Last year one of the most impressive debut's I read was Ed McDonald's Blackwing. It's dark, confident and bold fiction with some exceptional world-building and even finer characters,
Ravencry is the sequel and does everything a sequel should, building on the best elements of the first novel and taking the story in new directions. Four years have passed since the events of Blackwing and Galharrow still works for one of the nameless as a blackwing captain, while the Deep Kings are still set on causing havoc. This time they are resorting to hurling fire from the sky, while sneaking agents into the city to cause further mayhem. On top of this there is a break-in at Crowfoot's arcane vault and something of incredible power is stolen. Galharrow is tasked with finding out who of Valengrad's many enemies could have carried out such a deed and stop them before it's too late.
Meanwhile a ghost known as the Bright Lady is manifesting as visions across the city, gaining a cult who grasp at power.
One of the (many) things that sets these books apart is the way that the author manages a sense of scale. The nameless and Deep Kings are beings on a level way above mortal man - fighting a war only they really understand. Neither side really care about the mortal creatures that suffer and die. Even the Nameless, who while cannot in any way be considered "good", at least don't want the world destroyed. It really marks how small people are but also what amazing (and horrific) feats they can achieve. There is no good or bad, no safety net to make the morally correct decision. If this all sounds a bit dark (and it is) the author manages to make sure it isn't too dark, and I'm not entirely sure how he did it either.
One of the defining characteristics about this book is that of change. This is evident in many ways but none more so than the character of Galharrow himself who takes an incredible journey both emotionally and physically throughout the book. One of the vehicles of change is the journey back into the strange wasteland of the misery - and this is one of the highlights of the book with some seriously strange and messed up moments. Then there is an examination of faith and belief, of how religious fever can grow unchecked - often without direct influence from the thing being worshipped.
The supporting cast of characters are magnificent, each a wonderfully crafted character and not a single one is simple window dressing.
Ravencry is exceptional, it's Grimdark without being too grim, it improves on an impressive debut and does everything a sequel should - moving the story forward without re-treading on old ground. Immersive, imaginative, incredible.
Written on 30th July 2018 by Ant.
SFBook is entirely funded by Ant including hosting, development and any other costs.
If you enjoy the site please consider a small donation towards the cost of the upkeep and development of SFBook.