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Summary

The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow's Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long-dead sorcerer's legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh eaters and the ghosts of the wastelands seek to destroy them, but if they cannot solve the ancient wizard's paradox, the Deep Kings will walk the earth again, and all will be lost. 

The war with the Eastern Empire ended in stalemate some 80 years ago thanks to Nall's Engine, a wizard-crafted weapon so powerful even the Deep Kings feared it. The strike of the engine created the Misery - a wasteland full of ghosts and corrupted magic that now forms a no-man's-land along the frontier. But when Galharrow investigates a frontier fortress, he discovers complacency bordering on treason: then the walls are stormed, and the engine fails to launch. 

Galharrow escapes only because of the preternatural magical power of the noblewoman he was supposed to be protecting. Together they race to the capital to unmask the traitors and restore the republic's defences. Far across the Misery, a vast army is on the move, as the empire prepares to call the republic's bluff. 

Blackwing is a gritty epic fantasy for fans of Mark Lawrence, Scott Lynch and Daniel Polansky. 

Read by Colin Mace. 

©2017 Ed McDonald (P)2017 Orion Publishing Group

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent grimdark

Mark Lawrence better up his game or this lad will be king of grimdark. Can't wait for more - hope they keep the same narrator too

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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It turns out I like grimdark fantasy after all

I chose this book after an Amazon recommendation, which I don't usually do, but I thought I'd take a punt on a new author.

This book was great! Gripping story, characters that develop more and more as the story goes on - Galharrow, the narrator, unfurls into a really memorable lead character, who you want to spend more time with.

I've previously tried other novels described to be as 'Grimdark' - which seems to mean that the main character is a bit of a nasty git.
I read Paul Hoffman's trilogy, but thought it peaked with Left Hand of God. I enjoyed it though.
I wanted to like Mark Lawrence. The plot kept me turning pages to the end of each book, but I found the lead character two dimensional and tiresome by the end.
This was everything I wanted those books to be! It blew them out of the water.

The premise reminded me of Chronicles of the Black Company, but with more vivid storytelling.

I also really loved that, while there's lots of potential for more books in the series, the narrative of this one finished its ark with the book. I'll be waiting eagerly to read the next one, but it's great not to always need that to finish the story.

The narrator was really good. A very convincing Galharrow who can carry off everyone else's voice too.
I didn't realise Nen was an Aussie though...

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Great book and excellent narration!

Colin has the perfect voice and reads it beautifully. Brilliant story to match, really enjoyed! Thank you....can't wait to listen to more :-)

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Awesome grim dark fantasy

I really enjoyed the book and narration, overall but the editing at times seemed flawed.

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Thoroughly enjoyed this book!

Great story, Colin Mace is a fantastic narrator and really brings the book to life.

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Great story with perfect narration

Blackwing, for me, was utterly fantastic. Everything from the writing style to the narrator ticked all the right boxes in my opinion. The story is told in first person narrative through the less than prim and proper mouth of Galharrow, captain of the Blackwing. His gritty way of speaking and telling his tale lends itself perfectly to the way Colin Mace narrated the novel.

It has a good array of new creatures not found in other fantasy series. My personal favourite being the gillings. Little horrors with twin rows of sharp teeth that numb anything they touch. I’ve often heard people say they wouldn’t mind dying in their sleep. It still counts if a gilling is eating you alive whilst you sleep and your body is too numb to feel pain and wake you up, right?

Unlike some books, the protagonist isn’t a perfect killing machine. Sure, he’s pretty damn good at things, but he has his drawbacks and weaknesses. He is an interesting character to have as the eyes and mouth of a story. At first you feel he’s an uncaring brute of a man, but you slowly learn there’s a lot more to him.

There’s a good cast of supporting characters ranging from friends, allies, enemies, unwanted yet impossible to refuse masters and just the regular run of the mill people encountered throughout. Everyone feels as though they have a character and purpose rather than just another background character to pad out a town or city. It makes me feel like a lot of time and work went into the world building which, in turn, makes the whole thing more enjoyable to read/listen to.

My review hasn’t gone into a great amount of detail but, if I did, I’d essentially be re-writing the blurb or a synopsis. There is so much going on in this piece with so many interesting characters and settings, as you can no doubt gleam from the blurb.

As you can imagine, when the enemies are, essentially, god-like beings, there are some epic moments. Judging how this one ended and how there is so much more left to explore in the world created by McDonald, I can’t wait until the sequel(s) are released. I think I may have to stick with the audiobooks rather than written books, however. Once you’ve heard Colin Mace speak as Galharrow, you can’t just go and have the voice in your head play the part.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

A bit of a flop!

I had high hopes for Blackwing as the blurb sounds awesome but ended up quite disappointed when this turned out to be a distinctly below average fantasy story with bad writing and some of the most cringe-worthy dialogue I've encountered in a while.

The building blocks were in place for a decent story.

