Some schools are tough…really tough. Those who claim that school days are the happiest of your life have forgotten the playground bully – not to mention the coterie of sycophants who normally accompany the bully on their regular round of intimidation. However, no matter how difficult and challenging some schools are, I’m pretty sure none go quite to the extremes depicted in Anthony Ryan’s novel Blood Song, the first of the Raven Shadows series.
In the Unified Realm, power is shared between the King and seven religious orders. The Sixth of these orders, takes young boys – from every echelon of society – and teaches them to be the ultimate warrior, skilled with sword, bow, knife, or any other device designed for cutting bits off, or poking into people. The methods they employ are so extreme that many don’t make it through their school years – a sort of Darwinian survival of the fittest played out to wheedle out those not strong enough to represent the shady ideals of the military order.
The story is based around a young boy named Vaelin who is deposited on the Sixth’s orders doorstop at ten. We learn of his progress through the years, the enemies he makes and the foes he thwarts, but also quite touchingly the friends he makes and the bonds that develop between the young boys as they learn to cope with the extremely strict and extreme training enforced on them by their hard-eyed tutors. The companionship of the boys is a vital part of the novel, as it offsets the stringent training regime that turns the boys from young novices into accomplished warriors, because even at this school for military perfection, boys are just boys, and firm friendships are formed.
As Vaelin emerges from the school as a young man, he needs all the skills taught him as he and his companions find themselves at the forefront of a misconceived war, instigated by their own King, and the conflicting loyalties this places upon them.
I really enjoyed Blood Song, and I will definitely be reading the rest of the series as it is off to a great start. It will be interesting to see how the boys cope with life now their unorthodox schooling is at an end.
You can purchase this novel from Amazon here.