Blackwing (Ravens' Mark #1)
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…

Blackwing (Ravens' Mark #1) Details

TitleBlackwing (Ravens' Mark #1)
Author
FormatPaperback
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseOct 3rd, 2017
PublisherAce Books
ISBN0399587799
ISBN-139780399587795
Number of pages336 pages
Rating
GenreFantasy, Apocalyptic, Post Apocalyptic

Blackwing (Ravens' Mark #1) Review

  • James Lafayette Tivendale
    March 23, 2017
    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. 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 f 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. 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 a 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 Blackwing is "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 and epic 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.www.youandibooks.wordpress.com
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  • Petrik
    June 16, 2017
    4.5/5 StarsARC provided by the publisher, Ace, in exchange for an honest review via NetGalleyI’m calling every fan of Joe Abercrombie and Mark Lawrence to put Blackwing on their radar. Blackwing, the debut work and the first book in the Raven’s Mark series by Ed McDonald is one of the most original grimdark fantasies I ever read. My experience will most likely differ from a lot of readers but I envisioned Blackwing as something that was created out of an open world video games with a post-apocal 4.5/5 StarsARC provided by the publisher, Ace, in exchange for an honest review via NetGalleyI’m calling every fan of Joe Abercrombie and Mark Lawrence to put Blackwing on their radar. Blackwing, the debut work and the first book in the Raven’s Mark series by Ed McDonald is one of the most original grimdark fantasies I ever read. My experience will most likely differ from a lot of readers but I envisioned Blackwing as something that was created out of an open world video games with a post-apocalyptic setting reminiscent of Mad Max, with a little touch of the manga ‘Flame of Recca’. The result? Bloody brilliant.The plot of the book revolves around Ryhalt Galharrow in his journey to survive his dark destiny as a servant to the Nameless, the ruthless ancient beings or maybe even gods of this world. The enemies, The Deep Kings is held at bay in Misery (a vast and blighted expanse) by a powerful weapon that protects its borders, and Galharrow will soon be thrown into the heat of this resurging war. The pacing of the book is slow paced due to the reason that the plot itself is very heavy with politics and a lot of world-building, especially during the 20%-50% marks. The political tribulations that the characters faced here more or less lasted around 60-70% of the whole book but there are a lot of thrilling elements in it that made the politics intriguing to read.Sure there are maybe only around three action sequences throughout Galharrow’s journey in Blackwing but the climax sequences itself took up the last 20% of the book. All the previous 80% imo was completely just a setup for this section. They’re bloody and truly well orchestrated. I should also mention that the plot somehow felt concluded already, like how 'The Lies of Locke Lamora' ended, we know that there will be a continuation to the story but the first book worked greatly as a standalone in my opinion.Only the plot itself will not guarantee a great book, and considering that Blackwing is completely told in 1st person view solely through Galharrow’s perspective, it is prominent to have a greatly written main character. Ryhalt Galharrow, the captain of Blackwing, a barely 40 years old bounty hunter that’s also a servant to one of the Nameless, Crowfoot, started out simply as an anti-hero and a long hardened battle veteran. However, as the story progressed, a lot of backgrounds were revealed seamlessly within the plot. His deeply hidden longing of the past in particular made him easier for the reader to connect with him despite his cold-hearted actions and overall, I love his character development. “Spirits knew I needed the money. More than I ever had before. But there are promises you make to yourself, vows you place your pride in. Some things are worth the struggle.” One more thing to mention, the female characters, Ezabeth (which I can’t help but pronounced as Elizabeth) and Nenn are really well written but I’ll let you find out about them yourself. I also can’t wait to find out more about the other Nameless and in particular, Crowfoot, who’s responsible for the creation of Misery during the old/past war with the Deep Kings.The first thing that came to my head when encountered with a grimdark fantasy book with a post- apocalyptic setting is 'The Broken Empire' by Mark Lawrence (I haven’t read Red Queen’s War yet), it’s in my opinion that Blackwing is better on this aspect, by far. I have huge praises towards the intricacy of the world-building in this genre, it is excellent.Although the book doesn’t took place in Misery most of the time, it's still an amazing place to dive into. Consisting of fractured skies, multiple moons, shifting landscape, zombiesque and mutant creatures, it truly made Misery one heck of an original place to visit. There is a sense of danger looming everywhere in the world and the post apocalyptic atmosphere worked splendidly in bringing the feeling of despair in the world. I’m reading the ARC edition of this book so I have no idea if there will be an official map or not in the final edition of the book but this world would benefit so much more from one and I truly can’t wait to see it.I have mentioned in the beginning of my review that the book reminded me of the manga/anime ‘Flame of Recca’, this is due to the reason that in the anime, Recca could summon a dragon from the tattoo on his arms. It’s almost the same case here, Crowfoot nestled himself as a tattoo on Galharrow’s arm and could come into existence from there, the difference with Recca is that Galharrow cannot summon him voluntarily, while Recca can but the concept is more or less the same. This is a good thing because 'Flame of Recca' is one of my favorite manga from my teenage years and I'm pleased to see some of the elements there made it into a novel, even if it's unintentional.Let’s talk a bit about the prose. Ed McDonald’s prose is profound and poetic at times. There are a lot of terminologies here and Ed doesn’t spend any time to explain what they are. This can be confusing at first and usually, this kind of storytelling method tended to bother me but the contexts in the narrative allow me to fully understand the meaning behind the terminologies with ease. To give a sense of how great his prose is, there’s no better way other than a direct quotation from the book. I don’t usually post long quotation in my reviews but I’ll make an exception this time, please, just read this gem and you’ll know what I’m talking about. “The world is a cruel mother, a matron of darkness, selfishness, greed, and misery. For most, their time suckling at her breast is naught but a scramble through stinging, tearing briars before a naked, shameful collapse as the flesh gives out. And yet in the bright eyes of every newborn, there lies a spark, a potential for goodness, the possibility of a life worth living. That spark deserves its chance. And though most of them will turn out to be as worthless as the parents who sired them, while the cruelty of the earth will tell them to release their innocence and join in the drawing of daggers, every now and then one manages to clutch to its beauty and refuses to release it into the dark.” Despite all the greatness, there are, however some minor cons I had with the book that prevented me from giving this book a full 5 stars ratings. First, although the world-building is the best part of the book for me, it also felt a bit repetitive in the first half that it hurts the pacing a bit. I also think that the relationship development between Galharrow and Ezabeth felt a bit ‘forced’ at the last section of the book. Finally, I wish the characters spent more time at Misery, that place is truly amazing and in my opinion, maybe the biggest strength of this book. These are all minor cons and overall and it only affected my enjoyment factor a bit.To conclude my review, I’m just going to say that I don’t think there’s any reason to not read this book if you’re a fan of grimdark, gritty fantasy or just in the mood for something original in your read. Blackwing will rise with its engrossing tale of conflagration soon, as some of us may know already, 2017 is a great year for adult fantasy debut, and this is precisely one of the book in the list. Highly recommended!The official release date for Blackwing is 3rd of October in US and 27th of July in UK.You can find this and the rest of my Adult Epic/High Fantasy & Sci-Fi reviews at BookNest
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  • Bookdragon Sean
    April 23, 2017
    Perfect for fans of Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie and Mark Lawrence, this dark adventure is gripping and bloody; it's a twisted story that spins a web of deceit. Nothing is as it seems, as ageless powers manipulate and control the lives of the characters. The world is a staging ground, all leading to one dramatic confrontation that has been a century in the making.One hundred years ago Nall's Engine was fired on the enemies of the Republic, and in its wake it left a blackened and scarred landscap Perfect for fans of Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie and Mark Lawrence, this dark adventure is gripping and bloody; it's a twisted story that spins a web of deceit. Nothing is as it seems, as ageless powers manipulate and control the lives of the characters. The world is a staging ground, all leading to one dramatic confrontation that has been a century in the making.One hundred years ago Nall's Engine was fired on the enemies of the Republic, and in its wake it left a blackened and scarred landscape known as The Misery. Beyond The Misery, a wasteland of corruption and dark magic, reside the even darker entities known as The Deep Kings. They want nothing more than to destroy the Republic, the realm of men. They are immortal. They are ageless. And above all they are patient. They will gladly wait one thousand years for the right moment to arise. They want conquest, but once again standing in their way is Nall's Engine. It's a weapon of awesome power, and it's the only thing keeping these dark kings at bay. They lost one of their own when The Misery was created. It's the only hope of men, but over the years it has started to degrade.Captain Galharrow is of the Blackwing, an order of hardy fighters answerable only to one: Crowfoot, the nameless God. Crowfoot helped build Nall's engine, but in the wake of Nall's disappearance he has set up his own machinations for keeping tabs on the enemy. Galharrow is a mercenary, a sword for hire, but that is just his day job. He has a small team of highly efficient soldiers who are seasoned veterans; they are ready at any moment to follow the spontaneous and random command of Crowfoot. When he wishes to speak to his captain, he sends a message via raven. The raven, though, is a tattoo on Galharrow's arm. It bursts through his skin and takes wing when his master has an order. It's an imaginative idea, one that sounds very painful!The story begins with such a command. It seems ordinary, perhaps even unimportant, a simple as a direction, but it leads to a chain of events that reshape the frontier of the Republic. Galharrow is reunited with an old flame, a woman from his youth who he still ardently loves. The sight of her brings feelings back to the surface that he thought were dead. She thinks that Nall's Engine is broken, but nobody will listen to her. Galharrow is compelled to assist her for the sake of his feelings and the order Crowfoot gave. They begin to unearth as series of clues that will lead them to the heart of the engine itself, and the truth behind its creation. It has an ominous history, one only revealed as the Deep Kings and their invasion force enter the city. The ending that follows is potently clever. Nothing is as it seems.Ed McDonald is an author to watch out for. I don't say things like this lightly. I read a lot of fantasy, and I don't hesitate to say that this will be one of the biggest fantasy debuts of the year. McDonald has given us the first instalment of what looks to be a very interesting series. I look forward to seeing where this goes in the future.-I received an advanced reading copy of this book from The Bookbag in exchange for an honest review, originally posted here.
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  • Emma
    June 26, 2017
    Landing straight in my 'best of 2017' list, this post-apocalyptic offering is original, dark, and entirely stay-up-till-it's-finished absorbing. McDonald has created something matched only by the best fantasy writers: an unfamiliar world the reader can step into with excitement and awe. Well, not actually step into because the place is brutal as hell... but it's a place you feel in heart and mind. It is a world entire, with its own culture, history, and rules, larger than just the plot of this n Landing straight in my 'best of 2017' list, this post-apocalyptic offering is original, dark, and entirely stay-up-till-it's-finished absorbing. McDonald has created something matched only by the best fantasy writers: an unfamiliar world the reader can step into with excitement and awe. Well, not actually step into because the place is brutal as hell... but it's a place you feel in heart and mind. It is a world entire, with its own culture, history, and rules, larger than just the plot of this novel and suggestive of the vastness of this new-to-us place. The characters are real, mentally and physically scarred by their experiences, with a complex morality that is compelling and an originality that lifts this book right to the top. For me, the first person narrative was akin to listening to a Malazan marine; Galharrow, Blackwing and mercenary, is pragmatic, loyal to few, and is not to be messed with, by gods, princes, or men. This is an outstanding debut, written with flair. McDonald has an eye for detail and for humour, so despite all the death and destruction there is a thread of gold hope seamed through the book that means it isn't straight up grim. Get hold of it if you can. An immediate classic. ARC via Netgalley.
