Blackwing by Ed McDonald

The Blurb On The Back:

The Misery is a wasteland: a dangerous, corrupted frontier between the Republic and The Deep Kings.

When traitors, thieves and spies try to flee they run for The Misery, and often as not it’s Captain Ryhalt Galharrow’s job to bring them to heel beneath the fractured skies – provided they haven’t already fallen prey to the twisted creatures that inhabit the shifting polluted sands.  It’s a deadly place, even for a man of Galharrow’s experience.

But it’s a necessary place.  Because the Republic’s only other defence against The Deep Kings is Nall’s Engine, a weapon of incomparable power that protects the wasteland’s border.  As long as it doesn’t start to falter … 

You can order BLACKWING by Ed McDonald from Amazon USAAmazon UK, Waterstone’s or UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

80 years ago the Nameless (powerful wizards) took the Republic to war against the expanding Eastern Empire controlled by the Deep Kings (demi-gods).  Thousands died and the Deep Kings were winning until Nall developed a weapon powerful enough to kill the Deep Kings themselves, forcing them to withdraw.  Unfortunately Nall’s Engine unleashed dreadful power that created a wasteland of corrupted magic called the Misery, which is policed by Captain Galharrow, a Blackwing bound in service to the Nameless Crowfoot, who chases down those seeking to join the Deep Kings.

When Crowfoot orders Galharrow to a fortress on the Misery’s border, Galharrow finds himself face-to-face with Lady Ezabeth, who his family once wanted him to marry.  Ezabeth is a Spinner (a wizard able to create magic from the light of the Republic’s twin moons) carrying out research relating to Nall’s Engine but as Galharrow reluctantly helps, they find a conspiracy at work at the heart of the Republic, one that threatens to bring the horror the Deep Kings to their borders once more …

Ed McDonald’s solid debut fantasy novel (the first in a trilogy) has great world building, an interesting political and magical system and an ambivalent view to wizards but I found that Galharrow tries too hard to be morally ambivalent, the female characters (particularly Ezabeth) are under baked and I found that although the time jumps kept the plot moving, it meant that the story didn’t have time to breathe.

Galharrow is intended to be a hardened, cynical character made bitter by war and experience but McDonald tries too hard to give him a soft centre through his feelings for Ezabeth, which didn’t convince given the little page time they have together and because Ezabeth is so under-developed (more a projection of Galharrow’s feelings and a mix of quirks and ticks than an independent character in her own right).  Similarly Galharrow’s loyal soldier, Nenn, is underdeveloped with her suspicion of Ezabeth influenced by jealousy and although Prince Herono is more interesting, events surrounding her are signalled too early.

However the world building is interesting – particularly the idea of the Nameless as anti-heroes – and I enjoyed the magic systems, especially the drudge and the Darlings, which are chilling.  I also enjoyed the hints of backstory for Galharrow and the Nameless, which I hope will be developed in the sequel, which I will definitely check out.

BLACKWING was released in the United Kingdom on 20th July 2017.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the ARC of this book.

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