Thursday, May 31, 2018

New Book Review - 'Blackwing' by Ed McDonald

Book - Blackwing  
Writer - Ed McDonald 
Series - Raven's Mark #1    
Published By - Gollancz / Ace Books

Well, it seems last year had lots of good debut in the field of fantasy fiction. 'Blackwing' is yet another one, which can be termed as a post apocalyptic grimdark fantasy. This tell was very entertaining as the author used the first person narrative to approach the despair of an exhaustive struggle for survival, and created an interesting world and magic system to play with in the future.

This is the tale of 'Captain Ryhalt Galharrow', who is a Blackwing in the service of the Nameless sorcerer 'Crowfoot'. When a raven tattoo (which is his means of communication with 'Crowfoot') rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman with the help of  a handful of trusted allies must investigate a long dead sorcerer's legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the wastelands seek to destroy them, but if they cannot solve the ancient wizard's paradox, the Deep Kings will walk the earth again, and all will be lost. 

Our protagonists are caught in an ancient war between godlike beings, the Nameless and the Deep Kings. It is often quite hard to digest the fact that they are just mere pawns in the game. Even their allies the Nameless often act like the lives of the humans involved in this struggle is something they couldn't care about less. But the Deep Kings are much worse, because if they get their way, all of humanity will be their thralls with no wills of their own. Kind of a bleak setting, to be honest, but very imaginative and enjoyable to experience as well.

This can be compared to 'Peter Newman's 'The Vagrant', but while that book was all about poetic prose. ''Blackwing' uses rawer techniques. The author uses first person narrative to narrow the vision somewhat, yet makes the struggle of the characters that much more personal and realistic. The readers get annoyed at the selfishness and short shortsightedness at times, but the next instant they feel sympathetic for the protagonist due to sudden reveals of bits of his past. This was kind of roller-coaster ride that kept me guessing at times about who is gonna survive or at what costs.

The character of 'Galharrow' is masterfully created to say the least. His portrayal might be one of the most realistic one in quite a while. Despite his bad habits and bad decisions, his inner turmoil and his willpower in the face inevitable destruction is the driving force of the story. Among the other characters I really liked Tnota and Nenn, and hope that the writer tells more of their backstory in the future books. I also loved what little was here about the Nameless and the Deep Kings.

I will be honest when saying that about 2/3rd into the book I was a bit skeptical regarding the book. The story was getting a bit bogged down and 'Galharrow' a bit too annoying, but 'Ed McDonald' did manage to pacify all my worries with the excellent finishing. The mysteries were solved, my appetite was satisfied thorough a great action sequence featuring the protagonist and lots of bad guys and the author ended in a such a way that is keeping me quite interested about the sequels.

Another nice debut, this gets 4 out of 5 stars from me.    

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