A while back, I read Anthony Ryan's Blood Song, and I thought it was one of the best new fantasies I'd read in a long time. For my review of it, click here.
So I went into Tower Lord with some reservations. I wondered how it could possibly measure up to the first book. I've had disappointments before with second books. Peter V. Brett's The Desert Spear, Scott Lynch's Red Seas under Red Skies, and Patrick Rothfuss's The Wise Man's Fear come to mind. None of these were bad books. In fact, they were still quite good. But they didn't measure up to the mammoth expectations I had after an amazing first book.
I was also worried about the new POV structure. Before I began, I'd heard that Anthony Ryan added new viewpoint characters to the novel. Part of what made the first so good was the focus on Vaelin. It was such a strong character-driven book. I worried that this book would lose that.
On the one hand, my worries were correct. On the other, they weren't. Did this book measure up to Blood Song? No, not quite. But it was still a great book in its own right. Did the additional POV characters cause me problems? Yes, they did. But they also brought more depth and breadth to the world and story. It took me a while to adjust to them, but once I did, I started enjoying Tower Lord every bit as much as I enjoyed Blood Song.
The key thing is this: don't go in expecting more of the same. If you do, you're going to be disappointed. In the first book, Ryan used a less traditional fantasy narrative structure. In this one, he's gone more toward the standard multi-POV structure in epic fantasy. This is not a bad thing. It's just different. In some places, you'll feel like you're reading the first book in a series again, as you have to get used to new POV characters, but you have to trust the author. He makes it work.
Thankfully, two of the new viewpoint characters are people we've already met: Princess Lyrna and Brother Frentis. The third new POV character was the toughest adjustment, especially since she starts out the book hating Vaelin. But give it time. Ryan can develop these three additional characters just as well as he developed one character in the first book. And he does it in a similar number of pages because this story covers a much shorter span of time.
Here's how I look at it. Blood Song was a highly entertaining introduction to Vaelin, but it wasn't the real story. It was a prelude of sorts. The real story starts here, and I found it just as entertaining, especially toward the end. However, the start was a bit of a struggle for me, so I can't rate this book quite as highly as the first.