I continue to be very happy that Anthony Ryan has decided to return to the world of Blood Song. The Black Song is the conclusion to Raven’s Blade, a duology that starts with The Wolf’s Call set five years after the original trilogy. The Black Song is a strong and enjoyable conclusion to this duology that sets up additional books by the end. However, it suffers from a couple of strange issues that are definitely worth talking about. So let’s dig into the pros and cons of this new book by one of our favorite writers. Please note, this review has spoilers for the original Blood Song trilogy, and should not be read by anyone who wants to avoid reveals for the original three books. You have been warned!
To get a better sense of what the overall story of the duology is, please check out my review of The Wolf’s Call. For those who want a short summary, Vaelin has traveled West to rescue the love of his life, Sherin, that he shipped off to a different continent against her will to keep her safe in the original trilogy. When he arrives at this new Asian-inspired land he finds Sherin perfectly fine and well established. However, he also finds a Ghengis Khan style warlord in possession of a blood song threatening to destroy all of the known world. Thus, Vaelin gets embroiled in a conflict where he is the clear outsider trying to bring down a man who possesses the unique tool that made Vaelin a god of war many books ago. In The Black Song, Vaelin’s attempts to regain his lost blood song in order to fight the coming hordes and it doesn’t take a genius to guess from the title of the book that this attempt goes poorly. Vaelin’s efforts leave him with a corrupted song with a thirst for blood, and he must find a way to fix it before he becomes just as bad as the villain he is trying to defeat.
A lot of The Black Song is just continuing the plot threads of The Wolf’s Call with an added layer now that Vaelin has this corrupted song to manage. The world and characters are enjoyable, there is a clear objective that we build towards with a number of awesome set-pieces along the way. In my Wolf’s Call review, I talked about how exciting and enjoyable it is to be back in the shoes of one of my favorite protagonists, and this still rings true in Black Song. But it hits a snag when Vaelin’s “outsider looking in” treatment is amplified from The Wolf’s Call and Vaelin ends up feeling a little too adjacent to the plot. While I adore Vaelin, my favorite passages in The Black Song ended up being the ones told from the sister and the second in command of the villain – as they were much closer to the conflict and emotionally invested in its outcome. Vaelin has this sort of pale detachment to the whole affair as he is much more focused on his new corruption. This would be fine… except that Vaelin doesn’t actually reach a complete conclusion to his personal story in The Black Song. It is quite clear that some of Vaelin’s internal conflicts will be addressed in whatever book Ryan writes next. The result of all of this is some confusion as to whether Vaelin was the best protagonist for The Black Song. On one hand, I absolutely loved getting more time with him – but on the other, this didn’t feel like it was truly his story to tell.
But, don’t think that I didn’t enjoy The Black Song. The escalating conflict between the ragtag group of good guys and the ever-growing antagonist was gripping and exciting. It is very clear that Ryan has grown a lot since his first trilogy, and his ability to write a climactic conclusion to a conflict has only improved. There were a number of set pieces, like the part of the story set in the temple of spears, that were enchanting. Initially, I was going to complain that Sherin and Vaelin’s relationship didn’t change enough over the course of the book, but in the last 25% there is a lot of growth that feels appropriate and I ended up really liking where the characters netted out.
All in all, The Black Song is a solid book and another enjoyable chapter in the saga of Vaelin. I don’t think it was as strong as the duology’s opener, The Wolf’s Call, but it is still definitely worth your time. I am very excited to step through the door that the end of this book leaves open and look forward to whatever story that Ryan decides to tell us next. The Raven’s Blade duology has jump started my investment in the next series and I am ready for more.
Rating: The Black Song – 8.0/10