Published by Orbit Books on July 4th 2013
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We have fought battles that left more than a hundred corpses on the ground and not a word of it has ever been set down. The Order fights, but often it fights in shadow, without glory or reward. We have no banners.Vaelin Al Sorna's life changes forever the day his father abandons him at the gates of the Sixth Order, a secretive military arm of the Faith. Together with his fellow initiates, Vaelin undertakes a brutal training regime - where the price of failure is often death. Under the tutelage of the Order's masters, he learns how to forge a blade, survive the wilds and kill a man quickly and quietly.Now his new skills will be put to the test. War is coming. Vaelin is the Sixth Order's deadliest weapon and the Realm's only hope. He must draw upon the very essence of his strength and cunning if he is to survive the coming conflict. Yet as the world teeters on the edge of chaos, Vaelin will learn that the truth can cut deeper than any sword.
I love fantasy – I always have, though it’s not often that I find myself reading epic, or high, fantasy because I tend to prefer the shorter scifi/fantasy stories (though this has changed). This book is written with the finest precision, enabling people like me to not even realize they’re reading a book they normally wouldn’t, and loving every second of it. There are very few epic fantasies in my library (at all actually) that I can claim have pulled me in like this, and the only one I can think of that affected me as greatly was Finnikin of the Rock, by Melina Marchetta. I tell you this so that you might get an idea of just how good this book really is. Don’t let the size and genre put you off like it almost did me, because this book… this book is fantasy done right.
Vaelin Al Sorna’s life changes forever the day his father abandons him at the gates of the Sixth Order, a secretive military arm of the Faith.
Vaelin is a-league-of-his-own type of man. We see him as a young tween being abandoned by his father at an imposing gate to which once entered one cannot go back. He, and the other boys who come to be there, are all taught with a severity that made my heart ache. They are no longer allowed to have a past, and they are told they no longer have family outside of their Order. They are taught harshly, but they are taught to be the very best their whole realm has to offer, and soon they become brothers as well as survivors. As the story progresses it’s clear that the author captured the voices of the boys’ ages perfectly as each person grew from a child to man to war veteran.
Once Vaelin becomes an adult he finds that he is unable to eschew the very fate that his mother tried to save him from, and finds himself a Sword of the King. King Janus is not a man that I want to think fondly of, even though he’s probably a great King (going by what most of his realm thought), but he is such a conniving asshole
and I love Vaelin too much that I can’t think of him without wishing that he’d died painfully. Impressively, Vaelin manages to hold true to his nature, that to which came from his mother, and even though he suffered through so many of the King’s schemes he remained a great man.
The characters in this book are wonderfully layered and complex; Vaelin, Caenis, Nortah, Barkus, Frentis, and Dentos are all amazing in their own right, and even though Vaelin is the protagonist, he’s not necessarily outshining them, they’re equal, and I loved that. There are few women in this story, but the ones that play a part in the brothers’ stories are not simpering whores that I (sadly) seem to expect from high fantasy, no, they’re intelligent, beautiful, compassionate, and powerful in their own right, and I appreciate that very much; I hate seeing women that are too stupid to live. My heart broke for every one of these characters at one point or another and I want so badly to know what happens to them.
This book offers only that which a great book can: escape, peril, love, forgiveness, vengeance, intrigue, plots, mysteries, battles, adventures, beautiful prose, appropriate pacing, and a wealth of that special something that all bibliophiles recognize: magic.