The World Raven (The Long War).
A. J. Smith.
4.5 stars out of 5.
All that was dead will rise. All that now lives will fall. The final, epic battle for the Lands of Ro.
The dead god is waking. His power-mad priestess has deployed a mass of men and beasts onto the plains of Ro Weir. Faced with this black swarm, the last remnants of a nation crumbles and falls. This is the final battle for the mortal lands of Ro.
Far to the north, the ice men of Rowanoco muster their Exemplars against the witch’s assassins. In the blistering southern deserts, a squire with no master walks unscathed through a poisoned city. And, in the halls beyond the world, a thrice-born man dares to tread the path of Giants…
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The World Raven is the final book in A. J. Smith’s The Long War series with The Black Guard, The Dark Blood and The Red Prince being the three previous instalments.
The World Raven follows on directly from the climactic conclusion of The Red Prince continuing the varying character story-arcs and plots that we have been following from the start of the series, building through to this final volume in The Long War.
I have followed this series from the very beginning, starting way back many many pages ago with The Black Guard and have thoroughly enjoyed it. With the lands of Ro, A. J. Smith has excelled with world building, crafted a richly detailed huge world full of religion, magic, history and lore with various different areas all with their own unique geography creating a rich tapestry in which to weave his tales of The Long War, ranging from the stark, cold ice lands of Fjorlan, to the sun soaked desert lands of Karesia, the large forest of The Fell, Ro Canarn, the area of Tor Funweir with it’s cities Ro Tiris, Ro Haran, Ro Arnon and Ro Weir all the way to the edge of the world with Oron Kaa. And, all are populated with interesting and intriguing creatures and characters.
Along side the high quality world building Smith also has great in-depth and detailed characterisation giving you the reader fully fleshed characters that you like and dislike in equal measure, heroes, villains, the grey area in-between where anti-heroes are placed. These are a set of characters that you care about, you feel for their fates and predicaments, hoping that they survive and for the villain’s, well, you hope that they get there comeuppance.
Being the final book in the series, it’s hard to go into characterisation as those characters that have made it this far have all already shown great development growing into their roles throughout the three previous books. But Smith does not disappoint, fleshing out the characters we already know even more, developing others who have only played very small roles, with even a few surprises thrown in along the way. Anyone that’s read the previous books will know that some characters and soldiers in The Long War have fallen along the way, but is the death of mortal flesh truly the end? That my fellow bookish peeps is the question, and the only way to find the answer out is by reading this book!
When you get to the final book in a series it’s not just a book any more and the characters you’re reading about aren’t just people on a page. Yes, there’s something to be said for the first book in a series and learning about a new world and meeting new characters for the first time, forming that relationship between you as the reader and the characters you are reading about. But, when you read a final book in a series, it transcends that as you’ve already developed that bond between you and the characters, you have your favourites, you have those you despise and you have mourned those along the way who haven’t made it this far. It’s a journey that you have taken and as the page count dwindles down to those final few pages you start to realise that your journey to is at an end.
It’s really hard to review a final book in a series without giving away spoilers as to what has transpired previously in the three books before and as I avoid spoilers I can’t really go into much detail about the story taking place in The World Raven. I’m a firm believer that reading should be a journey, I hate spoilers that give away the plot and I don’t want to spoil anything for you by telling you about story-arc’s, plot twists and deaths and thus spoil that journey for you should you so choose to read this series.
Instead I will write that Smith has crafted an epic conclusion to his The Long War series, with The World Raven he weaves together some of the separate story-arcs and threads bringing certain characters together in epic settings and battles and leaves other characters to their own devices and stories possibly with fleeting overlaps with other arc’s. Every character and story-arc throughout the book is given plenty of page time and none come across as more important than any other giving you a sense that every battle in The Long War is just as important as the next and every characters fate matters.
The conclusion isn’t all neat and tidy with every lose end tied up but that’s what you expect from a fantasy series. If you think of Steven Erikson’s epic Malazan series, one of the best ever and it has an open ended conclusion after ten books. Does it detract from the story? No, it doesn’t. It’s the same with Smith’s The Long War, the open ended conclusion of The World Raven for some characters is the perfect ending and a more than fitting climax, leaving the door open for future books to revisit The Long War and the lands of Ro.
Smith’s writing is just as good as ever, he has a fast paced and descriptive style that really pulls you in giving you what feels like just the right amount of history, characterisation, quiet moments, story progression and action. Added with humour, occasionally sarcastic from some characters – big bonus points for that from me as I enjoy my sarcasm and swearing (not to much that it’s over the top but what I found to be just the right amount and the Fjorlanders and their cursing are a highlight always bringing a smile to my face). All this together gives you a great fast-paced read. There are a lot of POV’s (points of view) in the series but Smith has always managed to maintain your focus as a reader and his focus as an author and while you will have your favourite POV characters – one of mine has been Randall the young squire, his has been a fun journey, you’re never bored with the others and can always find something interesting to pull you into their stories and plots.
I’ve mentioned both the deep characterisation and detailed world building that Smith incorporates into his books and along with that the action scenes demand a mention to. He really has an eye for combat and gives you plenty of action throughout the book and while it’s visceral in places it’s never over the top like some authors seem to write, more gore doesn’t always make better action, there needs to be a balance between the bloodshed and the action taking place and Smith has it on point giving you some great action in The World Raven.
From what I have seen not to many people seem to have read this series compared to others out-there and I feel that that truly is a shame as Smith deserves to be one of the top current fantasy authors. And, now that it’s finished I really feel like I can say that The Long War warrants being recognised as one of the top fantasy series. For me, Smith is a must read author and I will look forward to his future books.
If just one person who reads this decides to give The Long War a read – you need to start with The Black Guard as it’s the first book. 🙂 Then I will feel that my review and blog have done their own little bit, no matter how small in trying to help this series and author get more attention in the fantasy world.
A brilliantly engrossing series, full of action, great stories, a captivating set of characters, now a fitting conclusion.
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