for a past crime. She's not an Asraelian and seeks his death single-handedly, who she is and why she hates Vaelin is spoiler material and so I won’t comment on it. Safe to say for people wanting to know her identity can take guesses and I might just give you tell if you are correct or not in the comments section below. The other two POV characters are Princess Lyrna & Frentis. I, as a fan was expecting them to be POV characters and enjoyed getting to know their thoughts.

This book also magnifies the world situation by showcasing the continent east of the Alpiran & Unified realms, namely the Volarian Empire. The story begins by detailing an attack on the unified realms from many fronts. Vaelin is faced with a new responsibility when he's made Tower Lord of the Northern Reaches by King Malcius. He has to ride north and take charge which he does but not with some reluctance. Reva’s track has us focusing on how she came to hate Vaelin so much and how she tracks him to face him for a duel. Last when we met Frentis, he was aboard a strange ship heading off to lands unknown. We find him now as an Alpiran slave who’s fighting to stay alive. Lastly we also get to explore the Northern Reaches as Princess Lyrna tries to find accord with the realm’s northern neighbors.

That’s all I’m going to say about the plot contents, as what happens in the story is that realm truly faces an invasion that boggles the mind. I can see why the author choose to expand the POV list as this story would have been impossible to cover from just a singular POV. Another highlight of this book is that nearly every character that made a major & minor impression in its predeceasing title is back in this one (except the dead ones). We get to see all of them & experience different shades to them; this was an extremely pleasurable to read. A couple of mysteries from Blood Song, namely who attacked Vaelin in the Test Of the Wild as well as who was behind it get clarified. Many other bigger revelations also abound like what truly happened to Vaelin when he was an Alpiran captive. Who is the Witch’s bastard and who are his allies? There’s also a fascinating exploration of the Seventh order and the magic system espoused in this trilogy.

Secondly going on to the characterization, Anthony Ryan shines brighter in his sophomore effort by giving us many brilliant characters. Besides Vaelin, Reva, Frentis and Princess Lyrna get the POV turn and I loved how different the characters were from what we read in Vaelin’s thoughts. Princess Lyrna was the character that was the most intriguing to me and in this book, she gets to shine truly. There’s also the brothers (Caenis, Sollis, the order aspect, etc) who we have met before and now have acquired different roles. You’ll be surprised to see many of them and how they feel about Vaelin.  There are also some characters who make an appearance under a different name & it will be fun if you can spot them. Many of those who complained about Frentis’ cockney accent will be glad to know that it isn’t a problem in this sequel. Infact I would say he becomes a terror worthy of Vaelin’s status. The author also expands the readers on to the world by focusing on the realm and giving us fascinating insights into the various types of people and faiths that abound. This light is also shone upon the Alpiran as well as the Volarian culture.

Lastly the pace and action sequences are amplified across all the four POV sections, we get to see our favorite characters face odds that they have never thought of and the fun is reading how it all ends. Previously I talked about the siege-like conditions similar to Legend. The author displays his skills and gives us a fascinating account in to the siege via Verniers and then through the actual characters. This dual approach creates some confusion but it’s done in a way that will leave you with a smile in the end. Coming back to my original statement of this book being similar to Legend, David Gemmell's epic debut. We get a siege wherein legends are forged and this was the highlight of the story. And how does the author manage to top off such an exciting read, he cruelly ends the story with a chapter that hearkens back to the shocker that was the epilogue in A Storm Of Swords. This climatic chapter ends on such a note that you might not want to wait a whole year for Queen Of Fire.

There's so much more I want to gush about this book but I think I've said enough. Regarding the negatives about this title, the only thing I can think is that the story has kind of a slow start with all POV chapters. It takes only a while for the pace to pick up but once it does, the chapters fly by on to a rousing action-packed finale that is memorable. Your mileage may vary but this is the only drawback in an otherwise superb sequel.

CONCLUSION: This book easily is the best heroic epic fantasy of 2014 (bettering the high of City Of Stairs which is yet to be released) and now all other books will have to excel to overcome it. Tower Lord is a loud proclamation that Anthony Ryan is David Gemmell’s natural successor and epic fantasy’s best British talent.


Heather said...

With a shining review like that, I've got to check this one out! Thanks for the heads up on it.

SK said...


Dystopian Hub said...

Nice blog. It's nice you have good time reading books and writing reviews about them.
Hope you will find time to visit my blog and find popular dystopia novel you would want to read.

Joe said...

"Due to the prevailing currents they had to tack South before striking East" ~page 423

""...all sails hauled into place to catch the westerly winds as the sun dried the deck" ~pg. 424

This is when Lyrna and the escapees are headed towards the Meldenean Islands with the pirates. Shouldn't they be going West? They were headed East from Varinshold and the Mekdenean Islands are to their West. are these typos or are they sailing around the world?


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