Trilogy Review: Raven’s Shadow by Anthony Ryan

The Raven’s Shadow Trilogy
by Anthony Ryan
4.5/5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed the Raven’s Shadow Trilogy, especially the first book, Blood Song. It was easily a 5 star read and one of the best fantasies I’ve read since Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives. It focused on one character – Vaelin, and his coming of age story. Taking place in the school (one of my favorite settings) it offered a combative learning environment that honestly reminded me of Harry Potter adventures meets the medieval, gritty reality of Game of Thrones. The camaraderie that Vaelin formed with his fellow “brothers” was an excellent dynamic, one which I wish had carried through the rest of the trilogy.

After finishing the first book (and fangirling about it for a few days) I quickly became aware that people weren’t loving the second and third books nearly as much. I have a few theories as to why. The sequels are very different from the first one. What an author puts forth in initially is usually a promise to the reader of what’s to come and readers expect at least a bit of consistency of storytelling (which Ryan failed to deliver because his tale took off in a completely different direction).

His story also went from a single point of view to multiple, bouncing around in a very Game of Thrones manner. I actually liked the different perspectives, each one adding a missing piece to the puzzle and written as well as Vaelin. Ironically, though, the passages involving Vaelin, the initial hero of the saga, became the least interesting… odd, right? This overall story arc remained the same, but everything built up in the first book got swept under the rug in favor of these other storylines.

While I understand how this could lead to a lot of disappointment, I admit I enjoyed Tower Lord (book 2) almost as much is the first book. Heck, I even liked about 80% of Queen of Fire (book 3) save one chunk near the end where I was incredibly bored and found it difficult to get through… once I did though, I liked the ending.

Overall, even though my personal experience with the series differs from the majority, I still think the consensus is that Blood Song is worth reading even if you don’t plan to continue on.

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7 comments on “Trilogy Review: Raven’s Shadow by Anthony Ryan

  1. Great review, unfortunately I’m one of those people who really enjoyed the first book and was left disappointed by the rest of the series, the second and third books were still decent just far different to the first.

    I agree that Blood Song is well worth reading.😀


    • Thank you :-) yeah, that seems to be the overwhelming opinion of the second 2 books. I think part of the reason I found more satisfaction out of them is that I was expecting them to be different/underwhelming. I’m starting his new series, The Waking Fire, sometime this month, so hopefully that one will be a lot better. Someone told me Ryan self published Blood Song and then got a book deal for the other 2, which would definitely explain how disjointed this series is. I imagine the publisher had a lot of thoughts on where the story should go. I would’ve liked to see how Ryan would have completed it on his own.

      Liked by 1 person

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  4. I find that both trilogies start ok but fail to deliver the potential of the world created and end up moving into a point of view that leaves all the Male characters broken and feeble lacking the will and wisdom that you would imagine the experiences would produce.
    The women becoming butchers and ugly charcaters acting like despicable men.
    Is the publisher a feminist I ask ?
    I have read all 6 books and find myself disappointed at potential lost to common tropes with a simple swapping of gender roles.
    Sad really but unfortunately not uncommon in popular culture today, I’ll not be spending anymore time on…his…books.
    All the best in the future Anthony


    • Your comment got lost in the mix – I apologize for just now seeing it. You make some interesting observations that I’ll have to ponder a bit (I don’t think it an inaccurate assessment, I’m just thinking about the countless other grimdark fantasy novels I’ve read recently that sent their characters to similar ends, which makes me inclined to be a little more forgiving in Ryan’s case). It definitely sounds like we came away from each trilogy with different overall impressions (although I agree the final books for each one were the weakest of the bunch).


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