Blackwing by Ed McDonald has been gathering a fair amount of hype in the last few months. A debut released on the 27th July, it’s epic fantasy in the tradition of grimdark, and the proof copies are just magnificent – so when Stevie Finegan at Gollancz offered some out to bloggers, I jumped at the chance. And you know what? It deserves the hype.
It’s been a while since I read an epic fantasy, but Blackwing was the perfect book to get back into the genre. The worldbuilding is stunning – I was able to vividly picture The Misery and Valengrad, as well as the various heroes and villains, and I’m not sure I’ve ever come across as creepy a bad guy as the Darling. There’s plenty of blood and guts too, and the very real consequences of the war being fought are clear. I also loved the idea of the Nameless Ones, and the way they’ve mostly abandoned the general populace, just when they need them most.
The plot rockets along and is full of surprises. There’s a definite Game of Thrones-y sense that you don’t want to get too attached to any of the characters, because there’s a higher than average chance they’re not going to last very long. It did take me a little while to get into, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. I had plenty of things I needed to be doing last Sunday, but not one of them actually got done, for which I entirely blame Ed McDonald for writing such an addictive book!
The real strength of Blackwing, though, is in the characters. Galharrow is a bit of a bastard, yes, but it’s born of the things he has done and witnessed. I loved the hints of his past with Ezabeth, and how it affects his present. I especially loved his relationships with Nenn and Tnota – this is a group who have been through thick and thin together, and it shows in their every interaction. Nenn will call Galharrow on his bullshit, but trust him when it counts, and he will do the same for her, and I loved that you could see that came from their experiences together, without it needing to be explicitly said. They’re a fantastic group of characters, and I’m hoping it’s not too long before I get to meet them again.
In short, if you are a fan of epic fantasy (or, y’know, books in general), you need to read this book. It’s a stunning debut novel and it absolutely deserves the hype it’s been getting.
ARC received from Gollancz in exchange for an honest review. Thanks Stevie!