Blood Song, or Harry Potter with a Longsword - Book Review

Imagine for a moment what it would look like if we replaced Harry Potter's adorable little wooden wand with three and a half feet of sharpened steel. Instead of potions class, Harry would learn how to kill with every manner of weapon known to man, how to survive alone in the wild for days on end, and how to live the hard life of a soldier in an elite brotherhood of professional warriors.

This is, in essence, Blood Song by author Anthony Ryan.  We meet our protagonist, Vaelin, as a young boy being deposited by his father at the gates of the Sixth Order. Vaelin joins a class of other boys who will be trained in all of the martial arts with the ultimate expectation that, should they prove worthy, they will become brothers in this Sixth Order and be warriors for their Faith and their kingdom.

This book falls firmly in the Fantasy genre, although it is most certainly a "low-powered" fantasy setting. It's a grim and grounded tale where men live and die by the sword, rather than by sorcery or at the hands of fantastic beasts. This isn't to say that magic is absent from this world, but it's presented in a very subtle manner that reminds me of how George R.R. Martin treats magic. Largely this is a world where people don't even believe in magic.

However, religion does play a large role in this book. Vaelin's Sixth Order is an order devoted to "The Faith" - which, in this world, is an atheist ethos. The Faith has no room for Gods and throughout the three books of this trilogy we'll often see members of The Faith coming into conflict with different religious groups who do worship gods. 

Blood Song is a huge, immersive novel. The sequels are equally huge. If you decide to dig into this set of books then be prepared to potentially lose a week of your life.  While a lot of fantasy stories of this size can have a tendency to fall flat in the second act, I found Blood Song to keep a steady pace throughout. If I could level any real criticism at this novel, it's that it is almost too much. There's very little skipping through the life of Vaelin. We're there from day one at the gates of the Sixth Order all the way through his becoming a grizzled grown man. But that's also one of the book's greatest strengths, because by the end of the final book I felt like I really knew Vaelin. Like we did it all together.

So for fans of fantasy works, if you haven't got this one on your list then definitely pick it up. If you have read it, let me know what you thought of it in the comments!