Review: Blackwing by Ed McDonald (Raven’s Mark book 1)


Published by Gollancz

5 stars


Set on the ragged edge of a postapocalyptic frontier, Blackwing is a gritty fantasy debut about a man’s desperate battle to survive his own dark destiny…

Nothing in the Misery lasts…

Under a cracked and wailing sky, the Misery is a vast and blighted expanse, created when the Engine, the most powerful weapon in the world, was unleashed against the immortal Deep Kings. Across the wasteland, teeming with corrupted magic and malevolent wraiths, the Deep Kings and their armies are still watching—and still waiting.

Ryhalt Galharrow is no stranger to the Misery. The bounty hunter journeys to a remote outpost, armed for killing both men and monsters, and searching for a mysterious noblewoman. He finds himself in the middle of a shocking attack by the Deep Kings, one that should not be possible. Only a fearsome show of power from the very woman he is seeking saves him.

Once, long ago, he knew the woman well, and together they stumble onto a web of conspiracy that threatens to unmake everything they hold dear and end the fragile peace the Engine has provided. Galharrow is not ready for the truth about the blood he’s spilled and the gods he’s supposed to serve…

Here’s a strong contender for book of the year, if ever there was one!

I originally gave up on this book after a few pages because I wasn’t in the mood for a fantasy, but after seeing all the hype around this book and a number of top reviews from bloggers whose opinions I really trust… I decided to give it another go and I was hooked by the end of the first chapter. It really is strange how your mood can turn a book from ‘meh’ to ‘holy shitballs, this is good’ in a matter of days.

Now, let me describe these holy shitballs to you:

Firstly, the world building and rules of magic are amazing. It’s actually not that far from Cthulu Armageddon in this regard, but it takes it a step further and adds an almost steampunk element to it. The conventions of magic in any fantasy book are really important to me, they have to be consistent and they have to make sense, between the magic, gods and supernatural beings, I was enthralled.

McDonald’s writing style is amazing, I find my attention usually strays during fighting action sequences but he managed to keep me fully engaged at all times. His descriptions of battle is more visceral than gratuitous – or, y’know, more about the voided bowels than the Tarantino sprays of blood.

My favourite part of this book was the friendship between Ryhalt, the protagonist, and Nenn, his second in command. It’s depressing that this is even noteworthy, but it’s a friendship between a man and a woman that is based entirely on respect and loyalty. Nenn is a warrior and a mercenary, the only thing that gets between her and a payday is helping her friends, ‘the right’ thing is irrelevant when the odds are that you’ll die at the end of the day so the depth of their devotion to one another is really moving, especially in the absence of any squishy feelings.

I recommend this book to everyone with an interest in fantasy novels, it’s the first book in an upcoming series and is guaranteed to blow your mind!

3 thoughts on “Review: Blackwing by Ed McDonald (Raven’s Mark book 1)

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