- Ravencry (The Raven’s Mark #2).
- Ed McDonald.
- 432 pages.
- Fantasy / Grimdark.
- My Rating: Hell Yeah Book Review.
For Ryhalt Galharrow, working for Crowfoot as a Blackwing captain is about as bad as it gets – especially when his orders are garbled, or incoherent, or impossible to carry out.
The Deep Kings are hurling fire from the sky, a ghost in the light known only as the Bright Lady had begun to manifest in visions across the city, and the cult that worship her grasp for power while the city burns around them.
Galharrow may not be able to do much about the cult – or about strange orders from the Nameless – but when Crowfoot’s arcane vault is breached and an object of terrible power is stolen, he’s propelled into a race against time to recover it. Only to do that, he needs answers, and finding them means travelling into nightmare: to the very heart of the Misery.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Ed McDonald burst onto the fantasy scene in 2017 with the first book in The Raven’s Mark series Blackwing. He was amongst a plethora of debut fantasy authors who all wrote absolutely killer books last year with Blackwing being amongst the best of them and come the year’s end Blackwing graced if not all then many (the only reason I can think that it wouldn’t make a list is because the person hadn’t read it) fantasy fans top books of the year list (it was in the top three of mine) and it’s sequel, Ravencry was for many, one of the most anticipated books of 2018.
There are many far better bloggers and reviewers out there who can offer you an in-depth analysis and critique of Ravencry than I could possibly write and anyway, that’s not my reviewing style. I will say though that the blurb does a good job of enticing you and outlining the overall story told in Ravencry but that also, beneath the outline there is a deep and layered story waiting to be revealed.
I’m struggling to find the words to describe how good Ravencry is, they are failing me and those that I can think of just don’t do the book justice. For me, Ed McDonald is an author at the top of his game and Ravencry, like it’s predecessor Blackwing is a book that every fantasy fan should read but where Blackwing was brilliant, Ravencry is sheer brilliance.
Honestly, no review is even needed and a simple sentence will suffice, buy this book.
‘It’s been a long time,’ I said softly. In the deep night, some primal fear of the dark makes us favour hushed tones.
Ravencry takes place four years after the ending of Blackwing. The time between hasn’t been kind to our narrator, the grizzled Blackwing captain Ryhalt Galharrow who is more damaged and tormented than ever before. Experiences change us, they leave scars, some on the surface that you can see, others that are hidden on the inside that bleed and poison internally, some that heal and many more that fester causing grief and pain. The experiences that Galharrow suffers throughout Ravencry change him and time and time again he finds himself pushed to the limit and then pushed further. At times, I found my heart ached for Galharrow and the pain and misery that he endures at the hands of McDonald.
‘Love’s not an easy thing to bear. Makes us doubt ourselves in ways that don’t make sense. Don’t fuck things up for yourself because you’re afraid to be happy.’
Galharrow as the narrator is a fantastic protagonist, he has lost so much, seen some dark places and been through some darker times and yet he still keeps going. He is angry and cynical with a dry, gallows type of humour and a sadness that runs through him but he is also determined and whilst he has done some bad things there is also a goodness and a sense of morality to him too.
We are defined by our guilt as much as our pride.
As Ravencry is told in the first person it makes for a personal journey, everything is seen through the eyes of Galharrow and as such, as the reader and in the hands of McDonald’s prose, I found myself feeling everything along with poor Ryhalt.
Old characters like Nenn and Tnota return but there is also the addition of some new characters to keep things fresh with Amaira and Valiya (the Blackwing office manager) being favourites of mine, particularly Amaira, the young servant girl in the Blackwing offices. There was just something about her innocent and youthful exuberance that was utterly endearing and as she manages to worm her way into the smallest of cracks in Galharrow’s self-made armour it really does tug on the heartstrings.
Some people are not ashamed to cry, and I think that ultimately, they’re probably the stronger ones because of it.
Ravencry is different to Blackwing, it doesn’t try to mirror its predecessor but at the same time, there is also something comfortingly familiar about returning to the world and the characters that McDonald has created. The characters are violent and it’s a grim world, bleak, cruel and full of despair where nothing is easy and it’s often a case of weighing up which is the worse option and which is the worst and then choosing whatever option keeps you alive.
An impressive story, action, emotion, humour, characters that you care about and who feel real, an ingenious magic system, monstrous creatures (darlings remain spine-chilling), quality world-building (the first part of Ravencry predominantly takes place in Valengrad before we finally make a welcome return to the Misery around halfway through, well, it’s welcome for the reader and unwelcome for the characters. Both locations are well depicted with some vivid imagery on display in the Misery), stellar writing (that is often poetic and profound), pacing that is perfect for the story that McDonald is telling, an air of mystery, a small-scale start that builds to something large-scale and has terrible consequences for Galharrow, Valengrad and the Range and a gripping conclusion all combine to make Ravencry utterly outstanding.
Ravencry is an addictive book and it is dark but there is a beauty to the darkness that McDonald has created. Something alluring that calls to you, drawing you in and for me, Ravencry is a masterful creation.
Pre-order Ravencry (The Raven’s Mark #2) available June 28th, 2018 UK & August 21st, 2018 US.
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