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  • Nicole
    July 21, 2017
    arc provided via NetGalley
  • Petros Tr
    July 17, 2017
    I consider myself a professional reviewer. Definitely not the best (Jamie Tivendale might as well take this title), and most certainly not the most experienced (eg Robin Carter), but a good reviewer nonetheless. And yet, for the first time in my life, I can't review a book I've read. The book in question, as the title and the cover would suggest, is Blackwing by Ed McDonald. Why, would you ask, can't I review it? Because even if I tried, I couldn't possibly do it justice. Blackwing is one of th I consider myself a professional reviewer. Definitely not the best (Jamie Tivendale might as well take this title), and most certainly not the most experienced (eg Robin Carter), but a good reviewer nonetheless. And yet, for the first time in my life, I can't review a book I've read. The book in question, as the title and the cover would suggest, is Blackwing by Ed McDonald. Why, would you ask, can't I review it? Because even if I tried, I couldn't possibly do it justice. Blackwing is one of the greatest fantasy books I've read in my life. Perfect in every possible way. Ed McDonald is on a par with Joe Abercrombie and Brandon Sanderson. Cast aside whatever you're reading and start Blackwing instead. That's all I have to say. Find all of my reviews over on http://BookNest.eu/
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  • TS Chan
    June 17, 2017
    ARC received from ACE, Berkley Publishing Group, in exchange for an honest review, via Netgalley.4.5 stars.Blackwing is a remarkable debut that was gritty, original and empathetically compelling. A blend of fantasy, horror and science fiction, it gave me strong vibes of Stephen King, albeit way more accessible in that it was less mind-bending with a fluid prose that was easy to appreciate, though no less poetic when it needs to be.The story follows the first person perspective of Ryhalt Galharro ARC received from ACE, Berkley Publishing Group, in exchange for an honest review, via Netgalley.4.5 stars.Blackwing is a remarkable debut that was gritty, original and empathetically compelling. A blend of fantasy, horror and science fiction, it gave me strong vibes of Stephen King, albeit way more accessible in that it was less mind-bending with a fluid prose that was easy to appreciate, though no less poetic when it needs to be.The story follows the first person perspective of Ryhalt Galharrow, a Blackwing Captain who is a bounty-hunter of sorts whose life is inextricably linked to one of the Nameless, powerful ancient beings constantly in battle with the Deep Kings, whom are even more omnipotent. A wearied, hardened and frustrated man who is given to inebriation, Ryhalt’s characterisation practically bleeds grief and regret through an intimate window granted into his thoughts and emotions. The author quite masterfully weaved the current narrative together with his backstory which gradually revealed in all its poignancy of the circumstances that shaped him into the embittered man that he is now. From the moment we’re born, the sands of our lives are draining through the hourglass. Living is the biggest steal we ever make, but nobody gets away with it. His close bonds with his loyal crew members, Nenn and Tnota, as well as his relationship with the noble and talented Lady Ezabeth provided many heartfelt moments that kept on nudging my investment into these characters further and further up the “Don’t you dare die on me” meter.I would describe the worldbuilding of this post-apocalyptic setting as a strange yet almost intoxicating blend of steampunk, technology, swords and sorcery that I’ve never seen before. Perhaps The Dark Tower by Stephen King might come close but as I’ve yet to read that series, I cannot make any comparisons.Aspects of horror can be found in the Misery, a vast tainted wasteland that was scorched by the magic unleashed by one of the Nameless almost a century ago. An expansive no man’s land that divides the Dhojaran Empire of the Deep Kings from the Range where the humans lived under the protection of a weapon created by the Nameless. Deep magic still blankets the land till today, transforming all that lived there into a perversion of nature and no man or creature can venture into the Misery without feeling its effects. With shifting landscapes, a cracked sky, ghostly apparitions, grass that can cut one’s legs to shreds, man-eating creatures uttering strange sentences, the Misery is possibly my favourite worldbuilding element in this book. What else gave me horror vibes in this fantasy tale? It is when the appearance of a little boy sends shivers down my spine. Creepy murderous children; the very idea of the face of innocence being perverted into an incarnation of evil is one of the most frightening and disturbing concepts in my imagination. Cue: Stephen King's Children of the Corn.Aside from compelling characters and its fascinating setting, the plot was both engrossing and unpredictable. Sure there were instances where I had suspicions or speculations which turned out to be quite accurate. However, the manifestation of the revelation turned out to be completely unexpected and even brilliant at times. The pacing of the book was a bit uneven due to quite a fair bit of exposition and info-dumping required at the beginning to help the reader understand the world. I had to admit that the first few chapters didn’t sit entirely well with me as I was bombarded with all kinds of capitalised terms which bear no meaning nor context to what I was reading. I’d advise patience as this gets resolved fairly quickly and the narrative flows well enough to keep the pages turning. When it matters the most, the climax of the story was very well-paced and I appreciated that the author took the time to draw out the ending sufficiently to a satisfying conclusion. It has been widely acknowledged that 2017 will see many great and promising fantasy debuts, and from what I’ve just read, Blackwing might just be one of the top reads. I do highly recommend this book. If you have apprehensions that this is the first of a series, I will allay that by saying it reads well as a stand-alone. A point to note for readers who prefer to avoid strong language though as Blackwing does contain a fair amount of profanity. The official release date for Blackwing is 3rd of October in US and 27th of July in UK.This review can also be found at Booknest
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  • Anthony Ryan
    May 22, 2017
    Upon starting Blackwing it quickly gained the rare distinction of being one of those books that felt as if it had been written especially for me. Grizzled veteran and reluctant servant of the Nameless Ryhalt Galharrow spends his days hunting traitorous agents of the Deep Kings in the magical wasteland known as the Misery, until a face from the past drags him into a dark conspiracy which may lead to all out war. Ed McDonald handles the action with a deft hand and has created a compelling central Upon starting Blackwing it quickly gained the rare distinction of being one of those books that felt as if it had been written especially for me. Grizzled veteran and reluctant servant of the Nameless Ryhalt Galharrow spends his days hunting traitorous agents of the Deep Kings in the magical wasteland known as the Misery, until a face from the past drags him into a dark conspiracy which may lead to all out war. Ed McDonald handles the action with a deft hand and has created a compelling central character who remains likeable despite a lengthy list of flaws. A remarkably assured fantasy debut that mixes of the inventiveness of China Mieville with the fast pace heroics of David Gemmell.
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  • Crazy4Books
    June 29, 2017
    Lately Ive been debating giving up on adult fantasy, at least until Im in the mood for slower books. Ive had such a difficult time finding ones that are fast pace without all the unnecessary fluff. If a book takes me too long to read I tend to lose interest so my search for a gripping adult fantasy has been a difficult one. Although I didnt love this book it was better than I expected it to be. I think people who primarily read YA like me will find it entertaining. Its not exactly fast pace, but Lately Ive been debating giving up on adult fantasy, at least until Im in the mood for slower books. Ive had such a difficult time finding ones that are fast pace without all the unnecessary fluff. If a book takes me too long to read I tend to lose interest so my search for a gripping adult fantasy has been a difficult one. Although I didnt love this book it was better than I expected it to be. I think people who primarily read YA like me will find it entertaining. Its not exactly fast pace, but its not slow either.The main character was an anti hero of sorts. A drunk mercenary who takes jobs capturing fugitives. I thought his character developpement was interesting. I liked that even the side character were fleshed out. I also enjoyed the unique and gritty world. The writing created an atmosphere that fit perfectly with the world. I really appreciated how the pace was quicker than most adult fantasy Ive read lately and that it didnt have a bunch of useless filler. Despite guessing who was behind their troubles I never got bored which is impressive.Considering I gave my last adult fantasy 2 stars and I gave the Final Empire 4 Stars, my rating for this book is actually pretty good. I enjoyed this story for different reasons. This story had a decent magic system based on harvesting the light of the 3 moons and some pretty nasty creatures but I felt like it was missing something. The Darlings were fascinating but I would have liked to see more of the Nameless and the Kings. Also Im not sure why the Darling tried to kill the woman when he said wanted her to finish her research.This story was a lot of fun but it didnt exactly wow me. However, while I was in the middle of Blackwing I received an ARC in the mail that I had been anticipating so much and instead of dropping this book to read my new ARC right away I actually wanted to finish this one first. The plot and the characters had captivated me and I didnt want to stop reading. I love bittersweet endings. Its just more realistic when not everyone survives. Ill be looking out for the sequel and hoping we get to see the world expand. I believe this book will be loved by many adult fantasy lovers.*received in exchange for an honest review*
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  • Melanie
    July 25, 2017
    Buddy Read with Michael from Bitten by a Radioactive Book ❤
  • Frankie Lovely
    June 27, 2017
    WOOHOO!!!Just got approved for this baby on Netgalley <3 <3Can't wait!
  • Peter McLean
    April 16, 2017
    This thing is just magnificent. The setting is a blasted land called the Misery that resulted from the fallout of a magical super-weapon built by an almost-god who has since disappeared. Our hero, and I use the term loosely, is Captain Galharrow of Blackwing. Blackwing itself is a sort of secret police answering directly to another almost-god, but Galharrow mostly makes his living as a bounty hunter along the frontier. Galharrow is a beautifully broken character, a hardened alcoholic with a trag This thing is just magnificent. The setting is a blasted land called the Misery that resulted from the fallout of a magical super-weapon built by an almost-god who has since disappeared. Our hero, and I use the term loosely, is Captain Galharrow of Blackwing. Blackwing itself is a sort of secret police answering directly to another almost-god, but Galharrow mostly makes his living as a bounty hunter along the frontier. Galharrow is a beautifully broken character, a hardened alcoholic with a tragic past that's just waiting to catch up with him. He reminded me a bit of Rojan Dizon from Francis Knight's "Fade to Black" (which is also excellent), and he has a close band of scumbags and cutthroats working for him. He's not a nice guy but he's a perfect product of his past and his environment, and the first-person narration is believable and extremely well written throughout. McDonald throws you straight into the action and you're left to figure out how everything works and what the various inhabitants of the Misery actually are as you go along. Some of his creations are really quite disturbing, and the way the magic works is explained just enough to make sense without being overly detailed. The pace is fast, the fight scenes extremely realistic (and brutal) and the dialogue sharp and often witty. This is an astonishingly accomplished debut - McDonald is definitely one to watch. (I received an advance copy from Ace.)
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  • Sh3lly ✨ Bring on the Weird ✨
    June 27, 2017
    Rejected by Ace/Berkley/Penguin via Netgalley. I has a big sad.They hate me.
