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Tower Lord: A Raven's Shadow Novel    by Anthony Ryan order for
Tower Lord
by Anthony Ryan
Order:  USA  Can
Ace, 2014 (2014)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Anthony Ryan's Tower Lord follows Blood Song as the second in his outstanding Raven's Shadow series. The lead is Vaelin Al Sorna, a man of noble birth raised in the Sixth Order, whose Brothers train rigorously for battle against the enemies of the Unified Realm.

Vaelin and his classmates became brothers in every sense but that of birth, and he shone as their leader, but there were regular attempts on his life - why? Gradually, Vaelin discovered his blood-song heritage and learned of a powerful enemy from the Beyond, who can 'take the bodies of the living, wear them like a cloak.' He also learnt of the existence of a hidden Seventh Order. After Vaelin completed his training, old King Janus made him Sword of the Realm, and sent him to attack the Alpiran Empire. He was betrayed. Imperial Chronicler Lord Verniers interviewed him in his captivity and learned his story.

Now, in Tower Lord, Vaelin returns to his homeland, Volarian invaders hot on his heels. Janus has died and his weak son rules, with help from his brilliant sister Lyrna, who loved Vaelin but betrayed him. On his return, King Malcius names Vaelin Tower Lord of the Northern Reaches, a way of keeping this much admired warrior at a safe distance from the Crown. But before Vaelin heads north with his half sister Alornis, he meets young Reva, raised by a vile priest to become a martyr. Reva's hatred gradually evolves into friendship and Vaelin calls her sister. He draws many allies to him in the Northern Reaches.

Verniers has been enslaved and bought by the wife of a Volarian general, who sets him the task of chronicling (in flattering terms) his victories during the invasion - which does not go as smoothly as anticipated. Frentis, Vaelin's Brother in the Order, is also a slave, fighting in the arena. He's plucked from there by Elverah (an ancient with a Dark ability in a young body). Her binding forces Frentis to do her will in all things. They carry out carefully selected assassinations in varying guises, to carve out a particular future for Elverah's Ally in the Beyond. Oddly, Elverah grows to love Frentis.

Lyrna heads north on a dangerous mission to make a treaty with the Lonak and their guide, Davoka, returns south with her just as the Volarians attack the capital. Lyrna emerges from great pain and sacrifice as a strong leader. As does young Reva who parted from Vaelin to travel south in search of her father's sword. She takes over the defense of Alltor, where her uncle Sentes is Fief Lord, against the invaders. Battles rage on many fronts in Tower Lord's conclusion, with cliffhanger endings for more than one key character.

If you read epic fantasy, don't miss this extraordinary Raven's Shadow series, one of the best in recent years. I hope that Anthony Ryan is working diligently on the next episode - can't wait to read it!

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