Review: The Black Hawks (Articles of Faith #1) by David Wragg

Rating: ★★★★☆

Synopsis

Dark, thrilling, and hilarious, The Black Hawks is an epic adventure perfect for fans of Joe Abercrombie and Scott Lynch.

Life as a knight is not what Vedren Chel imagined. Bound by oath to a dead-end job in the service of a lazy step-uncle, Chel no longer dreams of glory – he dreams of going home.

When invaders throw the kingdom into turmoil, Chel finds opportunity in the chaos: if he escorts a stranded prince to safety, Chel will be released from his oath.

All he has to do is drag the brat from one side of the country to the other, through war and wilderness, chased all the way by ruthless assassins.

With killers on your trail, you need killers watching your back. You need the Black Hawk Company – mercenaries, fighters without equal, a squabbling, scrapping pack of rogues.

Prepare to join the Black Hawks.

Review

Thanks to the publisher and author for an advance reading copy of The Black Hawks (Articles of Faith #1) in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this eARC did not influence my thoughts or opinions on the novel.

David Wragg’s debut was an enjoyable fantasy romp rife with morally ambiguous characters, sarcastic and witty banter, and enough swordplay to keep Inigo Montoya entertained. While I have seen it compared to Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames and Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, The Black Hawks stands on its on merits and creates a new fantasy realm that will astound readers who dare to take the plunge.

The Black Hawks themselves remind me of a mix between the mercenaries found in Fletcher’s Manifest Delusions and Selby’s The Winter Road. A mix of hardened killers with zero filter, exceptional skills with blades/axes, and motivation that is only fed by stacked coinage. To say they are likeable is an overstatement, but to say they don’t grow on you as the story unfolds is a straight up lie.

Then you have Chel. Sort of a Aethelwold-ish character (not that he has nay claim to anything) but is sort of a down-on-his-luck drunkard who is thrust into the spotlight when he stumbles upon the prince and guides him to safety. From there, you have what feels like a coming-of-age story (it isn’t) where Chel is forced into facing a reality he would rather stray away from: protecting a prince at all costs across a country full of murderers, thieves, and wolves.

I feel that the comparisons under-deliver in ways that aren’t necessarily fair to the author and may leave *some* readers wanting more. The Black Hawks does not contain the over-the-top, consistent hilarity or battles that you get with Kings, nor does it plunge you into the minds of some of the best characters ever created in The First Law World. Having said that, it does have its fair share of humorous one-liners from the mercenaries, several intense, small-scale combat scenes, and Chel is a very likeable character that I would like to see more from. In summation, just don’t go into it thinking it is going to be exactly what you expect based on media marketing.

All in all, I highly suggest you give The Black Hawks a go. It is a little slow on takeoff but you’ll be hankerin’ for more once you cross the halfway point. The mercs themselves are plenty of reason to grab this book and give yourself plenty of belly laughs, and the ending will have you waiting on pins and needles for the sequel.

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