Blackwing by Ed McDonald
Publication date: 27 July 2017
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free.
Blackwing is a book I heard about on Twitter, a trend I’m noticing more and more for myself. I was curious about it, but not hugely compelled to seek it out. I requested a copy when I saw it go up on NetGalley, and I’m so glad I did. Blackwing was a huge surprise for me, and Ed McDonald has quickly became a new favorite author.
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… *
Everything about this book was incredible. The plot, the world building, the characters – everything. It has a strong magic system and a compelling history and culture set in an incredibly well-constructed fantasy world. The story doesn’t start at the beginning of the conflict – although this would make for a fantastic series on its own. We are thrown into the story about 80 years after the devastating battle that stalled the war. There is a level of tension that lurks beneath the surface as you see the human side begin to slack and defences waver. As the narrative progresses, the tension grows and all the characters can feel it.
I loved concept of the Misery, a twisted stretch of land that adds to this tension and is almost another character in the story. I don’t often get unsettled by books, certainly not by settings, but the Misery is just so creepy and bizarre. The descriptions of the shattered and broken sky, the weird creatures that inhabit it, and the directionlessness of it just felt so fresh and new. The frontier in fantasy is a favorite setting of mine and Blackwing puts a new twist on it.
Blackwing is written in the first person – we see everything through the eyes of the grizzled Blackwing captain Ryhalt Galharrow. He’s the perfect grizzled fantasy hero – he’s beaten up from years in and around the Misery, he’s abrasive and rather unpleasant, and has a secret past that unfolds as the narrative progresses. He’s much like Logen Ninefingers, one of my all-time favorite characters, but he is very much his own character. You can’t help but love and root for Ryhalt as he struggles against the odds.
I’m calling it now: Blackwing will be one of the best fantasy debuts of 2017. Ed McDonald is a writer to watch – his skills with world building and character creation are just fantastic and he writes a cracking story. I’m looking forward to the rest of this series and anything else he chooses to write.
Have you read Blackwing? What did you think? Let me know!
*Copy courtesy of Goodreads