  • Gwyn Harley
    July 7, 2017
    I've got to say it, there's debut novels that hit the spot and you think to yourself this writers got something here and I will watch for what he does in the future. And then there's Blackwing. Ed has written something here that is just superb. From start to finish I was hanging on every sentence, every description of his broken hero in his broken world. He has managed to find that incredibly delicate balance of creating a living, breathing complex world whilst only revealing enough of said worl I've got to say it, there's debut novels that hit the spot and you think to yourself this writers got something here and I will watch for what he does in the future. And then there's Blackwing. Ed has written something here that is just superb. From start to finish I was hanging on every sentence, every description of his broken hero in his broken world. He has managed to find that incredibly delicate balance of creating a living, breathing complex world whilst only revealing enough of said world to keep the reader hooked. And the same goes for his main character. As the story progresses his past and the scars that define him are slowly revealed, and with each revelation you come to understand him, love him, hope for and despair for him just that little bit more. He is bitter, angry, ashamed yet loyal to a fault to his very few friends. There are debut authors that you have to read, then there are those that you NEED to read. Ed is most definitely in the latter category.
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  • Michael Everest
    May 16, 2017
    THE GOOD: Tattoos that turn into crows, child-sorcerers that’ll cut you in two (vertically, diagonally, horizontally, they’re not fussy like that), veritable doomsday weaponry, ancient beings that might be gods or demons or something a whole lot worse, matchlocks and magic…I could go on, really, I could, but I need to save something for the main body!THE BAD: Tough one this. Honestly, this was such a great read, it’s hard to pick fault with it. If I had to point my finger at one thing, it would THE GOOD: Tattoos that turn into crows, child-sorcerers that’ll cut you in two (vertically, diagonally, horizontally, they’re not fussy like that), veritable doomsday weaponry, ancient beings that might be gods or demons or something a whole lot worse, matchlocks and magic…I could go on, really, I could, but I need to save something for the main body!THE BAD: Tough one this. Honestly, this was such a great read, it’s hard to pick fault with it. If I had to point my finger at one thing, it would be a bit of early repetition (or at least it felt this way) when introducing the world. But trust me, you need to read this book, as you’ll see why this doesn’t bother me at all!THE UGLY TRUTH: No-one has done grimdark like this. No-one. Sure, the scarred physically/ mentally/ morally mercenary is an easy and familiar perspective to get behind, and post-apocalyptic settings with zombie-esque/mutants enemies are a penny a dozen, but this…THIS is something special. This is different. And different is damned good. I’d like to tackle the issue of labels. Mainly because I can this book being labelled ‘grimdark’. It is. But it’s not. It’s something more. Something a whole lot more. Why would it get labelled as ‘grimdark’? Well, it’s been compared to Joe Abercrombie’s works (@LordGrimdark himself – says it all) by Ed’s own publisher, Gollancz, who coincidentally (I think not, dear Watson!) also published Joe Abercrombie.Then there’s the matter of first person PoV in fantasy, one of the most prolific of which in recent times is Jorg from Prince of Thorns, who himself has ascended the various thrones of grimdark-dom (Prince, King, Emperor…). And then there’s ‘Blackwing’ the book itself. Set in a post-apocalyptic world (grim) with a sky torn asunder by a somewhat nuclear event (dark), the reader follows the story through the eyes of bitter-bastard-blackhearted Blackwing Ryhalt Galharrow (grim) on an ever increasingly suicidal mission (dark), that’ll see him uncover conspiracy, treason, and sacrilege (grim) and ultimately sees him face off against the big bad of the world, the Deep Kings (dark).Woah, hold on there! That doesn’t sound grimdark…IT SOUNDS EPIC! And that, ladies and gentlemen, sets the tone.No-one does grimdark like this. It’s more grit/dread than grim/dark; the characters the grit worn down from the sheer harshness of their lives in a hard world, all the while looming dread hangs over the plot, as fitting as the name the ‘Misery’ is for the apocalyptic borderlands.No-one does grimdark like this. Sure, I could be describing any number of grimdark ‘household’ names if I said ‘world weary mercenary prone to violence.’ I could narrow it down by saying ‘technology included, but we forgot the batteries’. Further still, ‘first person’. But, I tell you now, no-one like Ryhalt Galharrow has darkened the door of the grimdark house like this before. A no-bullshit bulldog of a bastard, as bitter and as sharp as the brandy he all but bleeds, he’s 17% Logen Ninefingers, 31% Geralt from the Witcher games, 12% Jorg Ancrath, 47% Mad Max, 9% Michael R Fletcher (the man, not the mirror nor his characters), but 110% badass.No-one does grimdark like this. Because it’s got a tattoo that births a bloody raven (literally – figuratively – semantics, I tell you!), walls plugged with corpses as a defensive barrier, enslaved mutants and child sorcerers that make the children of the corn look like boy/girl scouts, and these horrible grubbly little shites that eat you whilst you sleep and you’d never know because of the anaesthetic in their saliva…I would bludgeon every one of those pudgy little porkers into pulp with a plank. (Bravo for making me feel this way – that’s some good writing shiz).And to address my earlier point, way up there at the start of the review. The bad? R.e. the world building repetition. This isn’t a bad thing, really, as this world is a HUGE departure from the usual fantasy-faire, which is awesome, but because of that it needs a little bit more attention to detail. Whilst there strictly isn’t repetition, the introduction of the history of the world is delivered in segments, which is normally a great thing because it avoids info dumping, however I felt early on that I was going over ground that had already been explicitly stated.CONCLUSION: Ed McDonald has taken something old and made it new. He’s taken something borrowed amongst authors, and beaten it all shades of black and blue, and presented us with this thing unlike anything else before it.And, do you know what?Do you know why Blackwing is special?No-one does grimdark like this. Because it’s epic. Review first appeared on Fantasy book critic: http://fantasybookcritic.blogspot.co.... Big thank you to Mihir for letting my repost.
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  • Pinkie_pie
    July 19, 2017
    Amazing!!!
  • Tom Lloyd
    June 16, 2017
    A cracking read - hugely entertaining, brutal but with real heart too. The sort of book that's great to power through without being lightweight. I'm not a great grimdark fan, some works for me, some like Bakker leaves me cold, some just feels like they're trying too hard. While this has many of the common elements it manages to combine those with a core of more than just "people are shit and then you're murdered horribly" as well, on top of excitement and good feel of internal consistency. That A cracking read - hugely entertaining, brutal but with real heart too. The sort of book that's great to power through without being lightweight. I'm not a great grimdark fan, some works for me, some like Bakker leaves me cold, some just feels like they're trying too hard. While this has many of the common elements it manages to combine those with a core of more than just "people are shit and then you're murdered horribly" as well, on top of excitement and good feel of internal consistency. That balance is particularly impressive in a first novel. The grim cynic lead still wants to do the right thing, the bitter little quips feel natural and aren't overplayed, the setting is fun and fresh enough to look distinct from others of its ilk, the plot's interesting and suitably epic with life proving fragile but not something the author just pisses away to make a brief point. I think I did have some small niggles as I was reading, but honestly i got swept up in the story and can't remember them now, just a few days after finishing, so clearly they weren't big enough for me to care much about. Highly recommended.
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  • Bob Milne
    July 11, 2017
    I was honestly getting tired of the whole grimdark scene. I felt it was becoming monotonous and repetitive. It wasn't the darkness or the absence of hope that bothered me, it was something else that I couldn't quite put my finger on. As soon as I picked up Blackwing, I realized what that something else was.Imagination. Wonder. Awe.Yes, grimdark has become so obsessed with finding new ways to drag the reader down into horror and depression that it's lost sight of those soaring emotions that the f I was honestly getting tired of the whole grimdark scene. I felt it was becoming monotonous and repetitive. It wasn't the darkness or the absence of hope that bothered me, it was something else that I couldn't quite put my finger on. As soon as I picked up Blackwing, I realized what that something else was.Imagination. Wonder. Awe.Yes, grimdark has become so obsessed with finding new ways to drag the reader down into horror and depression that it's lost sight of those soaring emotions that the fantasy genre, as a whole, has always provoked. Ed McDonald clearly recognizes that, and in Blackwing he's given us a novel that manages to be GDAF while still provoking that classic sense of wonder and awe.This is almost a new genre, an epic, post-apocalyptic, grimdark fantasy that's full of imagination (and horror). It has been eighty years since the climactic battle that ends most epic fantasy sagas, a victory (of a sort) won at an unbelievable cost. The magical destruction wrought by Nall's 'Engine' has left a wasteland of ghosts, tainted magic, and monsters between two kingdoms. The looming threat represented by that weapon of mass destruction did nothing to end the conflict, however. It just twisted open warfare into a monstrous sort of terrorism, complete with the magical equivalent of suicide bombers and child assassins.The problem is, there's a very real chance that Nall's 'Engine' is broken, and the agents of Deep Kings are anxious to determine the truth.From beginning to end, this is Captain Galharrow's tale. He is the protagonist, point-of-view, and conscience of the tale. A scarred and bitter veteran of too many conflicts, he's as haunted by his past as the world is by its future. At first, he just seems like your typical hard-edged anti-hero, but there is genuine depth to his character that goes along with his tragic backstory. Despite having fallen into a life as a bounty hunter, magically tied and indebted to more than one sorcerer, he is a good man for whom the end always justifies the means, so long as he is the one to pay the price. Ezabeth, the other character of note here, is an interesting woman and an even more fascinating catalyst for the story. She is a woman of mystery, capable of astounding feats of magic, and yet scarred by her own past. We spend as much of the book wondering whether she recognizes Galharrow for who he is as we do contemplating whether she is truly mad.As much as I enjoyed it, I did have one challenge with the book. What we see of the world is fantastically detailed, and the mythology of the Nameless and the Deep Kings is intriguing, but we never really get a sense of the world itself. Much of that is due to us being tied to Galharrow as a point-of-view character - we only know what he knows - but I feel like the story could have used something like a campfire story or a drunken recollection of how the world used to be, what lies beyond their stronghold, or what the cities beyond the Misery are said to be like. Without that context, it almost feels as if these god-like forces are fighting over a whole lot of nothing.Blackwing not only had one of the greatest opening chapters I have read in ages, it had a finale that was worthy of the story leading up to it. So many epic fantasies seem to fall apart at the end, with a climax that simply cannot compete with the expectations we've built as readers, but McDonald delivered on every aspect of it. I'm not sure where Ravens' Mark heads next, but I'm definitely curious to see where it takes us.Originally reviewed at Beauty in Ruins Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.
