Blackwing by Ed McDonald
A Recommended Book of the Month
I received an advanced copy of Blackwing through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Ed McDonald, Orion Publishing Group and Gollancz.
*Minor spoilers may follow*
McDonald begins this tale by placing the reader in the Misery - following the action of Captain Galharrow and his crew of Blackwing mercenaries during their latest mission. The Misery is a post-apocalyptic, shifting wasteland under a broken and wailing bruise-coloured sky. This vast expanse of land is unpredictable, frightening and full of unspeakably grotesque mutated creatures. Only the bravest dare venture throughout these parts, navigating under the guidance of the three moons.
Captain Galharrow is an unapologetically unlikable, battle-hardened military veteran whose actions and experience inspire the loyalty of his squad and the book is presented through his first person perspective. He has had a blood filled and chaotic past and when he isn't acting as a sort of bounty hunter, he spends his time drinking himself unconscious and he occasionally talks to an extremely powerful being presenting itself in the form of a raven. The camaraderie and banter between Galharrow and his crew are excellent and reminiscent of The Bonehunters from Malazan: Book of the Fallen, incorporating characters who are just as colourful. My personal favourites were Tnota, the sex addicted navigator and ranger and Nenn, a nose-lacking intemperate and deadly soldier. During quieter scenes, when Captain Galharrow isn't describing the current events, depth is created to the world and his character when he ponders and reflects on relationships, histories and present-time happenings. The world building is one of the best I have seen presented in the first person and in my mind, is on par with Mark Lawrence's similar works. It was great to follow Galharrow's viewpoint, whether he is fighting, getting drunk or in some sort of political turmoil - so much happens to him throughout this narrative.
Blackwing places us in the middle of the action and McDonald has created a large number of unfamiliar names, places, and world terminology that are present from the beginning. I had to take notes for the first few chapters but after that everything seemed to flow smoothly. Initially confusing phrases such as "spinners", "drudge" or "skweams" quickly became identifiable regarding how they fitted into the world's vocabulary. They were understandable due to the context in which they were presented. The created world combines the post-apocalyptic elements discussed above with typical modern fantasy stories cities, factions and combat. The whole world isn't the Misery, that is just a proportion, albeit a vast amount, that was the result of the last war and the battles between the God-like Nameless and Deep Kings. The bigger picture of this world's happenings is all being orchestrated by these unbelievably powerful and malevolent beings. Certain characters also have destructively powerful magical wrecking potential that can destroy entire armies. Without going into too much detail, the magics created in this story were admirable, original and scientific-like.
This is quite a dark story full of gritty and macabre deaths aplenty with a good, but not an overwhelming amount of adrenaline fueling action. Certain sections are superbly intense though and this book is highly unpredictable. It features twists, betrayal, political disputes and half the time when I thought I had analysed where the story was going, I was then blindsided or completely shocked by a revelation. The publisher stated that this as being "gritty epic fantasy for fans of Mark Lawrence and Scott Lynch" and I cannot disagree. I count myself amazingly lucky that I have been one of the first people to review this. Blackwing is a splendid debut that is brilliantly written and I found it amazingly difficult to put down. It superbly presents a completely original, complex fantasy world with incredible and believable characters. Guaranteed already, this will be one of the best books I will read this year. I can see Blackwing becoming a big deal in the fantasy world and I can't wait for the next book in the Ravens' Mark trilogy.
James Tivendale, 9.2/10
James gives a strong overview above of the themes of the book so I’m just going to echo him and say this is one of the best fantasy novels I’ve read this year by far. Veering smoothly away from the cliches of fantasy but keeping the fantastical thrill that draws readers like me in to these extraordinary worlds, Ed McDonald manages to balance world building with character-driven action.
I loved the Misery. I could feel the sand and warped magic, the shimmering shadows of something that could be nothing, or could be your worst nightmares calling out to you in a child’s voice. It was genuinely deeply disturbing, and Captain Galharrow is a strong protagonist who despite fighting a host of internal demons is also a man who gets things done. You trust him, which I think is an important quality when there is a lot of geographical, historical and magical information that the reader needs to grasp for the world and the fighting to make sense.
I think this book stands out from the herd for me due to its simplicity. We’re given a small group of people to keep track of, and we stick with them. Huge, world-destroying things are going on, but McDonald keeps it trim and moving, and doesn’t leave a gaping ending. If you want a fantasy novel without having to wade through three volumes being published years apart so you forget what’s going on, this works. If you really enjoy a trilogy, I’m sure the subsequent books will be worth the wait.
