REVIEW: Ed McDonald – “Blackwing”

A brilliant tale of war and intrigue beneath a shattered sky – 5-Stars

Blackwing by Ed McDonald


“Blackwing” by Ed McDonald (the first book in McDonald’s Raven’s Mark series) was my favorite read of January 2019.

This book had me hook, line, and sinker on Page 1 — and I quote:

Back when I wore a uniform, the marshal told me only three kinds of people willingly enter the Misery: the desperate, the stupid, and the greedy. The sympathisers were desperate enough. I gathered a dozen stupid, greedy men and set out to kill them.

All right, Mr. McDonald – I’m in.

This book has a world-building aesthetic that caught me completely off guard, just blew me away. Namely, in the form of its centerpiece location called The Misery — this war-torn hellscape blasted to mind-bending ruin by the cataclysmic weapons of a mysterious cabal of dangerous arch-wizards known as the Nameless.

The savage hazards of The Misery and the titanic weapon that watches over it known as Nall’s Engine are all that stand between the beleaguered defenders of City-States of Dortmark and the relentless generations-long conquest of the Deep Kings – these ancient god-like beings who are slowly conquering, enslaving, and reshaping the world. Held at bay at Dortmark’s borders ONLY by their fear of Nall’s Engine which sort of serves in the capacity as Dortmark’s Nuclear Arsenal.

Of course, it’s been a good long while since anyone has actually had to test the might of Nall’s Engine against the Deep Kings —- and there begins Ed McDonald’s tale of a chess match between grim god-like overlords and the pawns, knights, and royalty who serve them.

Blackwing is one part sword-and-sorcery adventure, one part noir detective story, one part fantasy espionage thriller, and one part “it’s the end of the world as we know it.” There’s a LOT of meat for a reader to sink their teeth into here.

The various magical disciplines showcased throughout the book are intriguing and believable without the book ever becoming bogged down like an RPG sourcebook for magic systems. Same with the political and social intrigue that drives the story. For the amount of world-building, character development, and atmosphere this book pulls off, it is lean and mean and FAST.

Blackwing was my favorite book of the month, no doubt. About the highest praise I can give any book is “Damn it, I wish I’d thought of this” and Blackwing showed up and clubbed me upside the head with that. Outstanding, enviable work by Ed McDonald here.

5-Stars, five BIG stars for Blackwing. The second book in the series, “Ravencry” is already out so so expect that I’ll be moving greedily on to Book 2.

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