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  • Ailsa
    June 26, 2017
    I love a good fantasy novel, and when I heard an excerpt of Blackwing earlier this I knew I had to read it. I'm pleased to say it absolutely lived up to my expectations and hopes! The book begins with Galharrow and a small group of mercenaries travelling through the area known as the Misery, chasing down some criminals. It sets the scene well, as the book takes place along the border of the Misery and this episode introduces some of the creatures that result from the creepy magic that infects th I love a good fantasy novel, and when I heard an excerpt of Blackwing earlier this I knew I had to read it. I'm pleased to say it absolutely lived up to my expectations and hopes! The book begins with Galharrow and a small group of mercenaries travelling through the area known as the Misery, chasing down some criminals. It sets the scene well, as the book takes place along the border of the Misery and this episode introduces some of the creatures that result from the creepy magic that infects the Misery - many humans who go in don't stay human, and if they do, they're constantly under threat from the things that didn't.From here, the story never slows down. As Galharrow tries to protect a local noblewoman, he discovers that the machine which should be protecting his country from the Deep Kings who live on the other side of the Misery might not be being maintained the way it should. As he tries to uncover the truth, various parties try to keep him quiet.I loved the little revelations as Galharrow uncovers different pieces of information and tries again and again to fit them together. I really didn't see the end coming the way it did - Ed McDonald's skill in writing it this way is excellent. It's a very grim book in a lot of ways. Galharrow is an alcoholic, the setting is - pardon the pun - miserable, and the baddies get to do a lot of bad things. I also really liked the version of magic in Blackwing: 'spinners' can collect moonlight and channel it into power, often for mundane things like lighting but it can also be thrown in a blast as a weapon.This is dark, gritty fantasy, and it's been executed perfectly. I was kept in suspense throughout, and couldn't put the book down. Ed McDonald is a great new talent in the fantasy genre, and I already can't wait for his next book. I'd recommend this for fans of Joe Abercrombie or Scott Lynch, but if you're relatively new to fantasy it's also a great book to get stuck in to. Overall, I'm giving this 10 out of 10 - it's one of the best books I've read this year. [Review originally posted on my book blog; link is in my profile. A copy of the book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.]
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  • Liz
    July 16, 2017
    When you realise the mountain you’ve been climbing is just a heap of shit, the fall doesn’t feel so far.I am having trouble writing a review for this book… I am thinking this is because there are so many things I want to mention about it… all those things that were awesome… and I’m grumpy as shit because my brain doesn’t seem to be, you know, working! Instead, I told myself.. OK- if I was to tell about this book to a friend, what would I say?I would probably start with a tried and tested cliché: When you realise the mountain you’ve been climbing is just a heap of shit, the fall doesn’t feel so far.I am having trouble writing a review for this book… I am thinking this is because there are so many things I want to mention about it… all those things that were awesome… and I’m grumpy as shit because my brain doesn’t seem to be, you know, working! Instead, I told myself.. OK- if I was to tell about this book to a friend, what would I say?I would probably start with a tried and tested cliché:If you like fantasy at all, then you simply must read Blackwing.And then I would try to convince my friend to read the book by saying:OK,so you know how fantasy always has these great worlds and big hidden agendas? Yeah, you won’t be let down reading Blackwing. And it’s all good, OK? Like really good and even unexpected, even though if you were a thinking man, you would probably consider all the options the plot can deliver. I didn’t though, because while the plot was mega and the worldbuilding fabulous, I could only focus on one character… and I’m not saying that was a bad thing. You know? I was fully and completely captured by Ryhalt Galharrow… what a man… *looks off into the distance, imagining Galharrow*OK, OK… so you liked the main character, but come on, be a bit more … I mean, be a bit less vague about what happens!Well, OK, so, the already post-apocalyptic world is going to shits, right? The Deep Kings (they’re some kind of bad gods) are thinking of taking over the Empire because as you read from the blurb (you did read the blurb, right?) the Nall’s Engine is probably kinda/sorta kaput. And it doesn’t make sense because since the Nameless (the good gods?) ‘installed’ it, it has been fuelled for 80 years by the power and lifeblood (I say lifeblood as a loose term here) of the Spinners who create the phos light and… anyway, the mechanics of it went over my head but it doesn’t matter. Anyway, the Engine is probably screwed, it’s a conspiracy among the cream but the thing is, The Deep Kings can’t really be sure… They want to invade but they fear the Engine… so they create these beings… the drudge… from men.. and they’re just this undead army of sorts. So what, like zombies?Nah, more like abused souls, captured to follow orders. Killing machines, don’t care of they die… that sort of thing… And blimey, you wouldn’t imagine some of the other characters… We covered off the yin and yang of gods.. The Deep Kings, bad, OK? And the Nameless, they’re the good gods…as good as any god can be, and they’re not actually Nameless but you know how people like to have labels against every human and item.. ok, makes sense… But… There are the Darlings and the Brides! Shiiit… The Darlings are also twisted into being from man, but they have these crazy powers and every man alive is, rightly so, completely afraid of them. They are like certain death and it’s even worse because they look and sound like children. I mean, proper creepy shit.A Darling. Hair shorn close, face plump with puppy fat, it was dressed in a tattered doublet two sizes too large and breeches torn through at the knees like some kind of pauper prince. The awful malice around his mouth, the cruel hunger in his eyes told me that I was about to die. It was going to hurt.The Brides.. uh, you know I imagined a Bride to be like this massive, fat Spider in the centre of the web… except the web is the S&M dungeon and everyone trapped in the brothel web is just hungry for all of the seven sins. And there’s fluids and humidity and moans and stuff… flesh, madness… I could go on… ?The magic of the Bride is more addictive than white-leaf, the draw stronger than pollen. The men brought their friends and she gradually became part preacher, part sexual predator. As the Bride’s influence grew, so she swelled in body.No, I got the picture… cool, so what’s the world like? I mean, what’s all this Misery business?Ah, The Misery… can we go back to the characters, then? After I’ve told you about The Misery? Sure, Liz, Sure! Cheers. Well… The Misery is like a wasteland. Imagine Mad Max, the one with Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, ok? Yeah, that. But instead of Warboys you have all sorts of nightmare-ish stuff creeping about The Misery. Skweams… and the gillings, for example, who know only 6 phrases that certainly prophesize doom. Oh, they also like to eat people in a rather messy way. Or the aforementioned Brides, they can be found in The Misery as well. That’s not it though, because The Misery was created by a god, it’s also full of magic, so whenever a regular human goes to The Misery it affects them. Not like completely and utterly, but one will have the shakes for quite some while after they return from the wastelands. Crap! How could I forget? There’s the sky… The Misery has a sky that wails and moans and has three moons, dude! Like whoa, mushy trip! Just, the world in this book is good, OK? OK, sound! I can see you itching, Liz… Tell me more about those characters… have at it, profess your undying love for Captain Galharrow…First of all, let me tell you about Nenn and Tnota… Nenn is a female, fierce as they come. Takes no crap, fights like a jungle cat with a sword and probably has no manners. But she’s loyal and feisty and all woman. #girlcrushSome people wrongly assumed we were lovers, as though scars sought out scars. She claimed to be a hellcat in the sack, but I could never have dealt with either her spitting or her complete lack of regard for manners. With that wooden nose on her face she’d never be asked to sit for an artist, but my own portrait wouldn’t exactly moisten the ladies at court.Tnota is a navigator working for Captain Galharrow… a really good navigator who guides the group through The Misery the fastest route by charts and moons… Tnota is chill, though… he’s the baking soda to Nenn’s vinegar. I really enjoyed their group dynamics. Galharrow, Nenn and Tnota. They were just the right mix together. The right mix of misery, hope, profanity and loyalty. The right mix of fun and boozing.Then there is the mysterious noblewoman… but, sorry, I can’t tell much about her. It frickin’ pains me because I want to tell you everything… but, shhh… nobody likes a spoiler! So that leaves me with Galharrow… I enjoyed the book because I enjoyed Galharrow. A tortured (anti)hero of sorts… from the right side of the tracks to the wrong side of the tracks without losing heart… He surprised me, that man so he did. A lot of shit went wrong for him and being a Blackwing now… well, there ain’t a single mercenary for dirty jobs without them having a booze issue. But he always has heart and wit and that other, the good, side of him made me choke up a bit. Because a strong man is honest, direct and not a pussy when it comes to showing emotions at the right time. His character was just down to a T. His thoughts selfish, but he’s not really a prick. Not really. ‘We have walls, guns, blades and brandy,’ I said, turning my voice hard. ‘And fuck me but those are good ingredients to whip up a fight.OK, fangirl. I get it. Strong characters, lots of banter and profanity and fun and danger. Sounds good. Tell me though, is it just a simple kind of storyline? Just the “save the world and ride off with your woman” kind of thing?Oh gosh, no. There are so many fingers in this specific post apocalyptic pie. So many fingers, all different, like fingers are, but all tied to the same hand… Heh, that’s a hand with a lot of fingers but you get my gist. For example, there is a creepy healer in the mix of things and I didn’t think he was going to have much of an impact on the overall, but my did he have an impact. He was separate from the overall plotline, until he wasn’t… you see, one does simply not require his services and not pay their debt to him.Anyway, there is a bit of a show around the delicate feelings of love, there’s the look to the past that will help you understand some personal demons. Loaded with political intrigue and conspiracy, Blackwing will take you to madhouses and pubs, dirty apartments and villas. You’ll read about princes and Spinners. It’s just a big juicy pie! Everyone likes pie. I figured that Stannard’s growls and threats were what he mistook for power. Men of his calibre didn’t understand that real power goes unspoken.True, that! But you know, good things can sometimes fall flat.. cakes fall flat, too… When the writing has no.. certain quality to it, it’s just a whole lot of salivating mouth for nothing, eh?I’m rather offended that you think all this epic goodness I have been gushing about until now hasn’t already implied quality writing. But I get it… beauty in the eye of the beholder… Blackwing has a ton of epic scenes and settings all delivered through magical hand. If I told you that some scenes and settings were vivid, would that help? No, probably not.. Maybe? Vivid is such an overused word… like ‘unputdownable’ (gosh, I dislike this word… unputdownable!) And yet, Blackwing was exactly those things… Delivered with confidence, through strong convincing words, there was nothing tepid about the whole book. It was all steel balls and beating heart! Burning was a bad way to go, but my reserves of empathy were usually exhausted on orphans and puppies, a lot higher up the list than arsonists and arseholes.Right… I have purged myself! The longest rambles I’ve ever written for a book… Not even sure you can call this a review, but if I really have to make one point, scroll up and see that tried and tested cliché… Fantasy friends, you simply must read this book. Blackwing is delivered in first person- Galharrow, of course. That means a front seat spectacle through the eyes and heart of larger than life character full of spirit and hurt and pent up anger. He has more booze than blood in his veins but fight and life has not left him.Blackwing also has the perfect balance in between character depth and action. There is tons of action in this book. Tons of it and it’s all easy to follow no matter how mind bending at times. And not a single infodump with all those pie covered fingers! Everything is delivered and revealed at just the right time, in the right setting.Your whole life, every experience you have had or ever will have, is just a gust of wind across the plain. Fleeting, momentary, barely more than a dream and less well remembered.Thoroughly enjoyed it, one of my favorites of 2017, a do-not-miss-this kind of book, the ‘I underlined about 6294635385 sentences‘ kind of book.I’m full aware that I have still ended up being very vague about the plot but Blackwing is just one of those books you’ll want to discover and explore for yourself. And if you do, please do leave your shoes at the door. What? Oh.. what I mean is, it’s a book, please don’t take personal offense at the occasional derogatory terms and conditions. Cocks and whores will be mentioned.Over & Out!
