Ed McDonald: Blackwing

Blackwing Cover

I received a free digital copy of this book from the publishers through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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 is a new post-apocalyptic fantasy series by debut author Ed McDonald that sees our main character, Ryhalt Galharrow, become a part of something far bigger than he imagined. With his experience in the Misery, a wasteland filled with strange and dangerous creatures, Galharrow is the man for any job but, when one of the Nameless sets him on a task to save a woman, little does Galharrow know that his life will change bringing to the surface old wounds that have never fully healed. Galharrow and this woman must now work together to save everything that they know, or suffer the consequences of knowing that they were the ones who destroyed everything.

I’m always on the lookout for new fantasy series, and ones that aren’t always filled with the stereotypical magical systems, dragons, and long treks through the countryside (as good as they can be!). Blackwing was the perfect new fantasy read . . . There were creatures that, though holding similarities to the likes of zombies and changelings (probably more loosely for this one), are completely different and fit the narrative perfectly. They are in no way described in this way to make you believe that they are some made up substitute for these trope-filled types of characters, but you can easily see the similarities without it being advertised to your face. There was a “magic” system in the sense that characters called Spinners (and sometimes Wizards) are able to use power obtained from the light of the three moons creating Phos which these people absorb and then use in many ways. There were villains in the form of God-like creatures with their own powers. You just couldn’t go wrong.

Throughout reading the novel I didn’t ever feel like this novel was an imitation of another. I could feel the originality of the story and the writing, of the characters and the direction and plot. There was also the vibe of the people living in a way that isn’t advanced but possessing some technologies that are, in the sense of the Engine and the way in which Phos is spun, stored, and used. I wouldn’t really call it steampunk, or cyberpunk, but I feel like this really added to the originality of the novel.

The characters themselves are stereotypical but, given the context of the novel, don’t generally give off that vibe. Ryhalt Galharrow is a man with many wounds, both old and new, that he believes he has closed over but ultimately end up reopening as events progress. Born to the nobility, he has since been disowned and lives his life as a Blackwing captain taking jobs in the Misery that many would shy away from living paycheck to paycheck and making enemies and friends alike. Ezabeth Turner is our Spinner. Her and Ryhalt have a past and, when thrust back together again, wounds open for both of them and you start to feel the tension between the two. Ezabeth is flighty and ethereal (though some of this is down to the use of Phos and the moon) but is a tough cookie in her own way. We also have some side-characters such as the debt-collector Saravor who charges extortionate rates for services no-one else would do. However, due to the nature of the novel, these characters also feel unique.

I definitely enjoyed Blackwing and thoroughly enjoyed the way in which the novel progressed throughout. I didn’t feel like there were any issues with context and continuity and loved that there were surprises towards the end when shit starts to get real. Ed McDonald really knows how to write and bring to life the landscape/setting and the characters he has provided. You can really feel yourself beside these characters as they trade sharp witticisms or angry retorts.


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