Tuesday, April 21, 2015

R: Anthony Ryan

My theme for the A to Z Blogging Challenge this year is a mishmash of books, movies, writers and TV shows that have in one way or another taught me something about writing and helped me be a better writer. Some inspired my own stories and a few taught me what not to do. Each post is a one minute lesson on writing. Hop over to the IWSG blog for some April inspiration.

Anthony Ryan has written a high fantasy trilogy that starts with the novel Blood Song. The cover grabbed my interest and when I opened the book it started with a ten page italicized epilogue written in first person by a narrator who is to witness and write about the death of the man who is the actual protagonist. This narrator hates the hero and can't wait to see him killed in a combat to the death. The reader realizes right away that what is happening is actually the end of the novel. The first chapter
then starts as the protagonist tells his story to this scribe who hates him. A few more observations of the narrator are inserted in the book but the rest of it is the life story of the man supposedly going to his death. In the second book, Tower Lord, the scribe has moved from observer to being part of the drama and action. What first seems a simple story of a boy raised in a harsh, disciplined sect expands as the boy's world expands into a complex fantasy world with complicated politics and surprise twists. Ryan also wrote his books with only a year in between and the third and last novel is coming out in July.

Lesson: The narrator of a story doesn't have to be friendly to the hero. That very hostility can throw emphasis on the better qualities of the protagonist. In war, the lines between good guys and bad guys can be blurred. Who is the good guy? You can make your hero as likable as you want as long as you give him enough human flaws. Secondary characters should be complex enough to surprise the reader when they show heroism or betrayal. Starting a book at the end can intrigue the reader to find out how the characters arrived there. Fantasy readers will love you if you don't make them wait too long for the next book in a series.

"Cruelty is in all of us,” he said. “But they made it a virtue."  Vaelin Al Sorna, Tower Lord

"Men who love themselves hate those who would dim their glory." From Blood Song

“A fool is any man who doesn’t think he’s a fool."  From Blood Song

Have you ever read a book where you didn't know who the good guys were or where there weren't any? Have you read a book that starts with the ending? Have you read a book where part of it is written in first person and part in third person?


  1. Fantasy authors can be the worst for long waits can't they :).
    Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

  2. Hi Susan - I'm glad Tasha commented thus ... perhaps that's why I don't go that route in reading .. but interesting to read the lesson it taught you ... cheers Hilary

  3. A series where the narrator actually hates the hero? Fun! That alone makes me want to check these books out, haha.

  4. Can be fun to pick at the hero. I've got a few coming up that may fit the third and first person mode, a bit weird, but it all works

  5. Great way to start a book. Sounds intriguing. I must check this series out. I haven't read a good fantasy trilogy in a while.

    Thanks, Susan....

    Man I do remember the waiting. The worst was during the HARRY POTTER series. I never thought book FIVE would ever come out!

  6. I have read a book that started at the end of the story and then weaved the beginning and middle of it through the book until the end made sense; of course I can't remember the name of the book this early in the morning :)


  7. Intriguing! And I like the idea of the narrator not liking the hero. Puts things into a different perspective...

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary - Epics from A to Z
    MopDog - 26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary

  8. That sounds like a fun series to read!!! And, I also like the idea of the narrator either not being the hero or not liking the hero - it definitely brings out character qualities we might not otherwise see, and could make for an interesting character arc. Thanks for introducing me to these books, Susan!

  9. A narrator who doesn't like the hero is an interesting concept. I can't image not liking one of mine.

  10. Wow. I love that approach--telling the story from an antagonistic point of view. I just finished a book where the main antagonist of the story evolves into an ally. Bizarre and amazing at the same time. I love when an author can take a character arc and turn you on your ear.

  11. I find it strange how easy it is to enjoy a book where the protagonist is the bad person! Of course, a lot of detective stories for instance by Ruth Rendell are written from the pov of the miscreant. ~Liz http://www.lizbrownleepoet.com

  12. You know, I've had this one my to read list for a while now. This clinches it. Must read now!

    Good luck with the A to Z Challenge!
    A to Z Co-Host S. L. Hennessy

  13. That's an interesting way to do a story. Haven't read that series but need to pick it up.

  14. Well, I wrote one that was in first and third person. I must have read some that way to have even come up with the idea. I like stories that start at the end then go back to bring you the point you started. If it's well done, it can be very tense. I keep putting my foot on the brake, thinking things might be changed and that end avoided.

  15. This just came up in a discussion about Crime and Punishment. For me, the stories with blurred lines are my favorite.

  16. Sounds like a good way to start a book - I'm tempted to check out this series now! I love it when books have characters that aren't necessarily good and evil, but a mixture of both - in GoT, the Hound and Jaime Lannister are my favourite characters, but I hated them when I first started reading!

  17. It makes you wonder what the hero did to cause the scribe to hate him. A very good hook.

  18. I don't think I have read a book that started at the end. None that I can recollect anyway. That sounds interesting though.

    The narrator of a story doesn't have to be friendly to the hero. That very hostility can throw emphasis on the better qualities of the protagonist. - Interesting Insight. Thanks for sharing, Susan.

  19. This sounds like an original approach and a good hook to make us wonder why the narrator hates this guy.

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  21. D'oh! I'm making many wait for the sequel to my book though it is not high fantasy. *sigh* -

    Elizabeth Mueller
    AtoZ 2015
    My Little Pony

  22. Been awhile, but I'm sure I must have read the ending first, somewhere. I'm not a fan of it though. Not even in movies.

  23. That's different.
    Great concept.


  24. Hi :-)
    Visiting form the Road Trip. I'm so sorry I didn't discover your blog during the challenge, this seems an intersting theme. But hey, there is time to read now ;-)

    The only character that I remember loving to hate in a book is Guinevre from the Mists of Avalon. I really couldnt' stand her. And still, she was such a skillfully depicted character I couldn't help but admire her.

    The Old Shelter - Roaring Twenties