Review: Blackwing (Raven’s Mark #1) by Ed McDonald

Rating: ★★★☆☆


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 eighty 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 Mans 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 only escapes 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.


Thanks to Ace for my review copy of Blacking in exchange for an honest review.

Blackwing is a surprisingly fun read and the setting is an absolute spectacle. However, I felt like I wanted more out of the ending and more character development, both of which will probably be remedied by reading more in this series.

I enjoyed reading Blackwing – like just about everything else, I finished it a couple weeks before writing my review.

Where Blackwing succeeds is its sense of doom, loss, and danger. Humanity is hanging on by a thread. The only thing that stands between them and certain doom is the threat of Nall’s Engine, a cosmically-powerful weapon that, when activated, can blast even the Deep Kings from the face of the earth. In fact, upon its last activation, Nall’s Engine created the no-man’s land known as The Misery.

As a setting, The Misery is fantastic. From a storytelling perspective, there’s so much possibility for a land that has been tainted by magic. Strange creatures like the Darlings, Brides, and other odd inhabitants of the tainted world. Creatures that are covered in eyes running around mindlessly. Tiny goblins that repeat odd human phrases. The sense that around every corner there is some strange creature that wants to devour you. The multiple moons, the odd sky, the twilight brightness, and the looming threat of the Deep Kings all serve to make The Misery a great setting.

The main character, Galharrow, is an agent of Crowfoot, one of the two remaining wizards that sides with humanity. Galharrow is brash and lonely, living his life in service to what amounts to a less-than-evil wizard. Galharrow is depressed and he seems to take his frustrations out on those around him, but his close friends Tnota and Nenn anchor him.

Side note: does everyone in this book have a missing body part??? I won’t mention who because spoilers, but dang! Life on the range is hard.

Most of the plot deals with political intrigue. When Galharrow escapes from a Darling with the help of the awesomely-powerful Spinner Ezabeth, he joins her on her quest to find out if Nall’s Engine is actually functional or not. Of course, this leads Galharrow to believe that with their strongest weapon lying dormant, they have no defense against the power of the Deep Kings.

My criticism of this book is the ending. I felt like the final battle was a bit amorphous as far as time goes, and in some ways it felt like the battle at the beginning on the range was a more visceral battle than the battle at the end. I guess what I was looking for was Galharrow in action, but what I got was after-the-battle wound-licking. I know that stuff isn’t necessary to the story, but it does serve to give the story a sense of fulfillment when you’ve been talking up what a threat the Deep Kings are. I wanted to see those suckers in action! And perhaps I will in the future.

If you like creative settings and strange creatures with a nice dark flavor, give Blackwing a stab. I got feelings of Attack on Titan and Mistborn at times, so if you like those then this is probably up your alley.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. alburke47 says:

    I thought the final battle was actually a feint for the giant plot twist at the end, and suited it oerfectly. Blackwing is one of my favourite fantasy debuts, and I’ve read some gems.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great point. Yeah I did enjoy the twist, I just thought for all of the fanfare surrounding the Deep Kings and the drudge that it could have been more hack and slashy at the end, which typically isn’t something I care about but I began to expect it the more I read. Looking forward to getting some more out of Raven’s Mark though.


      1. alburke47 says:

        I do see your point I didn’t like sequel as much, but it had a hard act to follow. Looking forward to the final book though.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s