Review: Blackwing by Ed McDonald

Such a cool cover!

Time for my second ever NetGalley title. I’ve heard so many good things about this book, not the least of which is that in many people’s opinion, it’s the best fantasy debut of 2017. That’s high praise, so of course when I saw it on NetGalley, I requested it, not really expecting to receive a review copy since it had already been released at the time. Turns out that it wasn’t released here, but it had been released in the UK. So, I’m very happy to have gotten an early copy! 🙂

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… 

“I saw you stand,” I said. “Saw your courage, back at Twelve. Saw the steel in your will, the power you command. You say there’s nothing of woman about you? You aren’t some painted vase, delicate and useless. You’re a fucking lioness. The strongest damn thing that ever lived. There’s nothing of you but woman.”

Hells yes! Preach it man!~

This book was fantastic. I’ll start there, because that’s really the most important thing about this review. Blackwing is a fantastic story with all kinds of intrigue and mystery, twists and turns, ups and downs. It’s a very unique world and has such interesting characters and situations in it, that I just fell right into this world of magic, gods, monsters, kings, and princes and before I knew it, it was over.

It brought to mind a great many different things as I went, but is wholly something amazing and different. It’s sort of swords and sorcery that meets steampunk somewhere vaguely nowhere near the middle. It’s mostly been called grimdark to me though, which I will definitely agree on. It’s pretty grim, and pretty dark. I have trouble assigning genres to things. It’s fantasy. The good kind.

Galharrow is a character that I couldn’t help but root for, despite all the horrible stuff he’s done in his life. He’s the sort of protagonist that you know is morally… sort of grey in areas, but who you just want to win. I can compare him to Jorg Ancrath from Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire series in this way, though in a bit of a different way. Galharrow will go to quite a few lengths to carry out the orders of his master, where Jorg would do anything to get what he wants. Galharrow will kill pretty much anyone in his way when it will benefit himself or his friends, but when he is presented with information that changes everything… well, he’ll change his tune a little.

The concept of the Blackwing and how Galharrow serves his master, Crowfoot- not exactly a god, but not exactly a man- was really interesting and well thought out. The magic system altogether was really well executed here. People called Spinners actually spin the light of the moons into batteries that they then use to do magic. There’s more than just that… there are different kinds of magic, but that is the one we see most. The world of Blackwing, this dystopian wasteland of the Misery (a section of land that actually negatively affects the human body to be in) and even the city that Galharrow resides in was well described and came to life for me. Smells are described often here, and I’ll admit to wrinkling my nose once or twice when I imagined being in Galharrow’s place. Wash your sheets, dude. >.>

Nenn and Galharrow and the banter between them sets this story up very early on to be exactly my kind of story. As we all know by now, I love a snarky, foul mouthed protagonist. Something happens to sweet Nenn quite early on that requires Galharrow to lift her up into his arms, and to this he says “You need to eat less cock… you’re heavy as fuck.” to which Kristen snortled (a chortle and a snort combined) very loudly. At her Doctor’s office.

The receptionist looked at me funny. I grinned like an idiot.

The climax and ending of this book was really, really well done. I was legitimately surprised by some of the revelations that were brought forth. The whole thing got turned on its head. People you had 100% surety about were suddenly not at all what they seemed. Things happened. Emotions were emoted. Flux capacitors fluxed. And a rollicking time was had by all.

Anyway, I really, really liked this book. It’s definitely the sort of story that keeps you up reading well past your bedtime. I’m not sure that I can put it as best debut of 2017… for me, I think I’d have to put Blackwing and Kings of the Wyld in a cage and they’d have to fight it out, because I love them both just about evenly. But, nevertheless this is easily in my top 10 books I’ve read this year so far.

So, it’s got that going for it, which is nice.

I’ll be honest with you, all this talk of Engines and so on within this sort of wasteland world brought Trigun’s Plants right to mind for me.

Ladies and Gents, do yourself a favor and give this one a read. You won’t regret it! I’m eager for more of the story. Definitely continuing this series! It’s going to be hard to be patient for more… but I’ll try. 5/5 stars! 🙂


I’d like to thank the author, and Ace/Roc via NetGalley for the advanced copy of this book!~

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