Review: Crowfall (Raven’s Mark #3) by Ed McDonald

Rating: ★★★★☆+

Synopsis

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

‘Dark, twisty and excellent . . . Grimdark with heart’ Mark Lawrence

A sorceress cataclysm has hit the Range, the final defensive line between the Republic and the immortal Deep Kings.

Tormenting red rains sweep the land, new monstrosities feed on fear in the darkness, and the power of the Nameless, the gods who protect the Republic, lies broken. The Blackwing captains who serve them are being picked off one by one, and even immortals have learned what it means to die. Meanwhile the Deep Kings have only grown stronger, and are poised to deliver a blow that will finally end the war.

Ryhalt Galharrow stands apart from it all.

He has been deeper into the wasteland known as the Misery than ever before. It has grown within him – changed him – but all power comes with a price, and now the ghosts of his past, formerly confined to the Misery, walk with him everywhere.

They will even follow him, and the few surviving Blackwing captains, on one final mission into the darkness.

Review

Thanks to the publisher and author for an advance reading copy of Crowfall (Raven’s Mark #3) in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this ARC did not influence my thoughts or opinions on the novel

Crowfall is a bloody, gritty, and downright stunning conclusion to the Raven’s Mark trilogy, and Galharrow has entrenched himself as one of the most engaging characters I’ll have come across in my years of reading fantasy. McDonald’s rich prose mixed with a heaping dose of grimdark makes this a perfect series for fans of Joe Abercrombie, Anna Smith Spark, and Michael R. Fletcher.

While I came into Crowfall a little hesitant after not falling head over heels for Ravencry, I am glad I read them back to back to give myself a little more perspective. Ravencry came down with “second book of a trilogy” syndrome and just felt like, for the most part, filler and build-up for Book 3. Now look, this happens with most series out there, so no direct issue with the author for having done so. It just didn’t pack the wallop that Blackwing gave with the right-hook, but it was satisfying enough that I had to finish out the series.

What makes this trilogy stand out from others amongst the grimdark genre are the characters, but not just the characters themselves; their heart and sense of hope give life and exquisite light to what is otherwise one of the darkest tales out to date. Galharrow always puts others before himself and is consistently giving second chances. Though his body is bruised and battered from consistent brutality, his mind corrupted from time spent in the Misery, he doesn’t sit back and let his companions do his fighting for him. For heaven’s sake, a character that Galharrow has deemed an enemy and blew the face off of has been taken in as an adopted son. Who the heck does that? On top of that, in the face of doom and failure, he never once gives up. He picks himself up by the bootstraps, reloads his weapons, and charges head-on. Brilliant.

I cannot give the author enough credit for how poetic his writing is. Much like Lawrence, McDonald’s prose is some of the most beautiful and elegant in fantasy today. Words just leak from the pages like a fine, full-bodied red wine and you are left to lap up drips that puddle onto the floor. The words need to be savored and pored over for extended periods of time. Think of it like Jim Beam Devil’s Cut; that which is extracted from the cask itself, the finest of its kind.

Overall, Crowfall was a fantastic finale to the Raven’s Mark series, especially the last couple of chapters as I’m pretty sure I teared up a bit. I’m excited to see what McDonald comes out with next and I can recommend this one to any grimdark fan out there.

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