The fantasy genre has seen many new debuts in 2017 and it can be difficult to determine the books that will hold our interest. In particular, the rise of grimdark fantasy has seen many new authors enter the genre. Amongst all these new publications, there is one debut novel that stands out and that is Blackwing by Ed McDonald. The first novel in The Raven’s Mark series.
The novel focuses on a wasteland known as the Misery, a zone between the Republic and The Deep Kings that was destroyed many years ago. There are many creatures that live within these lands and it is a deadly area to enter. Captain Ryhalt Galharrow frequently enters the Misery to track down traitors and outlaws from the Republic. He is also a Blackwing and has a physical connection to the Nameless, the gods that created the Misery for protection against The Deep Kings. Now the only defence against the enemy is Nall’s Engine, but all is not as it seems.
There are many things to love about this novel. The story is engaging and offers some new great twists throughout. The pacing is great, with each chapter clearly holding a specific purpose within the narrative. The author takes the time to build up the world before letting the story progress further. The first few chapters may be difficult to get through due to the amount of new phrases whilst the reader gets used to the world, but within a few chapters you will be hooked. However, the most impressive thing about this novel is the characters. Galharrow is an excellent hero for the story, and is in some ways an anti-hero. His initial motivations may seem odd, but as Ed McDonald take the story further, it becomes clear what sort of a character Galharrow is. There is also a strong female presence within the novel, with the character of Nenn being a stand out favourite. She is part of Galharrows team and her ruthlessness and sharp tongue offer some great chapters in the novel. The development of the relationship between Ezabeth and Galharrow offers a welcome relief from the non-stop action and makes way for emotional and realistic interactions.
Overall, Blackwing is a fast paced novel that is likely to become a classic within the genre. It can be read as a self-contained story, but with a clear opening for the series to continue. This is the best debut novel in the genre this year. A joy to read.
BLACKWING / AUTHOR: ED MCDONALD / PUBLISHER: GOLLANCZ / RELEASE DATE: 27TH JULY