28.06.2018 / Gollancz (Orion) / Fantasy / Hardback / 433pp / 9781473222052
Target Audience: Readers who enjoy dark, gritty and nuanced fantasy fiction populated by memorable characters and an unpredictable setting that will test even a seasoned readers metal.
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.
RAVENCRY is the second book in the Raven’s Mark series, continuing the story that began with the award winning epic fantasy BLACKWING.
Ravencry is one of the most anticipated releases of the year due to Ed McDonald blowing everyone’s minds with his incredible debut fantasy novel Blackwing that released last year (if you haven’t already read it then you’re the only one left! Get on it!). I enjoyed Blackwing no end but I gotta say, Ravencry is even better. More confident, the character development is superb and Ed McDonald builds on everything that made Blackwing such a awesome read. Ed McDonald and his Raven’s Mark series prove that there are still many huge fantasy novels still out there to be written and that the genre has never been stronger. I thought that the second book was meant to be difficult but Ed McDonald has made it look easy.
Ravencry returns to Valengrad four years after the events of Blackwing and the destruction of a Deep King, Shavada. The city is still stained with toxic magic but everyone is beginning to settle into normality and the city is becoming whole again. Blackwing has solid footing and has flourished. Ryhalt Galharrow is still rough, tough and ruthless but due to the loss of Ezabeth he is struggling to sleep because when he only dreams of her. Ryhalt is still dedicated to the job of protecting those around him and throws himself into the work to keep his mind at ease. There is a new fanatical group in town called The Bright Order who worship the presence of a ghostly woman made of pure light they have named The Bright Lady (could it be Ezabeth trying to get back from wherever she is?). After and old friend of Galharrow’s is murdered in front of him by masked assailants, Ryhalt is set on a course to save not only Valengrad and it’s population but also The Nameless too.
As the Bright Order’s influence on the city grows and people start putting their faith in a spectre and not in their leaders, the city becomes divided, confused and hostile and all chaos unleashes. When devastating projectiles start raining in from The Misery and killing people and destroying the town, Galharrow must lead an expedition deep into the magic stained desert to stop whatever evil The Deep Kings have created within that is destroying Valengrad. After Galharrow gets captured by the Drudge far into The Misery, he manages to escape and quickly becomes lost. The longer you spend in The Misery, the more it takes hold. As he heads to the centre of The Misery, Galharrow consumes the darkest magic present there and in doing so learns more about the war than ever before. He needs to get back to Valengrad to save them all.
As I said before, Blackwing was good but Ravencry was so much stronger in every-way. Ed McDonald has created a solid narrative that drives the story forward with force (and huge set pieces) and at the same time, develops key characters in ways I could have never predicted. Galharrow is more nuanced than ever and his journey in Ravencry is even more life-changing and intense than it was last time. I was immediately sucked back into this chaotic world. Ed McDonald’s confidence is impressive and he has built on his visceral, vivid and ferocious writing by adding emotional depth, showing that even battle-hardened soldiers can love, dream and believe in happy endings. Ravencry has echoes of Blackwing but it is pretty much its own novel. I believe tat The Raven’s Mark series has enough of an episodic feel to it that you could read them individually.
EM’s imagination is phenomenal. The setting of The Range and Misery is as unforgiving as it is unforgettable. How EM manisfested the ideas behind The Deep Kings, The Nameless, Blackwing, Misery and The Bright Order is already beyond me but to be able to flesh out the mythology behind it all made Ravencry all the more fascinating. Some of the elements that EM hinted to in Ravencry have got me all excited for book three. I can’t talk about the ending as it would ruin all the fun but it was spectacular and now anything could happen! EM also did a great job with the inclusion of some more vunerable characters. It felt like everyone could kick arse in Blackwing but Ravencry explored new characters that brought out new traits in existing ones. Amaira, Ryhalt’s orpaned servant, is a great addition to the series and her journey is just beginning.
EM has time to include some fascinating themes within Ravencry. The Bright Order’s belief in an abstract entity when lost and confused. Galharrow’s grief, lost love and refusing to move on. Nenn and her fear of being too late to settle down and be happy. Brainwashing and manipulation of loved ones. These are just a few of the complex and well interpreted themes that EM has chosen to bring us closer to his characters. Ed McDonald’s fantasy writing has an accessibilty to it that I couldn’t get enough of despite the gritty and dark nature of his prose. There is lots of swearing, killing and brutality but Ravencry has a charm and depth that will easily keep you reading to the very end and be left wanting more.
Ravencry is one of those novels that you want to talk about with friends. Everyone will have have multiple favourite moments that caught them off guard, I had loads, and they must be discussed. As you can tell by my glowing review that this is no bog standard fantasy effort. Ravencry has so much to offer a variety of readers and I highly recommend The Raven’s Mark series to everyone. I struggle with fantasy sometimes due to the overwhelming nature of the stories they tell. Not with Ravencry, I am engrossed, obsessed and I need more very soon.
About Ed McDonald
Ed McDonald has spent many years moving between different professions, cities and countries, but the only thing any of them share in common is that they have allowed him enough free time to write. He currently lives in London, a city that provides him with constant inspiration. When he’s not wrangling with misbehaving plot lines he can usually be found fencing with longswords, rapiers and pollaxes.