Review: Blackwing by Ed McDonald - 9/10*
Perfect for fans of Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie and Mark Lawrence, this dark adventure is gripping and bloody; it's a twisted story that spins a web of deceit. Nothing is as it seems, as ageless powers manipulate and control the lives of the characters. The world is a staging ground, all leading to one dramatic confrontation that has been a century in the making.
One hundred years ago Nall's Engine was fired on the enemies of the Republic, and in its wake it left a blackened and scarred landscape known as The Misery. Beyond The Misery, a wasteland of corruption and dark magic, reside the even darker entities known as The Deep Kings. They want nothing more than to destroy the Republic, the realm of men. They are immortal. They are ageless. And above all they are patient. They will gladly wait one thousand years for the right moment to arise. They want conquest, but once again standing in their way is Nall's Engine. It's a weapon of awesome power, and it's the only thing keeping these dark kings at bay. They lost one of their own when The Misery was created. It's the only hope of men, but over the years it has started to degrade.
Captain Galharrow is of the Blackwing, an order of hardy fighters answerable only to one: Crowfoot, the nameless God. Crowfoot helped build Nall's engine, but in the wake of Nall's disappearance he has set up his own machinations for keeping tabs on the enemy. Galharrow is a mercenary, a sword for hire, but that is just his day job. He has a small team of highly efficient soldiers who are seasoned veterans; they are ready at any moment to follow the spontaneous and random command of Crowfoot. When he wishes to speak to his captain, he sends a message via raven. The raven, though, is a tattoo on Galharrow's arm. It bursts through his skin and takes wing when his master has an order. It's an imaginative idea, one that sounds very painful!
The story begins with such a command. It seems ordinary, perhaps even unimportant, a simple as a direction, but it leads to a chain of events that reshape the frontier of the Republic. Galharrow is reunited with an old flame, a woman from his youth who he still ardently loves. The sight of her brings feelings back to the surface that he thought were dead. She thinks that Nall's Engine is broken, but nobody will listen to her. Galharrow is compelled to assist her for the sake of his feelings and the order Crowfoot gave. They begin to unearth as series of clues that will lead them to the heart of the engine itself, and the truth behind its creation. It has an ominous history, one only revealed as the Deep Kings and their invasion force enter the city. The ending that follows is potently clever. Nothing is as it seems.
Ed McDonald is an author to watch out for. I don't say things like this lightly. I read a lot of fantasy, and I don't hesitate to say that this will be one of the biggest fantasy debuts of the year. McDonald has given us the first instalment of what looks to be a very interesting series. I look forward to seeing where this goes in the future.