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  • Chocolategoddess
    June 14, 2017
    This is what makes the fantasy genre shine. It's original, it has depth, it's clever. It's also dark and kind of gory, but lacks the gratuitousness of certain recent trends. The darkness is a part of Blackwing's world, a world where "evil" Deep Kings and "good" Nameless, almost god-like beings, fight for supremacy. Except the Nameless are losing, and as they're on humanity's side, things aren't looking good for humanity.The main character is Ryhalt Galharrow, a fallen man who now works as someth This is what makes the fantasy genre shine. It's original, it has depth, it's clever. It's also dark and kind of gory, but lacks the gratuitousness of certain recent trends. The darkness is a part of Blackwing's world, a world where "evil" Deep Kings and "good" Nameless, almost god-like beings, fight for supremacy. Except the Nameless are losing, and as they're on humanity's side, things aren't looking good for humanity.The main character is Ryhalt Galharrow, a fallen man who now works as something little better than a mercenary. He's tied to work for one of the Nameless, Crowfoot, who instructs him to keep a woman safe at the start of the book, leading Galharrow into a lot of awful situations because apparently everyone wants this woman dead.Ezabeth is no damsel in distress. She's a badass mage-type with a mastery over the mathematics of the magic system. She can also blow, like, everything up. If she wasn't also slightly off her rocker, I would totally want to be her when I grow up. She's a totally atypical fantasy heroine, and I love her. She's also not the only awesome woman in the book!!!!!Nenn is this badass mercenary working with Galharrow, and while she can't blow stuff up, she can stab everything instead. Which she does a lot. Prince Herono (also a lady) is a badass hero too. It's sooooo refreshing.The rest of the characters are fantastic too. Galharrow's gay navigator, Ezabeth's foppish brother, and too many other people to count, are bursting with character. We don't necessarily spend a lot of time with them, or getting to know them, but their mannerisms are described, their features, their clothes, in just enough detail to make them feel real. The dialogue is perfectly characteristic of each.This leads me to the writing, which is pretty much flawless. It's detailed, but not long-winded, it's full of images, but it's not waffle-y irrelevance. It's just tight writing that gets you where you need to go in the exact time you need to go there. It's all written in first person from Galharrow's perspective, and I'm not normally a fan of first person, so this is genuinely impressive to me. The only other book I really enjoyed in first person was The Name Of The Wind, which was incredibly long-winded, so I guess McDonald is actually one-upping Rothfuss here?World building. This is how you do world building. Blackwing has one of those worlds where it feels like the author has an entire notebook of world building behind it. Whether or not that true, this world is presented as a complete and complex thing. There are obviously secrets going on between the Deep Kings and the Nameless, but the human's don't know what they are, so we don't. I have no doubt they're there. The magic system is really cool, the way society works is just slightly different to our world which keeps it interesting, and there are certain weirdnesses with no answers that will keep me reading this series because I have so much curiosity for it. I'm not going to go into it here because you should just read this unless you really hate gore and swearing.The gore and swearing is ... prevalent. Lots of fucks are thrown around. Loooooots. Most of the characters are mercenaries or similar and they're pretty jaded and also stressed, so it totally makes sense. The gore is ... disgusting, but somehow in a good way? It's not a case of 'lolol blood look at how hard-core I am', it's more a case of showing that killing people is a brutal, horrible thing, and not glamorising that for the reader. In my opinion, it's not done for shock value: it's a warning which is rarely tackled in fantasy.There are other warnings too. (view spoiler)[Galharrow is an alcoholic. It unfolds, showing us his behaviour and the frequency with which he reaches for a drink. It's sad, but again, it's good to see what a life of struggle can do to a person. (hide spoiler)]The plot is just great. It's a complex tangle of people's motives, and some of them don't fit, but it's hard to tell why until it's revealed, and there's a sense of being slightly lost, but in a good way. The characters are lost because they have so much to deal with, and now you do too. The pieces all fall into place really well at the end. Better than I thought they were going to. It's been a long time since I read a satisfying ending, but this managed it on all accounts.All in all, I'm really excited for the next book. Really excited. Why did I read it pre-release? (This was a NetGalley book, free in exchange for an honest review) I'm going to go look up everything about Ed Mcdonald and see if the next one is done yet ...
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  • Anna Stephens
    July 8, 2017
    Well, that was pretty fabulous, wasn't it? Blackwing is a truly unique vision of a world, set with an eclectic mix of weaponry, technology and science and a brilliant magic system in the form of phos, energy spun from moonlight. A well-realised society and economy, a fantastic backdrop of centuries-old warfare against the frankly terrifying Deep Kings and their hideous 'drudge', I enjoyed Blackwing from start to finish. I really liked the gender-neutral elements to the society - prince and soldi Well, that was pretty fabulous, wasn't it? Blackwing is a truly unique vision of a world, set with an eclectic mix of weaponry, technology and science and a brilliant magic system in the form of phos, energy spun from moonlight. A well-realised society and economy, a fantastic backdrop of centuries-old warfare against the frankly terrifying Deep Kings and their hideous 'drudge', I enjoyed Blackwing from start to finish. I really liked the gender-neutral elements to the society - prince and soldier alike can be men or women, warriors and killers and generals too. I liked narrator Ryhalt's world-weary attitude, loved that he was an older man sick of everything, broken but still fighting no matter what. Nenn was awesome and Tnota hilarious. The plot twisted like a fish halfway through and I spent a good fifty pages confused as hell with what was happening, but when it all clicked into place, it was a really brilliant combination of bluff, double-bluff and deception. Highly recommended.
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  • Anton
    May 1, 2017
    Overall 4.5 stars.A great debut novel and a strong start of a new series. There are lots of positives going for this book... But its key strengths is the setting. The whole concept of magic wastelands called Misery is absolutely stunning! Combined with postapocalyptic / steampunk-ish surrounding it really gets the story to stand out in a crowded genre. To me, it had a feel of a cross between Fallout RPGs and high magic fantasy staple. Really nicely done! I also, in particular, enjoyed the magic Overall 4.5 stars.A great debut novel and a strong start of a new series. There are lots of positives going for this book... But its key strengths is the setting. The whole concept of magic wastelands called Misery is absolutely stunning! Combined with postapocalyptic / steampunk-ish surrounding it really gets the story to stand out in a crowded genre. To me, it had a feel of a cross between Fallout RPGs and high magic fantasy staple. Really nicely done! I also, in particular, enjoyed the magic system with allusion to electricity / light. Inventive, clever and right up my alley.So overall, definitely recommend for connoisseurs of the unusual worldbuilding.
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  • Alice at Raptureinbooks
    April 26, 2017
    Many thanks to the Publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review This review was originally posted on my blog hereBlackwing is the first in a new series by a new author who, in my opinion, with this one book is going to blast onto the fantasy scene and prove that there is new talent out there. Blackwing follows the story of Ryhalt Gaharrow - captain of a band of mercenaries, unwilling messenger boy for Crowfoot and a member of Blackwing - as he gets a messa Many thanks to the Publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review This review was originally posted on my blog hereBlackwing is the first in a new series by a new author who, in my opinion, with this one book is going to blast onto the fantasy scene and prove that there is new talent out there. Blackwing follows the story of Ryhalt Gaharrow - captain of a band of mercenaries, unwilling messenger boy for Crowfoot and a member of Blackwing - as he gets a message from the 'god' that owns him and the subsequent adventure that message brings him on. The story opens with Galharrow in The Misery, a large wasteland created when the war between The Nameless and The Deep Kings came to a head and the sky ripped apart and shit hit the fan. Drudge, Gillings, Darlings and weird twelve legged creatures live in The Misery and it's these beasties that Galharrow and his band of mercs - Tnota and Nenn are key throughout the book - must avoid at all costs. One of the key things that happens in the book is when the raven tattoo on Galharrow's forearm rips itself out of his skin and delivers a message - this message sets in motion a series of events that ultimately prove and disprove several theories by the cream (nobility) and The Order of Aetherial Engineers. Oh yes. That was another thing that got me hooked - it's bloody steampunk! To a point. There isn't an over abundance of goggles and gears and such in the clothing if the characters but there's an Engine and a hell of a lot of phos tube lights (I'm guessing similar to tube lighting we have now) but to gather the phos energy requires a Spinner to gather it from the 3 moons above Valengrad and The Misery. As much as I want to describe every single detail that happens in the book I won't because that will easily ruin the story for everyone who reads it. Just know there is utter betrayals, plenty of death and war, and some secrets that have no revelations (Ed, please tell me they're revealed in the next book?) There are gods and near immortals, a creepy Fixer with a buttload of magic and a shockingly good noblewoman - heh geddit? There's a brilliant connection between Galharrow, Nenn (a noseless woman with a penchant for chewing blacksap) and Tnota (the band navigator) they've clearly been through a lot together and it shows through their communications together and what Galharrow will do for them and vice versa - it's a heck of a bond to try and sever. The overall writing style shows a clear British twang to parts of it, particularly the humour which at times could be quite dry but also perfectly sarcastic; other parts of the writing style had a touch of monologue to them but it was miniscule and the fact that Blackwing was written in the first person point of view rather than third person like a lot of books was really great. It gave a distinct look into the inner workings of Galharrow's mind which I really liked.I said yesterday when I'd finished the book that if I was wearing a hat I'd tip it to Ed because it was brilliant. An outstanding debut from an author who can definitely take this story to even bigger heights. It was also really nice to meet Ed and when I asked him where the tattoo idea came from I have never had a better answer to a question - he didn't even have to think about it it just rolled off his tongue so easily: "My swordsmanship instructor has this really cool tattoo on his forearm of a sword and I thought one day that it's be really great if he could just pull it out of his arm to use it." - Ed McDonald 20th April 2017, Orion Blogger Event.
