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

Book haul: Blackwing

Spectacular. Yes, Blackwing is a spectacular piece of fantasy fiction.

So what’s the story?

OKay, let’s see. Hmm, how do we avoid spoilers?

Oh, I know! Let’s bring in Captain Ryhalt Galharrow. The man knows how to tell a story and never give away the ending. Well, until the end that is.

So, Galharrow the Gallant (sorry, can’t help it), a mercenary/bounty-hunter/puppet in the hands of the surviving nameless (yes, that’s a thing) almost godlike Crowfoot, works for Blackwing. Crowfoot, Blackwing, you can guess what’s the tattoo on Galharrow’s arm. But you don’t know what it does. Haha!

Lady Tanza is a mysterious woman missing after a sudden and whirlwind appearance in Galharrow’s life, and our self-proclaimed non-hero has been hired by her cousin the mighty Prince Herono (a lady she is but no princess in pink). to find the elusive maiden.

Galharrow has a team of extremely loyal and dedicated fellows from various races/gender/geographical area/sexual orientation/social hierarchy. Kickass women in this book. Love it. Thanks, Sir Ed of McDonald, this isn’t a daily occurrence. A society where a woman is not drawn back for her gender but for her wickedly powerful magical talent is strange. A different kind of witch hunt. Me likey. A scarred woman whose beauty survives in memories of a scarred man, physical/emotional, doesn’t matter. Isn’t that the ideal world? Isn’t that our fantasy?

I love journeys in fantasy novels. The journey wherever it takes or whatever the cost is the best kind of adventure. Galharrow’s journey forward into Misery (a place) and backward into misery (his memories, sorry again) are both equally captivating.

A single POV with an unreliable first person narrator has done wonders for this book. Galharrow is the perfect choice for the part. He is funny, a little sad, and heroic without consciously trying to be any of those.

Misery is a post-apocalyptic nightmare. Bleak, dark, infested with creatures like Darlings (an example or two of scenes with them would remain etched in my memory forever), it’s a wasteland which holds the greatest machine, the Engine, that helped defeat the last invasion by immortal Deep Kings. Never knew a part of a fantasy world could have the potential to become a character on its own. The multiple moons or the zombie/mutant thingies are just a few aspects of it.

The machine-oh, that’s another complete story. So many stories within this one big story (no that’s not the format but just the feel). The mechanism of the Engine is explained with layperson and wizards in mind. You can understand the gist of it, but the aura of mystery and magic isn’t ever done away with. The end of the book is a big surprise. Hat’s off, McDonald.

Now back to human characters. Lady Tanza, an inquisitive scholar, had looked too deep into the Engine. She found something she wasn’t supposed to. Now, it’s upon Galharrow to help her complete her quest and eventually his (Crowfoot tells him what to do) but unraveling the long-buried web of secrets and deceit among the highest members of the society.

Betrayal, struggle against personal demons, wraiths, and corrupted magic, a broken heart seeing a glimmer of hope in romance, this book is a drama. An epic fantasy drama with gray shades and a feel of historical fiction I would love to see in a movie. So many movies are made these days but how many characters do we find like Galharrow who makes us want to follow him into the heart of Misery and fight with the Gods?

The book ends on a satisfactory note. We get some closure but there are some open-ended threads that suggest a sequel. But I wonder if my favorite elements will return or not.

The author’s lines are as sharp as the sword you get to see in his profile pictures. Here’s one from the book.

“We were treading dry old ground, stepping between old footprints.”
― Ed McDonaldBlackwing

My favorite is this one:

“And yet in the bright eyes of every newborn, there lies a spark, a potential for goodness, the possibility of a life worth living. That spark deserves its chance. And though most of them will turn out to be as worthless as the parents who sired them, while the cruelty of the earth will tell them to release their innocence and join in the drawing of daggers, every now and then one manages to clutch to its beauty and refuses to release it into the dark.”
― Ed McDonaldBlackwing

I could do with some more time in Misery (not kidding). I wish we had spent some more time there exploring the nooks and corners with Galharrow. I hope the Darlings will be back in the next book. There will be a ‘next book.’ There better be.

Ed McDonald’s Blackwing has the perfect cover art. I hear Ravens are the new thing in the world of cover art. This one is one of the best there is. Do check out both versions. The book has already been published in the UK and will be introduced to the US market on 3rd October 2017. Say happy book birthday to the author and go check it out. Worth a try if you appreciate the play of light and shadows in your characters and their world. I have read Red Sister by Mark Lawrence and whole-heartedly agree they are both incredible writers in this subgenre of grimdark. Can’t compare the books, I haven’t read enough of Mark Lawrence.

Thank you Netgalley and Ace books for an advanced reader’s copy.

Here’s the summary.

A scoop of horror, a dash of steampunk, a spoonful of gunpowder, and a sprinkle of magic. Stir, stir, stir. Add the hero, saute with sass, followed by kick-ass ladies and a cup of corruption, fry in high heat. Pour the zombie juice and some immortal invaders, steam for half an hour. Voila! You have Blackwing magnifique. Bon Appetit.

I need to stop right now and get some food. Steamed some fish in yogurt sauce. Smells awesome. Hungry.

Oh, if you want to check out the books:

  • Series: Raven’s Mark (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Ace (October 3, 2017)
  • Language: English


And the author’s usual haunts:


Check the blog for great information on the traditional publishing industry and some useful tips for new authors.



Ed is a regular Redditor and contributor.


  1. Leona

    What a great review, my friend! I envy how you write so much detail without spoiling anything. I can’t wait to read Blackwing, as soon as I’m done with SPFBO I’ll grab it right away! Sounds like just what I’m looking for!

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  2. sjhigbee

    This really is a cracking review – I’m not mad about dark fantasy, but you’ve fired me up to read it:). And it doesn’t hurt that the cover is to die for…

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So what say you?