fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsQueen of Fire by Anthony Ryan epic fantasy book reviewsQueen of Fire by Anthony Ryan

Warning: Will contain spoilers for previous books in the RAVEN’S SHADOW series

Anthony Ryan’s RAVEN’S SHADOW series follows the life of Vaelin Al Sorna and his comrades, from his childhood in the religious, militaristic 6th Order to his career as a general, commander, and practitioner of the Dark (magic). Queen of Fire, the third and final book of RAVEN’S SHADOW, brings the series to a conclusion that leaves much to be desired. Following the victory at Alltor orchestrated by Vaelin, Queen Lyrna, the new leader of the Unified Realm after the bloody assassination of her brother, proceeds to invade the Volarian Empire, which has been controlled by the Ally for centuries. At the same time, Vaelin sets off north to find ancient secrets that may reveal the mind of the Ally, a mysterious being who loathes humanity for its flaws and seeks to destroy all human civilization. While there is an interesting premise in RAVEN’S SHADOW, the execution is simply not present to make the series amazing, as Greg noted in his review of Blood Song, book one.

A major sticking point was the prose and style present throughout the series. Ryan’s writing comes across as artificial. Often the rhythm has imperfections, which had large implications for the flow of the story. In particular, the dialogue sounds unreal, and that made the characters feel shallow. Beyond the prose, Ryan sometimes delves into arguably irrelevant minutiae in the midst of what would otherwise be captivating action scenes, in a manner reminiscent of the Iliad. An occasional misstep could be overlooked, but the frequency of these occurrences is such that it was difficult to finish Queen of Fire because the plot felt dull and unengaging.A Raven's Shadow Novel (3 Book Series) by Anthony Ryan

A number of structural issues add to the overall tediousness, many of them beginning with book two, Tower Lord. To be fair, Blood Song was enjoyable — the rest of the series thus far has been going downhill from there. Most of the structural issues are discussed in more detail in my review of Tower Lord, but the move away from using Lord Vernier’s story as a framing device, as it was in Blood Song, diminishes the depth and foreshadowing elements.

Additionally, Queen Lyrna’s steady conquest of the Volarian Empire feels rushed and illusory. If Ryan wanted to aim for a more military, gritty novel, such as those of Django Wexler or even Glen Cook, there needed to be more discussion of military strategy, more focus placed on the non-magical portions of the plot, and more dark imagery.

At the end of the day, Queen of Fire just needed to be more thoughtfully written. There are some intriguing ideas in the RAVEN’S SHADOW series, but I can’t see myself recommending this series for just that. Anthony Ryan definitely does have potential, though, and I will keep an eye out for his future works, which hopefully will find more success.

Published in 2015. In the thrilling conclusion to the “deftly and originally executed” (Booklist) New York Times bestselling trilogy, Vaelin Al Sorna must help his Queen reclaim her Realm. Only his enemy has a dangerous new collaborator, one with powers darker than Vaelin has ever encountered… “The Ally is there, but only ever as a shadow, unexplained catastrophe or murder committed at the behest of a dark vengeful spirit. Sorting truth from myth is often a fruitless task.” After fighting back from the brink of death, Queen Lyrna is determined to repel the invading Volarian army and regain the independence of the Unified Realm. Except, to accomplish her goals, she must do more than rally her loyal supporters. She must align herself with forces she once found repugnant—those who possess the strange and varied gifts of the Dark—and take the war to her enemy’s doorstep. Victory rests on the shoulders of Vaelin Al Sorna, now named Battle Lord of the Realm. However, his path is riddled with difficulties. For the Volarian enemy has a new weapon on their side, one that Vaelin must destroy if the Realm is to prevail—a mysterious Ally with the ability to grant unnaturally long life to her servants. And defeating one who cannot be killed is a nearly impossible feat, especially when Vaelin’s blood-song, the mystical power which has made him the epic fighter he is, has gone ominously silent…


  • Kevin Wei

    KEVIN WEI, with us since December 2014, is political/digital strategist based in Harlem. Secretly, Kevin has always believed in dragons. Not the Smaug kind of dragon, only the friendly ones that invite you in for tea (Funke’s Dragon Rider was the story that mercilessly hauled him into the depths of SF/F at the ripe old age of 5). Kevin loves epic fantasy, military SF/F, New Weird, and some historical fantasy; some of his favorite authors include Patrick Rothfuss, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, China Miéville, Django Wexler, and Joe Abercrombie. In his view, a good book requires not only a good character set and storyline, but also beautiful prose — he's extremely particular about this last bit. You can find him at: