Blackwing (The Raven’s Mark book 1) by Ed McDonald (book review)

July 11, 2017 | By | Reply More

When Blackwing Galharrow receives his orders, it is through a searing pain as his raven tattoo breaks out of his arm. Ouch! This epic fantasy is set in a recognisable world where magic is used to raise armies of the dead. This is a world of soldiers, Deep Kings, the Nameless, hopeless humans and The Misery. There is a whole lot packed into this debut novel but, somehow, we accept it and it all works. Our gun-for-hire is a man who works for one of the Nameless. Crowfoot is a god-like being who works in eras rather than human span. He sees Galharrow as a useful lieutenant in the war against the Deep Kings. An epic war saw the Deep Kings beaten and held back by Nall’s Engine. It’s a device that can annihilate advancing forces except now it might be failing.

Galharrow is given the task of saving a mysterious woman. The Spinners use their special gift of weaving the light of the moon and stars to make a powerful energy. Spinning exacts a terrible toll on its practitioners. Nall’s Engine uses this energy to kill the oncoming drudge armies. These are once-human slaves to the Deep Kings who will relentlessly move forward slaughtering as they go with no thought for personal safety. They come from across The Misery, a wilderness that tests the sanity of anyone who is unfortunate enough to cross it or worse to work in it.

Sent to Station 12 on the edges of The Misery, Galharrow is caught up in an attack. He and some of his soldiers barely escape with their lives and the noble woman they were sent to save. The knowledge that Nall’s Engine was not used haunts Galharrow when he returns to the fortress town of Valengrad, where he tries to drown his memories before receiving another call to arms.

I was reluctant to start this book, it’s not my ‘Game Of Thrones’ at all but I was completely hooked. It was viscerally real and the adventure kept coming. Ed McDonald has really pushed through some great concepts here. It’s not that magic and zombie armies haven’t been used before but his storytelling does suck you in. Part-cowboy, part-frontier, part-fantasy. You will recognise the tropes here. He loves his tropes and has a troubled past. Hell, there’s even a woman with no nose in this. How does she smell? You’d better not ask as she has a mean set of weapons.

This is book one of a series called ‘The Raven’s Mark’ so I’m very keen to keep reading about Galharrow and his merry band once more.

Sue Davies

July 2017

(pub: Gollancz. 435 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £13.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-47322-202-1

pub: Gollancz. 378 page hardback. Price: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-473-22201-4)

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Category: Books, Fantasy

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