Book Review: Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan

Tower LordTower Lord by Anthony Ryan

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 2 of Raven’s Shadow

Publisher: Ace (July 1, 2014)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are a number of sequels coming out this year with big shoes to fill, and not the least of them is Tower Lord which is the follow up to the sensation that was Anthony Ryan’s Blood Song. While this second installment might not pack the kind of punch its predecessor did, I nonetheless enjoyed the book immensely. It’s a very different novel than the first book, with a shift in style, focus, and character perspectives, and yet it still has all the elements that we epic fantasy fans live for.

In book one, we met Vaelin Al Sorna, a brother of the Sixth Order and one of the greatest warriors the world has ever known. Coming home from a bloody war, he has sworn to fight no more, instead focusing his efforts on seeking any of his relatives that still might live. Named Tower Lord of the Northern Reaches by the new monarch, Vaelin has the noble yet perhaps naïve dream of living out his life in peace and quiet, for news of his exploits (and his crimes) have spread far and wide and those who know of his mysterious gift that guides him will not let him rest.

Anthony Ryan also adds several more point-of-view characters to the mix in Tower Lord, which I was glad to have been prepared for, as Vaelin no longer takes center stage. Instead, he shares the book with mainly three others: Reva, a young woman who begins this journey with hate for Vaelin in her heart and an unquenchable thirst for revenge; Princess Lyrna, sister to the new king and who possesses more strength and resolve than her brother ever would; and finally, Frentis, a familiar face from Blood Song, though he has been changed from his years of being held captive by the Untesh and being forced to fight in the slave pits.

Having been aware of this new format, with the chapters cycling through the character viewpoints, I had expected and prepared myself for the slower start. Indeed, with more characters to follow this time around, the author takes much more time to set the stage for the events in this book. And I have to confess it didn’t quite grab my attention right away. It was a pleasant journey through the first half of the novel to meet new faces or to catch up with old friends, but on the whole Tower Lord lacked a certain quality that made Blood Song the dangerously addictive and immersive read it was right off the bat.

However, I don’t think this makes Tower Lord a weak sequel. On the contrary, in fact. This second book is stronger than book one in many ways, not only because it expands the scope of the series by giving us multiple character perspectives and opening up the wider world, but it also showcases Ryan’s talents as a storyteller. He’s proven himself as an author who can write a very diverse and convincing cast of characters while maintaining a steady level of suspense and interest in all spheres of action, building intensity as he moves all the pieces into place for when things really start rolling.

Quite simply, Tower Lord is a totally different beast. And it’s just hard not to compare a sequel to what came before. It comes down to personal taste, and admittedly, Blood Song and I hit it off much faster. I had myself this experience with a couple other sequels this year; they were all excellent novels, but thematically they just worked slightly less for me. In this case, it’s hardly a surprise. Blood Song began with Vaelin Al Sorna as a young boy, entering the Sixth Order and a huge chunk of the book was dedicated to his training, the relationships he forged with his brothers, and his eventual rise to greatness. It was my favorite part of the novel. And come on, we all know how tough it is beat a good coming-of-age story.

The first book was absolutely a tough act to follow, I know. But all things considered, Tower Lord is a wonderful follow-up that might even appeal more to other readers, especially those who preferred the parts with “grown-up” Vaelin from the first book. I mentioned one of the things I liked about the “young” Vaelin’s chapters was his relationship with his fellow Sixth Order brothers, and it’s incredibly fascinating to see how those dynamics have changed over time. Brother Frentis was a huge surprise for me in this one. Thinking about all the terrible things that has been through and how they’ve affected him, it almost makes his story more interesting to me than Vaelin’s. I’m also impressed by Ryan’s female characters, and the energy and conviction he was able to put behind Reva and Lyrna, two women who are not afraid of setbacks and will fight for what they believe in.

In the end, it’s definitely the characters who made this such a great read. I absolutely adore the new additions. The characters make things happen, set things in motion, and while the first half of this book might have lagged a little, the same cannot be said about the second half, and the final quarter was pure action bliss. Does it take a bit of investment to get to this point? Yes. But totally worth it. Love the intricate magical elements and political entanglements that made the finale such an edge-of-your-seat ride. Anthony Ryan really tied things together and delivered.

I hope when we next meet Vaelin and whoever Ryan decides to let us be acquainted with next time (assuming he once again chooses this multiple POV character format) in the third book Queen of Fire, we’ll be able to jump right into the action. The slower build-up at the beginning held this book back a little, in my opinion, so I can’t say I enjoyed this book more or even as much as Blood Song, but the difference is very close. And I’m not disappointed at all. If you enjoyed the first book, there’s absolutely no reason at all not to pick this up and continue the epic journey.

4 stars

A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Ace Books!

19 Comments on “Book Review: Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan”

  1. I have Blood Song, and I’ve been craving some high fantasy lately, so I may very well start this series soon. It’s between that, something by Sanderson, and Abercrombie, but whichever way I lean, I’m glad this one worked for you (even if it was a bit slower).


    • I am curious. One of the reasons I liked BLood Song is that despite having the requisite training section said section didn’t drag on FOREVER. So leaving it behind doesn’t bother me in the least.

      But I worry because the rest of the first book was completely under developed, and now he has to carry a whole book with the area i felt was the weakest of the first. So, looking forward to seeing how it goes.


      • Kind of my feelings as well, though I just loved the first half, which probably made the rest of the book pale in comparison. I don’t know if I felt the rest of the book was underdeveloped, or maybe just not as interesting to me.


  2. I’ve read quite a few “second” books in a series this year that just aren’t measuring up to the firsts. I’m wondering if authors are being pushed to rush thier second books by publishers, and getting them out there before they have enough time to percolate. I guess it must be hard to top yourself, though, if the first book is amazing.


    • Exactly, sometimes I think it’s just hard to top the new and shiny of a first novel. It’s like, okay, you’ve wowed me, now give me something even better!!! LOL, authors who write great books run the risk of setting up such towering expectations 😉


  3. You’ve been having an interesting run of it with sequels this summer! I’m always excited to see high fantasy authors adding more female characters to their world – one of the reasons that I initially passed on book one was because it just seemed like a giant sausage fest. Now that I know there are women on the horizon, I might give this series a shot!


    • Oh yeah, book one was definitely one huge sausage fest, lol. Especially the beginning with all his brothers training in the Sixth Order. There is more of a female presence in the second half of the book, but yeah he carries that even further in book two by adding not one but two female POV characters. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with them.


    • Yeah, I was thinking back to your review of this after I was done, and we are definitely on the same page. Both books have their own individual strengths, for me it just came down to what kind of story I preferred, and I just really loved young Vaelin from the first one.


    • I’d say it’s definitely worth checking out. Book one was quite a pleasant surprise for me, considering the book’s indie origins. It’s a trilogy, I believe, so you can always wait til book three is released to decide and don’t have to worry about falling behind because it’ll be completed 🙂


  4. I’m almost half scared to start reading. Although, forewarned …etc, etc. I must admit that I do like hearing the story from Vaelin’s pov and clearly the first book was incredibly popular so you can’t help but wonder why the author has changed tack in the middle? I’m still looking forward to this though. I think he’s got a good story telling voice.
    Lynn 😀


    • Haha, don’t be scared, I think you’ll like this! I liked it 🙂 As for why he changed tack in the middle – I think it was the only choice, if he wanted to open up the story. And it was a good choice, considering. There are many things happening here, all building up, and so having multiple perspectives really gave a more well-rounded and “epic” scope to the series.


  5. Pingback: Book Review: Queen of Fire by Anthony Ryan | The BiblioSanctum

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