In the thrilling conclusion to the "deftly and originally executed" (Booklist) New York Times best-selling 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 that has made him the epic fighter he is, has gone ominously silent.
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I was so excited for this book to come out, as I absolutely loved Bloodsong, and Tower Lord was pretty good as well. However, this was a downer compared to the other two books. Steven Brand does an excellent job narrating the book, but he can't control the weak story. Frankly, each book in the series got progressively weaker, in my opinion. Queen Of Fire starts out rather slowly, builds serious steam towards the middle and end, but the climax was very boring. It left me thinking "that's it?" There were also several loose ends from the previous two books that did not get wrapped up (they are barely even mentioned, in fact), and I was left with many questions unanswered that I expected to be addressed in this book.
This is not to say it was wholly unenjoyable or boring, quite the opposite. The series as a whole is great. QOF in entertaining and Anthony Ryan is a great character-driven writer. There were some real "wow!" moments in the book as well as some heart aching moments.
Overall, it's worth a listen if you've read the other two books in the series and want to reach the conclusion of the world that has been created through the Raven's Shadow Saga. Otherwise, you may want to stop with Bloodsong and call it good.
Please bear with me, because this review will be long and not particularly flattering. I will not give any spoilers to the plot. When I first read Blood Song about a year ago, I was very impressed. It was a refreshing blend of storytelling and coming of age story, told from the first person point of view of one character, whitch is hard to do well anymore. I was shocked and disappointed by the second novel in this trilogy, Tower Lord. Mr. Ryan changed his style of telling the story to four different points of view and seemed to lose a lot of control of the plot. The book wandered and was filled with tons of generic fight scenes that got very repetitive after a while.
Despite my misgivings about the third novel, I felt I had to get it because I had made it this far in the series, and I was curious as to whether Ryan would be able to pull his plot threads together or not. The answer to my question was not at all. Queen of Fire wanders as much if not more than Tower Lord, and to make matters worse there seems to be much useless material in the book, that is simply filler.
The next problem I had with this novel were the characters. Besides the four main view point people the rest of the cast, and there are a lot of them, all are very generic badass men and women who are as one dimensional as a piece of paper. I found myself trying desperately to recall all of them when I started the book, because nun of them stuck in my mind from book two. I rarely have this problem of forgetting characters, and to give an example I had no trouble recalling everyone of the A Song of Ice and Fire characters from book to book and that cast could populate a small town.
Problem number three with this book and I suppose series in general is the utter lack of humor. I know what you people are thinking this is a war story and it shouldn't be funny, but throw in a little dark humor or something to spice up the story. I found myself blanking out for a few minutes at a time, because of the tedius conversations and endless supply of very similar battle scenes.
Now we come to the end of this book. NO spoilers, but the ending is rushed, unconvincing, and anticlimactic. Also, Ryan throws in several twists whitch aren't twists, but complete changes of the situation without warning. I won't give anything away, but there are a few moments where the situation flips on its head with no warning or foreshadowing whatsoever. Don't get me wrong, I love a good surprise, but the surprise has to make sense afterword when you think about it. The reader has to be able to put the pieces together, usually from hints the author drops earlier in the book. I love a book that makes one think, but not one that makes no sense. The final smaller issue with this book was the narrator. I am not sure why I never noticed it before, but Mr. Brand has little to no voice between characters. Everyone sounds almost exactly the same. The reason why I still gave him 3 stars is because I do think his storytelling voice is good, he just can't differentiate characters well. Overall, I would not recommend buying this book, unless you really need something to read or you have that hankering to finish the series that I had. This isn't the worst book I have ever read, but it is much closer to the bottom of the list than the top.