The World

This was one of those flintlock era fantasy books that mixed in magic with 19th Century technology. The world had a post apocalyptic feel to it. A magical weapon of mass destruction was used to push the immortal Deep Kings and their mutant legions into the South and away from the lands ruled by the equally immortal mages known only as the Nameless. The use of Null's Engine has left a vast wasteland, know as the Misery. The Misery is a place to be feared as all sorts of mutants and monsters roam its twisted landscape.

It could have been a cool setting but the mutants and monsters basically only filled the role of mindless zombies and the like in your average post-apocalyptic tale. Which I felt was a total waste of potential as a few of the Deep Kings mutant creatures like the Darlings (evil mages in the bodies of children), the Gillings (gnome like creature that babble the same few sentences over and over again and paralyse their victims with with venom before eating them), and Brides (creatures capable of seducing humans to do their bidding) actually had the potential to be really cool. Sadly that potential was mostly just wasted as they never developed beyond bland monsters that had zero individual personality or significance.

The magic was OK but nothing special. It was all pretty vague and I have to admit I hated the name given to the mages, spinners, because lets be honest that awful name almost sucks all the coolness out of magic on its own!

The Story

Ryhalt Galharrow is a Blackwing Captain and a bounty hunter in service to the most powerful remaining Nameless. It is his job to hunt down traitors and defectors who seek to flee to the Deep Kings realms to the south and to deal with any of the Deep King agents and monsters who venture into the Nameless's realm. After a trip to the Misery to hunt down a few traitors he finds himself at a Misery outpost and gets orders from his Nameless lord to escort a noblewomen back to Valingrad (the border capital and home of the powerful Engine). Keeping the noblewomen safe is no easy task considering she is spouting a few dangerous heresies but Ryhalt has the incentive to listen since she has links to his own long forgotten past!

I feel like there was nothing wrong with the actual plot. The story could have been good if it was not hampered by the execution and McDonald's writing, which I just did not get on with at all. Some of it was pretty predictable but it did manage one fun twist near the end.

The Characters

Only three characters in the whole story made enough of an impression on me to remember their names. Ryhalt Galharrow was our lead character. This story was told from his POV. He seemed a decent enough character but was hindered by spending the whole book wallowing in self-pity.

--
‘Go fuck yourself, Herono,’ I said. ‘It isn’t that I love the girl. Truth is, I gave up on myself a long time ago. I’ve always been fucked over one way or another, and when your life’s as worthless as mine you get to stop caring about it altogether.
--

That is an actual bit of dialogue. The guy was so "woe is me" it was unreal. He was a sad cynical veteran soldier who spent his time working, boozing, and swearing. I'm sure he went with the boozing to show how depressed he was and how crappy his life was and the swearing just to prove what a hardman he was. Unfortunately both were so overdone that he ended up coming off a little bit comical. On the plus side that did help me with liking the guy as he came across as so downtrodden that it was hard not to sympathize with him.

The only other characters that made an impression were Nem, Ryhalt's disfigured companion and number two in his mercenary band, and Lady Ezabeth Tanza, the noblewomen and mage he is tasked with protecting and who he still totally has the hots for. I actually thought both were promising secondary characters.


The Writing

This was the big flaw of the book. I thought the writing was awful and this book really did contain some of the most cringe-worthy dialogue of all time. Here are some of the gems:

--
‘You need to eat less cock,’ I said, ‘you’re heavy as fuck.’
Nenn’s snarl told me she’d have made some savage retort if breathing didn’t hurt so bad.

‘In all honesty, Galharrow, as frustrating as yesterday’s stunt was, I understand you. You want to fuck the girl. Spirits of dread know why, with those scars, but I suppose everyone has a fetish. I always liked the blacks.’
--

The other big flaw in the writing is that it just feels like this book is trying so hard to be grim dark that it becomes a laughably parody of the genre. The word "shit" is used 68 times while the word "fuck" manges a good 141 outings. It just seemed a bit much!

There was also the general "woe is me" tone to the book.

--
The look in his eyes said he wanted to kill me. The look in mine said I meant him to suffer before he died.
--

This was another of the many trying too hard to be grimdark bits of writing that riddled the story.

All in all I was not super happy with this one and I doubt I'll bother with the sequel.

This was narrated by Colin Mace. I thought the guy did a below average job. He has an annoying voice, no great talent for voice acting, and just stuck in a bizarre Australian accent for Nem for no discernable reason. Though at least that out of place accent made it easy to tell when she was speaking which was better than the generic voice used for most of the rest of the characters. Honestly it is a pity Mace narrates so many fantasy books!

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Gripping

I wondered st first if it would just be the same as many but was swept up after a couple of brief chapters and carried right through to the end. Listen and enjoy.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Excellent new fantasy saga

Highly recommended fantasy saga with a great mix of grit, realism and magic. Not ostentatious - only great thrills and fast paced narrative.

Excellent narration!

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

amazing audio version of a book

this narrator is fantastic it was truly like the main character was telling the the story in his own words

As for the story wow this is as dark and nasty as you can get you did not ast any point want to step for in this world

that alone made you back the main characters rooted for them for just a second of happiness