Queen Of Fire, the final chapter in Anthony Ryan’s epic fantasy Raven’s Shadow trilogy, is released tomorrow from Orbit Books. It brings an end to the story he started with Blood Song, and to the journeys of Vaelin Al Sorna and Queen Lyrna.
“Queen Lyrna has survived the bloody siege of Alltor. Now she must rally her troops and take back the capital from the Volarian invaders. But driving her hated enemy out of the Realm will not satisfy her lust for vengeance – she wants to pursue them across the ocean and burn their empire to ashes. To do so, she must place her faith in the Seventh Order: men and women who wield terrible powers, born of the Dark itself.
Vaelin Al Sorna would sacrifice his life for his queen – and may yet have to. Only by unmasking the Volarians’ mysterious Ally can the tide of war be turned. To this end, Vaelin must travel deep into the icebound north, in search of a man who cannot die – and he must do it without the aid of his blood song, which has fallen ominously silent . . .”
We talked to the author about whether he’ll return to the Raven’s Shadow world, what draws him to the fantasy genre, and if his characters ever surprise him.
How would you pitch the Raven’s Shadow series to a first time reader?
It’s an epic heroic fantasy which should appeal to fans of David Gemmell and Robin Hobb, probably the two biggest influences on the series.
How does it feel to have completed the trilogy with Queen Of Fire?
Finishing something is always a curious mix of relieved euphoria and sombre anti-climax. Writing the series was a great, if occasionally exhausting experience and I’m still surprised that I managed to deliver the two succeeding volumes within deadline. There’s also a tinge of sadness that comes from saying goodbye to characters I’ve known for over ten years now.
When you began the trilogy, did you have a clear idea of where it would end, or did the characters surprise you?
I had a good idea of the overall story and the places I wanted my characters to visit, but my outlines are usually pretty sparse and there were plenty of surprises along the way. Writing the first draft is the fun part for me, it’s like reading the story for the first time, even though I know how it’s going to end.
Do you think you might return to Vaelin Al Sorna and the world you’ve created? Or do you feel the urge to create something new and different?
I have definite plans for some shorter works set in the same world and will probably come back for another trilogy at some point. I’ve already started a new series set in an entirely different world. The new series will probably be a trilogy, I haven’t quite decided yet. I’d love to write a standalone novel some day but my imagination tends towards the epic, so who knows if it’ll ever actually happen.
Have you always been drawn to the fantasy genre?
It’s my favourite genre to read, with science fiction and crime a close joint second. Fantasy gives the author the space to explore any theme or plot without constraint. Though, by the same token, that freedom also requires a certain discipline.
Who were your favourite authors growing up?
I fell in love with fantasy when I discovered the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander, which was YA fantasy before people really knew what YA was. I also read a lot of Stephen King, probably at too young an age. Stephen Donaldson and David Eddings were also a big influence. I didn’t properly get into Tolkien until I was in my twenties by which time I’d also discovered David Gemmell and Robin Hobb’s Assassin series.
What piece of advice would you give to an author working on their first fantasy novel?
Remember it’s a marathon and not a sprint – it took me six and a half years to write Blood Song. Also, by all means spend time world-building but try to avoid filling up the first chapter or two of your book with a history lesson. It’s usually better to let the reader discover the world as the story unfolds.