Book Review: Blackwing by Ed McDonald


Blackwing by Ed McDonald

Ryhalt Galharrow is just trying to get by. In ages past, the Deep Kings — immortal, evil, god-like beings — marched on the land, wreaking devastation wherever they went. Then, a group of powerful wizards called The Nameless blasted the world apart and created the Misery, a twisted wasteland of renegade magic and grotesque monsters, but their actions kept the Deep Kings at bay. Now, Galharrow makes his money as a mercenary for hire tracking and killing minions of the Deep Kings. Unfortunately, Galharrow has also pledged his sword to Crowfoot, one of the Nameless. When Crowfoot delivers an urgent order to save a mysterious noblewoman, Galharrow is plunged into a far-ranging conspiracy whose roots threaten to destroy civilization itself.

This is the first book in a series by debut author Ed McDonald, and it is something to behold. McDonald tosses the reader right into the Misery on page one, and keeps up a relentless pace throughout the book. Unlike quite a few “first in series,” Blackwing has avoided the awkward “getting to know you” phase that breaks up the flow of so many books. We learn about our hero and our setting in bits and pieces; enough to make sense of the plot, but little enough to leave us wanting more. The tone of the book combines the best elements of dark fantasy, steampunk, post-apocalyptic brutality, and 1930s detective noir.

McDonald has created an interesting and flawed hero in Ryhalt Galharrow, and provides enough secondary characters to allow the series to mature and expand with future books. Likewise, the setting seems like something out of a Robert E. Howard story, all dark recesses and horrifying sorcery. McDonald does a fantastic job of building this world up without sacrificing the pace of the plot, no mean feat. In fact, the only thing I have to complain about in this book is that any romance-related dialogue is awkward. I mean, Attack of Clones, George Lucas awkward. Fortunately, there’s not too much of this, so it doesn’t really impact the quality of the story.

In all, fans of darker fantasy will probably love this book. Fans of Lovecraftian stories, or the Conan and Solomon Kane stories by Howard should also check out this series. If Blackwing is the author’s debut work, then I can’t wait to read the next in the series!

An advance copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Dead Seekers by Barb Hendee and J.C. Hendee

The Dead Seekers by Barn Hendee and J.C. Hendee
 

I was a fan of the authors’ Noble Dead series, which I read way back in the day (2003, probably before you were born). Now this book, the first of a planned series, has come along, set in the same world they created for the Noble Dead, but with new and exciting characters.

And I liked it. The book introduces us to Tris, unwanted son of a noble lord and able to control and banish spirits; and Mari, a mondyalitko (gypsy) shifter (think were-lynx) looking to avenge the deaths of her entire family. When Mari saves Tris’ life, she is inadvertently drawn into his business of ridding the world of violent spirits. But there is more lurking out there than meets the eye: what should have been a routine job in a remote village becomes a greater mystery when it seems that the spirit of the dead woman plaguing the village may herself have been killed by a vengeful ghost. And, as Mari begins to learn more about Tris, it seems more and more likely that he may have had something to do with the slaughter of her family.

This book, like the Noble Dead series, isn’t high literature, but it doesn’t have to be: it’s fun. One of my favorite features of the Hendees’ work is the setting. This book takes place in Stravinia, a medieval, remote country of scattered villages and larger towns hiding behind thick walls. The picture the authors paint is gothic and dark: deep, foreboding forests, poor villages consisting of hovels huddled together against the predatory creatues that lurk in the darkness. Vampires, ghosts, and werewolves roam the land, and superstition and fear permeate everything. Think of the Solomon Kane stories by Robert E. Howard (you know, the guy who wrote the original Conan stories). The world created by the Hendees breathes with malicious intent, and I enjoyed stepping into it again.

I would recommend this book for those who read and enjoyed the Noble Dead saga. Likewise, anyone who likes dark fantasy would probably enjoy this book.

An advance copy of this book was provided by the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The Dead Seekers will be available for purchase on January 3rd, 2017.