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  • Stuart
    June 29, 2017
    Blackwing, for me, was a outstanding return to epic fantasy. I have been away for so long but Ed McDonald makes me want more! I know it is clichè but I actually could not put this down. Quality characters, huge/bold settings, dark magic; and an intense and high stakes plot centred around a war between sorcerers and god kings. You know, the usual 😀 I cannot recommend this more to all readers. It is violent, foul mouthed and treacherous, but it is also worth your precious reading time. There is so Blackwing, for me, was a outstanding return to epic fantasy. I have been away for so long but Ed McDonald makes me want more! I know it is clichè but I actually could not put this down. Quality characters, huge/bold settings, dark magic; and an intense and high stakes plot centred around a war between sorcerers and god kings. You know, the usual 😀 I cannot recommend this more to all readers. It is violent, foul mouthed and treacherous, but it is also worth your precious reading time. There is so much to talk about in this review so please bare with me! I want to talk about all the elements that makes Blackwing so great but I am certain I will miss something. Lets start with the good stuff.The best part about Blackwing is that, though it is Book 1 in a trilogy, it never feels like it is setting up other books. Ed McDonald is solely focused on bringing us a quality story and it really shows. I was purely fixated on Galharrow and his mission to protect Ezabeth at all costs. EM is a great talent and his writing style is certainly unique. McDonald manages to blend fantasy, horror, humour, grit, passion and emotion into multiple storylines. At one moment I would be on edge with a lump in my throat; then the next I would be laughing hard at a quip or scenario that EM has expertly threaded into the plot. I usually find myself preferring plot over characters or vice versa, but with Blackwing I liked both equally.Blackwing Captain Ryhalt Galharrow traverses The Misery, a magic polluted desert wasteland, in search of traitors, sympathisers and thieves. He is a mercenary for hire who brings back the heads of those who have turned on the government and their ideals. He has a noble past but after exile from that life, he has chosen to walk the path of war. Answering to only one individual, a sorcerer called Crowfoot, who granted him captaincy of an elite unit call Blackwing. Crowfoot contacts Galharrow through a magical raven tattoo on his forearm. The raven actually rips itself from his skin and gives him seemingly unconnected orders. So cool 😀 EM has an edge to his writing that I could not get enough of. Each and every detail that EM has included has a purpose and rapidly changes the tone or atmosphere of the plot with ease.An order arrives after a 5 year wait. Crowfoot sends Galharrow to prevent the capture of Ezabeth who is being targeted because she has information that is paramount to changing the balance of the war with The Deep Kings. Ezabeth believes that Nall’s Engine, the weapon surrounding The Misery to keep out The Deep Kings, doesn’t function properly. She has a theory based on work done by an old friend of Galharrow’s that the engine doesn’t have the energy required to activate and that the Range is actually defenceless against the all-powerful kings. This is a theory that will most certainly get her killed.The Republic are certain that Nall’s Engine is in full working order; and anyone who says otherwise is a heretic and a traitor. But once an idea has taken hold of people, it is hard to destroy. The powers that be want to maintain order at any cost. But with spies everywhere, The Deep Kings have the information they need to mount an attack. They are coming…There is a vast amount of characters in Blackwing. From Galharrow, Ezabeth and the band of mercenaries that help them fight and find their way through The Misery to the formidable Deep Kings and their army of pure evil. EM’s mind is something else, his dedication to memorable characters is inspiring. The Deep Kings have several entities they send to The Range/Valengrad to kidnap and/or kill. From Darlings, children with powerful psychic abilities, to the Drudge who are an army of humans that have been consumed by The Misery.Each creature strikes fear into heart of all humans, including the reader, and they make for some epic scenes of carnage. What I loved about EM’s work is that he is extensive and generous with the action and intensity. A lot of authors build up to things slowly, as if savouring the moment, but EM puts the reader in the thick of it all the way through. Galharrow is a perfect example of how EM adds depth and complexity without compromising the gritty, dark and badass soul of the story and its characters.Galharrow is from noble blood but was exiled. Forced to give up his life and become a soldier for hire. Then becoming involved with the Nameless, he becomes a valuable asset for Crowfoot, and finally has purpose. Galharrow is foul-mouthed, angry and broken. Spending time in The Misery doesn’t help. The magic seeps into the skin of everyone who enters it and if you spend to much time inside then you will be consumed by it. I loved The Misery as it almost a character in itself. The magic distorts the landscape, shifting the ground, drawing the characters away from the safety of the Range and into the fields populated with creatures. I would have loved a map to give me an overall idea of the lay of the land, I am sure there will be one in the finished edition (as I got a proof copy for review).Sorcery is a key element to the story and there are plenty of sorcerers to go around. The Nameless, powerful protectors of the West, and The Deep Kings of the west are locked in a war that has raged for centuries. They are both fighting for the upper-hand and some have even died to protect the defenceless. Their war will most definitely be the centre-piece for the trilogy and I can’t wait to see what EM develops the conflict. I am also intrigued to see where EM takes Saravor, a powerful master-manipulator, who has his claws in Galharrow’s soul.EM used plenty of varied and often opposing themes to make Blackwing a much more striking read. The significant difference in thoughts/actions between Ezabeth and Galharrow made for an interesting dynamic. Ezabeth is solely focused on finding out the truth; Galharrow wants the truth to remain the same as it always was. I thought that EM’s use of science-fiction also meshed well with the plot. The science is fascinating and brings a thought provoking edge to the story. The scope and depth of the plot is something to be applauded and I cannot wait for it to be continued in the next instalment.I have given Blackwing 5/5 as it was a brilliant read. The bold high-stakes plot mixed with memorable and complex characters was a recipe for success. I am suffering from what is commonly referred to as a ‘book hangover’ after finishing Blackwing so EM needs to get on it and bring another instalment out soon!
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  • Adrian Selby
    April 21, 2017
    I've had the good fortune to get an ARC of this. Not sure if it'll be marketed as grimdark, it's certainly gritty, but please don't fret about sub-genre, there are definitely 'good guys'. A real page turner? Check. Grizzled old soldier protagonist with regrets, a drink problem and a heart of gold? Check. Fiendish layered conspiracy for our Captain Galharrow to uncover? Check.The icing on the cake for me is that the world has a strong sense of place and self. The great powers against which the ch I've had the good fortune to get an ARC of this. Not sure if it'll be marketed as grimdark, it's certainly gritty, but please don't fret about sub-genre, there are definitely 'good guys'. A real page turner? Check. Grizzled old soldier protagonist with regrets, a drink problem and a heart of gold? Check. Fiendish layered conspiracy for our Captain Galharrow to uncover? Check.The icing on the cake for me is that the world has a strong sense of place and self. The great powers against which the characters are pawns, the way the damaged world they're in seeps into their bones is all brought to life really well, while the worldbuilding's exposition is managed and integrated sensitively.I heartily recommend this.
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  • Nils
    July 20, 2017
    I'm leaning more towards 3.5 + stars on this one.~I recently finished Blackwing by Ed McDonald, which is the first arc book I've ever received. So here's my honest review of it.I have to say I've had pretty mixed feelings about this one. The book is written in first person, and whilst I haven't read that many first person narration in fantasy, if it's done well, then I don't mind. I felt at the beginning of this book though that the first person narration was making the story difficult to get in I'm leaning more towards 3.5 + stars on this one.~I recently finished Blackwing by Ed McDonald, which is the first arc book I've ever received. So here's my honest review of it.I have to say I've had pretty mixed feelings about this one. The book is written in first person, and whilst I haven't read that many first person narration in fantasy, if it's done well, then I don't mind. I felt at the beginning of this book though that the first person narration was making the story difficult to get into. The narration itself was brilliant, we see all through Ryhalt Galharrow's eyes, his thoughts and dialogue flowed so naturally, but there was serious lack of world building that made everything quite confusing. We get the gist that there has been an ongoing war against gods known as the Nameless, against the Deep Kings. The only thing that keeps the Deep Kings from a full scale invasion is a deserted wasteland called Misery that is full of evil creatures and a machine called Nall's Engine that could potentially destroy an oncoming army in one blast. Apart from this though, I found it difficult to follow what the names of everything were, such as Darlings, Brides, Drudge etc... there were a lot of evil creatures but it was hard to visualise them and hard to visualise the settings.I also wasn't overly impressed with the main character, he just seemed to be a bit of an ass really, and it's hard to read a story in first person if you're not enjoying the main character. I much preferred the side character's like Nenn (I know loads of you will love her!) and Tnota - but they barely got any of the spotlight and they couldn't be fully fleshed out, again because of the narration.I'm so glad I persevered though because around 200 pages into the story I had a complete turnaround. The world building all started to make sense, the storyline took many twists and turns, and even the main character Galharrow became a much deeper layered character. I actually started to root for and care about him. The side character's like Nenn and Ezabeth Tanza began to shine, they became central to the plot and sparked a lot of interest in me.I started thinking 'yeah now we're talking, let's do this!' From the 200+ mark the book's pace quickens considerably and it was like I was racing through to see how everything would turn out. Without giving away too much, fans of grimdark fantasy will love the scenes towards the end! There's plenty of violent action!
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  • Chris
    March 22, 2017
    *copy from Netgalley in exchange for a review*Blackwing is the first in a new fantasy series by Ed McDonald. It’s got a certain kind of noir style. Some of that’s the world – a republic that exists by the sufferance of its leaders, magicians so powerful and remote they may as well be gods, its people used as a shield against an encroaching Empire. Part of it is the characters – like Galharrow, hard-bitten, hard-edged, seemingly mercenary. A man with a keen intelligence, an even keener sense of c *copy from Netgalley in exchange for a review*Blackwing is the first in a new fantasy series by Ed McDonald. It’s got a certain kind of noir style. Some of that’s the world – a republic that exists by the sufferance of its leaders, magicians so powerful and remote they may as well be gods, its people used as a shield against an encroaching Empire. Part of it is the characters – like Galharrow, hard-bitten, hard-edged, seemingly mercenary. A man with a keen intelligence, an even keener sense of cynicism, and the pragmatism to do whatever needs to be done – an extremely tarnished knight errant. There’s buckets of gore mixed in with emotional honesty, and glorious and terrible magic sits side by side with some nuanced character moments. Coming into this with no expectations, I can say I was very pleasantly surprised – it’s great stuff. The world – well, I don’t want to overuse the word grim, but it’s certainly not a very pleasant one. The narrative is set at the edge of a border zone. On one side sits a republic, of sorts – governed by a small group of voting ‘Princes’, whose social and economic control is immense, a noble class beneath them serves as landowners, with everyone else lurking somewhere beneath. But above the Princes, sit the Nameless. These eldritch creatures are, if not omnipotent, effectively so from ground level. They fade in and out of society, following their own inscrutable agenda’s, passing on esoteric warnings, and engaging in a grinding war with the other side of the border. As an example of the tone of the text, the Nameless don’t seem to demand the reverence of those in the land they inhabit, presumably for the same reason that the boot makes no such demands of an ant. The Nameless are horrors, to be sure – less actively malevolent than obscure and alien. Their opposite numbers across the border are rather less pleasant. The Nameless have created a physical border, a zone of ghosts and horrors, where directions never quite lead you where you need to go – and the fear that they could do so again is what holds their enemies in check. This is a world of gods and monsters, where the expectation is that they’re one and the same. There’s a grining poverty, a society of inequality and an expectation that life will be nasty, brutish and short. But there’s beauty trickling through as well. A percentage of the population is able to work or store magical energy; some of this is used to power cities, some for rather more military purposes – like large explosions. But the description of a spinner weaving in the moonlight is entrancing, and the moons themselves, setting over the twisting monstrosities of the border – the Misery – almost flow off the page. Into this world steps our protagonist, Galharrow. As alluded to earlier, he is, to be delicate, not a particularly nice man. He’s ruthless, selfish, and more than happy to kick a fallen opponent when they’re down. I think he’d probably prefer it if he could stab them in the back, whilst they were asleep. He has a loyalty to a few long term associates, but seems callously indifferent to the fates of pretty much everyone else. On the other hand, his sense of cynicism is precise, and accentuates rather than masks a ferocious intelligence. Galharrow is smart, perceptive, and his observations, if vicious, are typically pithy, valid, and amusing. I was driven to outright laughter by a few particularly on-point pieces of internal monologue. He has enough humanity to be sympathetic in such a broken world, and enough pragmatic energy that he’s a joy to follow around; watching his struggles with his own humanity, especially when it runs into the obdurately awful world, is captivating.In this he’s backed by an able supporting cast. There’s his able lieutenants, one of whom, Nene is surprisingly sympathetic for a blunt, blood-fuelled killer. The other, an altogether gentler creature, helps navigate the team across The Misery. His gentle vitality and good humour serve in stark contrast to both Galharrow and Nenn. But there’s others here as well. There’s the horrifyingly alien yet curiously compelling Nameless, and their simply terrifying opposition, the Deep Kings. There’s heroic generals, and cowering incompetents, arch-mages and broken peasantry. This is the pageant of life on display in the awful strangeness of The Misery, and Galharrow is our lens into it all. In that regard, he’s perfect – a man determined to be who he seems to be, but not quite fitting into the mould he’s made for himself. He’s not a tortured antihero, but someone broken, making the best decisions they feel that they can – and each turn of the page makes him more alive. The plot begins with a bounty hunt, but it definitely doesn’t end there. Galharrow investigates conspiracies, and acts as the servant of the Nameless, which largely means getting his hands dirty. His investigations are the central core of the text, each thread he pulls on leading toward an explosive conclusion. But there’s red herrings to be worked through first. There’s betrayals and duels, monsters and mages to be fought. Still, if Galharrow isn’t shy of chopping up the occasional monstrosity, it’s his incisive mind driving the plot, trying to tie everything together. This is a story about solving a mystery; it is, of course, also one which doesn’t shy away from an awe-inspiring battle or two, and some wonderfully kinetic and gory sword-fights. There’s enough weird and appalling magic for anyone. By the time I finished the book, I didn’t want it to end – and I’m already keen to see where this series goes next. It’s an impressive work of fantasy, and one I thik we’ll be hearing more about. Highly recommended.
