James McStravick reviews Blackwing by Ed McDonald.
The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow’s Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer’s legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the wastelands seek to destroy them, but if they cannot solve the ancient wizard’s paradox, the Deep Kings will walk the earth again, and all will be lost.
The war with the Eastern Empire ended in stalemate some eighty years ago, thanks to Nall’s ‘Engine’, a wizard-crafted weapon so powerful even the Deep Kings feared it. The strike of the Engine created the Misery – a wasteland full of ghosts and corrupted magic that now forms a No Mans Land along the frontier. But when Galharrow investigates a frontier fortress, he discovers complacency bordering on treason: then the walls are stormed, and the Engine fails to launch. Galharrow only escapes because of the preternatural magical power of the noblewoman he was supposed to be protecting. Together, they race to the capital to unmask the traitors and restore the republic’s defences. Far across the Misery a vast army is on the move, as the Empire prepares to call the republic’s bluff.
Firstly, a big thank you to Gollancz for sending me an arc copy of this book for review.
When I read the first page of Blackwing I found myself immediately drawn into the world as Ed McDonald not only manages to grip you very quickly but is also able to give you a quick breakdown of whats happening while setting the tone of the world which I find authors sometimes find struggle to do within that first page.
I usually find myself enjoying one or more aspects of a book more over others but with Blackwing I never once found this as I believe Ed McDonald has managed to accomplish the perfect blend of world building, action, mystery and depth. I find it is very rare to encounter a book like Blackwing as the last time I encountered a book like this was when I first read The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson, I also sometimes found myself thinking that the way he crafted certain scenes reminded of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series.
One thing I found that made the book a lot easier to read was that Ed McDonald never seemed to over extend the length of a scene as I always found the scenes ended very naturally and because of this the chapters were slightly smaller than a lot of books I have read. This of course then lead to my inner voice saying “oh go on one more chapter won’t hurt”, then next thing you know its 2am or 3am and you have to get up for work in a few hours.
With my reviews I always find myself delving into a breakdown about what I loved and disliked about a book as well discussing the world and characters. Over the past few days or so I have thought over how I wanted to write this review and every time I do I just can’t seem to find the words that would do this book justice and show much I enjoyed it.
Is Blackwing the best fantasy book I have ever read? This is quite possibly true but then again I don’t how I would feel about books I read a number of years ago such as The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson. One thing I can tell you though is that Blackwing is the best book I have read so far this year and I feel sorry for the books that have to follow it as they are going to have a tough time against it. Blackwing takes all the elements of a great fantasy book and molds them together to create something that is truly awe inspiring and quite possibly perfect.