I highly recommend.
Cat Fitzpatrick, 9/10
All reviews for: The Raven’s Mark
The Raven’s Mark #1
The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow's Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow...
Have you read Blackwing?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
Blackwing reader reviews
9.1/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
Red Queen's War
The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire fear her as they fear no other. Her grandson Jalan Kendeth is a coward, a cheat and a womaniser; and tenth in line t...
A Song of Ice and Fire
George RR Martin
Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun. As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robe...
The Inheritance Trilogy
Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky - a palace above the...
Before the thorns taught me their sharp lessons and bled weakness from me I had but one brother, and I loved him well. But those days are gone and what is left of them lies...
As shadows threaten to consume the kingdom of Southmarch, Barrick Eddon, heir to March throne, battles his way across the sinister Shadowlands. He must journey through this...
The Goblin Emperor
The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his fath...
War with the Mein
David Anthony Durham
Ruling from the island of Acacia, the emperor of the Known World has inherited an apparent peace and prosperity won by his ancestors generations ago. He's an intelligen...
A thousand years ago, the people of Achar drove the Forbidden from their lands. But now the northern tribes of the Ravensbund are fleeing south again, with nightmarish tale...
The Walkers of Legend
Two young men are thrown to opposite sides of a war where both will fight to prevent their homeland, the world’s last pocket of free people, from being consumed by a ...
Mark Charan Newton
The monarchies of the Royal Vispasian Union have been bound together for two hundred years by laws maintained and enforced by the powerful Sun Chamber. As a result, nations...
The Court of Broken Knives
Anna Smith Spark
They’ve finally looked at the graveyard of our Empire with open eyes. They’re fools and madmen and like the art of war. And their children go hungry while we pi...
The Ninth Rain
The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the real...
Brood of Bones
Cursed with endless drowsiness, Enchantress Hiresha sleeps more than she lives. Since she never has had a chance to raise a family, she sometimes feels like every woman is ...
King Rolen's Kin Series
Rowena Cory Daniells
Only seven minutes younger than Rolencia's heir, Byren has never hungered for the throne. He laughs when a seer predicts that he will kill his twin. But the royal heir ...
Scourge of the Betrayer
Many tales are told of the Syldoon Empire and its fearsome soldiers, who are known throughout the world for their treachery and atrocities. Some say that the Syldoon eat vi...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages:
- Recommended high fantasy books/series
- Recommended books/series featuring royalty, monarchy and empire
Best of 2016
Hope and Red
In a fracturing empire spread across savage seas, two people find a common cause. Hope, the lone survivor of a village massacred by the emperor's forces, is secretly train...
The Star Touched Queen
Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more ...
The Pagan Night
Ruling with an iron hand, the Church has eliminated the ancient pagan ways. Yet demonic gheists terrorize the land, hunted by the Inquisition, while age-old hatreds rage betwe...
Books of the Month
A selection of books - old and new alike - that were a joy to read.
Raithe, the God Killer, may have started the rebellion by killing a Fhrey, but long-standing enmities dividing the Rhunes make it all but impossible to unite against the common foe. And even if the clans can join forces, how will they defeat an enemy whose magical prowess renders them indistinguishable from gods?The answer lies across the...
A Time of Dread
The Ben-Elim, a race of warrior angels, once vanquished a mighty demon horde. Now they rule the Banished lands. But their dominion is brutally enforced and their ancient en...
The Last Dog on Earth
Adrian J Walker
Every dog has its day... And for Lineker, a happy go lucky mongrel from Peckham, the day the world ends is his: finally a chance to prove to his owner just how loyal he can...
The Shadow Crucible
Taking humanity back to their primordial beliefs and fears, Estella confronts Mikhail’s faith by revealing the true horror of the lucrative trade in human souls. All ...
The Dog Stars
Hig, bereaved and traumatised after global disaster, has three things to live for - his dog Jasper, his aggressive but helpful neighbour, and his Cessna aeroplane. He's...
Beren and Luthien
Painstakingly restored from Tolkien’s manuscripts and presented for the first time as a continuous and standalone story, the epic tale of Beren and Lúthien wil...
Life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall - named after the imposing stone barrier which separates the town from a grassy meadow. Here, young Tristran Thorn h...