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  • Matthew
    April 21, 2017
    A strong debut with some wonderful world building and action sequences. Full review to come.
  • Andrew Stoter
    March 25, 2017
    Lucky enough to get hold of a pre-pub edition.Wow, that was a change in pace. Don't read if you enjoy your sleep. I devoured in three days, the last being a particularly late night, needing to know what came next. I loved the world, I loved the characters, but if I'm being pedantic could have done with a slowing down of the plot to discover a bit more about both. Hopefully a follow up will satisfy the desire.Not quite steam punk, but it has guns and lights. Not quite grim dark, but the world is Lucky enough to get hold of a pre-pub edition.Wow, that was a change in pace. Don't read if you enjoy your sleep. I devoured in three days, the last being a particularly late night, needing to know what came next. I loved the world, I loved the characters, but if I'm being pedantic could have done with a slowing down of the plot to discover a bit more about both. Hopefully a follow up will satisfy the desire.Not quite steam punk, but it has guns and lights. Not quite grim dark, but the world is brutal, but characters, their relationships and the plot remain the emphasis. I'd thoroughly recommend as something a bit different, which may appeal to those enjoying action adventure as much as fantasy.
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  • Henry Williams
    April 20, 2017
    In the interest of full disclosure I was given a pre-release copy.Ed McDonald makes his debut with a fast paced and brutal tale of humans caught in the middle of a war between near Gods.The book opens with a strong sense of foreboding, as our (clearly experienced) protagonist and crew nervously collect a bounty in the aptly named Misery, a constantly shifting hell on the edge of civilization. It sets the tone well – throughout the story they are at the mercy of powerful forces beyond their contr In the interest of full disclosure I was given a pre-release copy.Ed McDonald makes his debut with a fast paced and brutal tale of humans caught in the middle of a war between near Gods.The book opens with a strong sense of foreboding, as our (clearly experienced) protagonist and crew nervously collect a bounty in the aptly named Misery, a constantly shifting hell on the edge of civilization. It sets the tone well – throughout the story they are at the mercy of powerful forces beyond their control. The choices left to them are often more a matter of principle than anything else. And yet, the book is often funny; very funny in fact. The sardonic inner monologue of the lead character brings to mind a fantasy Philip Marlowe – rough edges and hard living hiding fundamental decency. He's not exactly a knight errant – he's tortured and murdered his fair share of people - but he's the closest this cracked world is going to get to one. As the story progresses it expands from grim-dark thriller to a surprisingly epic conflict, told in broad strokes and all the more effective for it -the passage of time and scale of events is conveyed vividly- before an ending that is both surprisingly intimate and grand in scope. It ties up just enough loose ends to satisfy but leaves plenty to explore in the sequels. The Misery isn't done with Galharrow yet...
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  • Miss Jools
    April 30, 2017
    I received this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.2 stars - it was ok.I was excited to read this, but overall I was a bit disappointed. I'm not going to give a synopsis or any spoilers.Firstly the good:There was not initial info-dump, the reader's introduced to the world in a much more natural way.The Misery was an interesting place; it was totally alien, weird & fantastical, and really quite horrible. The fractured skies, the multiple moons, the sounds and its shifting nat I received this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.2 stars - it was ok.I was excited to read this, but overall I was a bit disappointed. I'm not going to give a synopsis or any spoilers.Firstly the good:There was not initial info-dump, the reader's introduced to the world in a much more natural way.The Misery was an interesting place; it was totally alien, weird & fantastical, and really quite horrible. The fractured skies, the multiple moons, the sounds and its shifting nature were all well described and realised.The creatures! I liked these weird & horrible things - creepy children, and the gillings were particulary freaky.Nenn - I liked her, and scenes with her in were all the better for her presence.The raven tattoo was a cool concept and well executed.The final show down - it all came together nicely (slight niggle was that Ezabeth & Galharrow didn't get it sooner - the reader sure does, so it's a bit jarring when the main characters don't...). Then the things I didn't like so much:The prose - I don't know what it is at the moment, but there seems to be a trend for (what I see as) very YA-style writing. For me, that's lots of overly dramatic, hyperbolic sentences that read like they have been written and re-written a hundred times and are more suited to an angst-ridden teenager. These irritating bits of purple prose are inconsistent - Galharrow's internal monologue sways between short, sharp 'manly' sentences and then he'll go off on a grimdark poetry spree. Lots of overwrought metaphors. Galharrow - just when I thought I liked this guy, I hated him. Now I like an anti-hero, I like shades of grey and people who aren't purely good or solely evil - it's good to mix it up a bit - but he was just an asshole who really hated fat people and loved going on about how small, bony and light Ezabeth was. The scene where he sees Ezabeth on the rooftop (and their scene towards the end) was particularly icky.The pacing - it was a bit up and down; events that should have inspired some urgency didn't, there seemed to be a fair amount of wombling around. The battle scene at the end was rushed, but a few scenes before were drawn out instead.I'm not sure I'd read the second because of the writing style, but story wise the Nameless are shaping up to be quite interesting and I'd like to know more about the world - so maybe....
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  • Nicole Sweeney
    May 24, 2017
    Review originally posted on The Bibliophile ChroniclesWhat can I say? This is one bloody brilliant book. Blackwing is set in a sort of post apocalyptic land, The Misery is a wasteland fraught with danger, monsters and who knows what else. The story follows Captain Galharrow, a man tasked with finding and executing any criminals who have fled into The Misery.The book is full of action and excitement. It’s also very dark and vivid. Ed McDonald certainly holds nothing back and the reader is treated Review originally posted on The Bibliophile ChroniclesWhat can I say? This is one bloody brilliant book. Blackwing is set in a sort of post apocalyptic land, The Misery is a wasteland fraught with danger, monsters and who knows what else. The story follows Captain Galharrow, a man tasked with finding and executing any criminals who have fled into The Misery.The book is full of action and excitement. It’s also very dark and vivid. Ed McDonald certainly holds nothing back and the reader is treated to all the sights, sounds and smells of life in this world. It felt like a very unique read, and unlike any other fantasy book I’ve ever read.Blackwing also has quite a lot of terminology and names relevant to the story such as ‘Spinners’, ‘gracked’ and ‘darlings’. This was a little confusing at first, but you quickly pick up who is who as you delve into this absorbing story. This book is really fantastically written and in between the action the reader is treated to plenty of world building and explanation about the magic and monsters of The Misery.The story’s main protagonist – Captain Galharrow is also a truly fascinating character. He’s straight to the point and unlikeable to many, but he’s also loyal and stands by those in his team. Galharrow is supported by some other really excellent characters – Nenn who I just loved, she’s battle crazy and has no nose, as well as Tnota who can find the team a route of just about anywhere, and Ezabeth the mysterious Spinner that Galharrow has to protect. The chracters were all really excellently portrayed as flawed human beings, and the story was all the more enjoyable for that.Blackwing is a magnificent read. I was sucked in by the first few chapters and before I knew it I’d read half the book in one sitting. It has easily jumped into my top books for 2017. If you love books by authors like Mark Lawrence and Joe Abercrombie, you should pre-order this one now. It’s dark, gory and full of action and magic. I mean honestly what more could you possibly need? This is a stunning debut, and I definitely cannot wait to see what’s in store next!
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  • Nadine
    July 19, 2017
    Full spoiler-free review now on my blogThank you to Netgalley and Orion Publishing for providing me with an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The Misery, a vast wasteland with a cracked sky overhead, was created by the Nameless as a last defense against the evil forces of the Deep Kings. With its creation, humandkind survived and the Deep Kings retreated to their old empire where they are still watching for their chance to strike back. As time went by, some of the Nameles Full spoiler-free review now on my blogThank you to Netgalley and Orion Publishing for providing me with an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The Misery, a vast wasteland with a cracked sky overhead, was created by the Nameless as a last defense against the evil forces of the Deep Kings. With its creation, humandkind survived and the Deep Kings retreated to their old empire where they are still watching for their chance to strike back. As time went by, some of the Nameless disappeared and now there are only two left. Throughout the book, we follow Ryhalt Gallharrow, a bounty hunter and drunkard who works secretly as a captain in the Blackwing organisation and thus for on of these remaining Nameless. When he is told to escort a young woman back to the city of Valengrad, he doesn’t know what consequences this meeting will have and that she plays an important role in the looming chaos that threatens their and all humankinds survival.This book is Ed McDonald's first novel and that impressed me even more considering the writing was done so well and gripped me immediately. There were so many passages in this book that I marked while reading it just because they were really thought-provoking or purely well written. Some even reminded me of Joe Abercrombie's writing in his First Law trilogy, which is absolutely loved. It's a dark story and there are some really gory and violent scenes, so be aware of that if you are not a fan of such content.I liked the characters, but the ones that fascinated me the most were not the main protagonists. There are these evil creatures send by the Deep Kings, for example Brides or Darlings, that I found to be really refreshingly creative. Another highly interesting character is Saravor, a sorcerer and magical surgeon. There were some minor plot points that I didn't like, but the overall story was entertaining and executed well. I hope we learn even more about the world in the second book and I am really looking forward to reading it!
