Book Review: Blackwing by Ed McDonald

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US and UK book covers.

“The sky was sobbing, long purrs of sharp, cold nightmare as the dawn broke. At least the rain had abated.” 
This is a description of the dawn sky over the Misery. There are other descriptions of the Misery involving the wind howling through cracks in the sky, bronze and purple bruise colours and more. Descriptions of the Misery are as elusive to their precise meaning as they are evocative. I love it this way and I’m content not to have a full grasp of what the Misery looks and sounds like – I enjoy the sense of mystery and depth.

The Misery is the region of the land left “polluted” after Nall’s Engine does its worst. The engine is a super weapon with an immense destructive power. It is the only thing that can hold back The Deep Kings, beings with god-like power, their massive armies and other magical nightmares such as the Darlings. The Darlings appear as delightful children that are actually horror novel type creatures with sickening magic that can rip through men and other wielders of magic like the proverbial knife through butter. They feel no remorse.

Our hero Captain Galharrow commands his Blackwings, a group of men and women soldiers and a sorceress in the hopeless defence of their land. It’s hopeless because Nall’s Engine is a hoax – it no longer works and the Deep Kings are learning this. Their armies and agents are moving to conquer.

I love Blackwing as it is a hopeless quest full of emotion with a hero who is downtrodden, a drunk, has lost almost everything he cares about (wife, children) and is but a pawn played with by his masters. His great redeeming quality is that he cares deeply about those under his command and will sacrifice almost anything that is his to save them. They are all he has left to cling onto.

For me, the “Holy Grail” of stories is one that gives me an ending I don’t see coming. Blackwing does just that. Great job Ed!

Normally I find stories written in the first person like Blackwing don’t work that well for me as I know the protagonist who’s words I’m hearing must survive the tale or be speaking from beyond the grave. Given how merciless life is on the wall by the Misery death for Galharrow would seem like a gift. I assume he will never get this gift as he is the narrator.

Blackwing is fine grimdark fantasy with plenty of gruesome scenes that will not suit every reader. Lovers of dark fantasy will have a great time in the Misery.

No question, 5 stars from me.

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