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  • Bibliophile Book Club
    June 27, 2017
    Review to follow!
  • Claire
    July 15, 2017
    This review originally appeared on BrizzleLass Books.I’m rarely completely speechless after finishing a book, I normally have a lot to say good or bad, but Blackwing left me utterly gobsmacked. It’s taken me a week to digest the book and work out how to even start writing this review. This is not a bad thing, Blackwing is an epic novel that grips you from the first page and is thoroughly extraordinary throughout.Told as a first person narrative by Ryhalt Galharrow, we learn about his world and t This review originally appeared on BrizzleLass Books.I’m rarely completely speechless after finishing a book, I normally have a lot to say good or bad, but Blackwing left me utterly gobsmacked. It’s taken me a week to digest the book and work out how to even start writing this review. This is not a bad thing, Blackwing is an epic novel that grips you from the first page and is thoroughly extraordinary throughout.Told as a first person narrative by Ryhalt Galharrow, we learn about his world and the people in it. It’s a harsh and desperate world with cities built around a dank and desperate desert like land called the Misery. The Misery is not somewhere you would want to go willingly, it conjures hallucinations, there are creatures that even your nightmares couldn’t conjure up and it’s the land of the Deep Kings.The Deep Kings are all powerful, almost god-like magicians that can raise men from the dead, the drudge, these are their killing machines, their army and they are lethal. They have mage-like beings called Darlings (I love these names) which are scary as anything, and then there are the Brides, women that capture men under their spell with strong pheremones then swell up into gargantuan beasts (ick I feel sick again).The Deep Kings want to capture the Cities from the Nameless. The Nameless are also god-like magicians, who created the Misery by the way, and who help protect the humans although they have their own selfish agendas and the humans can certainly become collateral damage. To protect the humans and the cities surrounding the Misery from The Deep Kings they’ve built a huge contraption called Nall’s Engine, and so we get to the grit of the story because a woman Galharrow knew as a boy, Ezabeth, reappears in his life with a theory about hall the Engine is broken and so begins a fight to unravel a tightly held political conspiracy with him on the wrong side.The world building in this novel is outstanding, you feel like you are completely immersed in the world at all times and the imagery is vivid and so beautifully real, even when it’s not at all beautiful which lets face it is most of the time! The characters although always told from the one point of view are still described with a clarity which is bewitching and it’s easy to pick out favourites.I’ve seen this book described as Grimdark but I just didn’t feel comfortable popping it into that pigeon hole myself. It’s pretty grim at times and it’s pretty dark yes but I felt like there was a lot of hope and that there was something far more epic fantasy about the way it flowed and pushed through. (I’ll get 50 comments disagreeing with me now)!Nenn is Galharrow’s right hand man, except she’s a woman, a tough cookie, I actually imagined her a lot like Brienne of Tarth except tougher, yep I said tougher! She is loyal and straight talking, but can also fight tough and hard. I really liked Nenn and the way she fought unashamedly.Galharrow’s other close ally on his team is Tnota, he does all of his navigating in the Misery, and is probably a bit too old for the fighting but he is just too damn good not to have on your team. A much more pleasant person to have around than Nenn, it’s like they are both the sugar and spice in Galharrow’s team.Ezabeth and Galharrow were meant to be married as youngsters before life went pearshaped and they went their separate ways. Ezabeth is now a spinner, essentially a mage and she is powerful. I’m not going to say much more because talking about her gives too much away. But I do want to say how much I liked her, she is such a strong clever character. Ed McDonald has really written some epic women in this book I really loved how strong they were, they were equal to the men, could fight as well as the men, and I loved this.And Galharrow, oh Galharrow, I did it again folks, I loved him so much, he was such a nice bloke! A true antihero who captured my heart the more I read. A troubled alcoholic, who would give his left leg if it would help someone he cared for. He is loyal to a bloody fault especially to Crowfoot, the Nameless who is in charge of the Blackwing. He has love in his heart, but also hate and sadness and bitterness. He is tortured and angry. He is strong, and weak. He is human.Ed McDonald has definitely pulled out all the stops with this book and it lives up to all expectations. This is a book for all fantasy fans and should not be missed.Sending a huge thanks to Ed McDonald and Stevie at Gollancz for the ARC so that I could read and honestly review this novel.
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  • Craig Slater
    May 29, 2017
    Utterly compelling and utterly satisfying from start to finish. A world of original ideas in a well-paced story. Pacing is a hard thing to get right and Ed nails it nicely. Fantastic, broken dregs of characters chewed up by a hard life, spat out and left to survive as best they can. Again, the magic that proves a great writer is creating a character that I know is fictional and making me believe they are real. For then I care and every step of the story. This is especially true when said charact Utterly compelling and utterly satisfying from start to finish. A world of original ideas in a well-paced story. Pacing is a hard thing to get right and Ed nails it nicely. Fantastic, broken dregs of characters chewed up by a hard life, spat out and left to survive as best they can. Again, the magic that proves a great writer is creating a character that I know is fictional and making me believe they are real. For then I care and every step of the story. This is especially true when said characters are not necessarily the cream of civilization. Nailed it, Ed. The world is a clever magic slash tech blend where just enough is revealed, as you go along, of how it all works. It all makes sense. Nothing's left vague, necessarily, but there feels like there's more going on than what we know. Or used to be. It's pretty damn intriguing. Ed has a writing style similar to Mark Lawrence - which is pretty damn good - but you could compare him to any of the Grim Dark writers really. My advice, especially if you're into Grim Dark, and want to read something that's full of new ideas well written, is get it in you as soon as you can.
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  • Edward Cox
    June 30, 2017
    Galharrow is the captain of a mercenary band employed by the Republic to bring those who sympathise with its enemies to justice. The sympathisers believe in the lawless hedonism of the Deep Kings, the old gods who once threatened to bring ruin to the world. Galharrow and his band are no strangers to tracking their prey across the Misery, the savage desert left behind by the magic which was deployed to defeat the Deep Kings decades ago. Galharrow is ruthless, good at what he does, and he knows th Galharrow is the captain of a mercenary band employed by the Republic to bring those who sympathise with its enemies to justice. The sympathisers believe in the lawless hedonism of the Deep Kings, the old gods who once threatened to bring ruin to the world. Galharrow and his band are no strangers to tracking their prey across the Misery, the savage desert left behind by the magic which was deployed to defeat the Deep Kings decades ago. Galharrow is ruthless, good at what he does, and he knows that should the Deep Kings ever try to rise again, then the Republic has a special surprise waiting for them: Nall’s Engine, a magical weapon capable of taking down gods. Nothing can get past it. Right? RIGHT?!And so begins Blackwing by sword swinging debut author Ed McDonald. Dumping us straight into the action, this book kicks off at good pace and quickly builds into an engaging tale full of grim fun. McDonald entertains us with some sharp banter between Galharrow and his comrades, which can be as witty as it is poignant, and readers are embroiled in an enticing plot that rides on the back of an intriguing history. The world is built lucidly and with mystery, leaving us to wonder about the parts we haven’t seen yet. The Misery is a particularly nice setting, with its bleak picture of surreal desolation. I would have liked to spend more time there than the story allowed, but I’m hopeful to visit it again in future books. Blackwing is Galharrow’s story. He is a mercenary who deals death and violence for money, but when his past catches up with him a morality question is laid at his feet: what price could convince him to the do the right thing? Trouble is brewing in the east. The hordes are gathering, they say. The Deep Kings are preparing to return and march on the rest of the world. War is coming. But that’s all right. We’ve got Nall’s Engine to protect us. Or have we? Galharrow has problems enough just being him, but his life is further complicated when he is ordered to rescue a noblewoman called Ezabeth. She’s aloof, mysterious, dangerous, and a ghost from Galharrow’s past. People are out to kill Ezabeth because of a secret she keeps. All is not well with Nall’s Engine. And now it seems that even the Nameless, the old gods who defeated the Deep Kings years ago, aren’t coming to help fight the hordes massing in the east. The Republic might have to rely on the sharp mind and combat skills of Galharrow to see them through this one. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing if Galharrow didn’t drink so much brandy. There have been some impressive debut books coming out from publishers this year, and with Blackwing, Gollancz has found its gem. It’s solidly written, entertaining from start to finish, and McDonald hints at more stories yet to be told in his world. Whether we’re being dazzled by action and magic and monsters, or swept up into plot that just keeps dragging the characters deeper into trouble, the story comes with a strong voice. Gritty and immersive, Blackwing is set to be a top debut of 2017.
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  • Len Evans Jr
    May 22, 2017
    Quick disclaimer I won an ARC copy of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway however this is my honest and true opinion.OK... where to start... first off my emotional state tends to flucuate when I read a bit to whatever the state of the book is at any given time. Now normally that would mean I would have a very hard time getting through this book. This book is not only gritty, but hopeless, dark and somewhat depressing. Yet even with all that the author is so very good at telling his story that I co Quick disclaimer I won an ARC copy of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway however this is my honest and true opinion.OK... where to start... first off my emotional state tends to flucuate when I read a bit to whatever the state of the book is at any given time. Now normally that would mean I would have a very hard time getting through this book. This book is not only gritty, but hopeless, dark and somewhat depressing. Yet even with all that the author is so very good at telling his story that I could not put it down. And believe me there were numerous times where based on what it was doing to me emotionally, my first instinct was to do just that. However, that was just not an option. No matter what I HAD TO KNOW sooo much. OK.. I just absolutely loved this book, it took me to hell and back and at times it hurt... but oh the journey was so totally worth it. The author is a master storyteller and world creator. The world he creates is awesome in it's detail and complexity and yes even is darkness. The MC Ryhalt Galharrow is quite the anit-hero, hard as nails, cynical and detached. The story though complex and somewhat confusing at first really grabs you and won't let go once you figure out who is who and what is what. All I can say is READ THIS BOOK!OK that is it for the clean part of the review (small spoilers ahead below)This is a book where for most of it there seemed like there are no good guys, so I needed to know who they were. A book that has a incredible love story throughout, yet buried deep enough that it doesn't show till near the end. A book that looked as if it would end just as cold and depressing as the rest of it but in the end at least managed to get things a bit closer to the light. An author that can write stories like this is one I will continue to read again and again and again!
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  • Beth Rosser
    May 23, 2017
    I really enjoyed the world that McDonald has created and would like to see more of the history of it. I want to know the background to the ongoing war and why the land is like it is. The world that has been created intrigues me. It's a little different to the normal fantasy worlds, in my opinion.The main characters were well-written, and I really felt connected with them. And not to give away spoilers, but I liked that not everything ended up perfectly. I would like to see more of Nenn. I found I really enjoyed the world that McDonald has created and would like to see more of the history of it. I want to know the background to the ongoing war and why the land is like it is. The world that has been created intrigues me. It's a little different to the normal fantasy worlds, in my opinion.The main characters were well-written, and I really felt connected with them. And not to give away spoilers, but I liked that not everything ended up perfectly. I would like to see more of Nenn. I found her to be very interesting. Overall, this is a very solid first effort, and I look forward to reading more by the author.
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