Fantasy on an Postapocalyptic Frontier: The Raven’s Mark Trilogy by Ed McDonald
Ed McDonald’s debut novel Blackwing is a curious mix of genres. Set on a postapocalyptic frontier, it’s a gritty fantasy of a bounty hunter caught in an attack that may signify an end to a century-long peace. Anthony Ryan (Tower Lord, Queen of Fire) calls it “A remarkably assured fantasy debut that mixes of the inventiveness of China Miéville with the fast paced heroics of David Gemmell,” and that’s a pretty rousing endorsement in my book.
Blackwing was published by Ace in October 2017, and slid under my radar. Ace sent me a copy of the sequel Ravencry this summer, and it intrigued me enough to go searching out the first book. The concluding volume, Crowfall, arrives in June. Here’s the book blurbs for all three.
[Click the images for raven-sized versions.]
Here’s the back cover copy for Blackwing.
Hope, reason, humanity: the Misery breaks them all.
Under its cracked and wailing sky, the Misery is a vast and blighted expanse, the arcane remnant of a devastating war with the immortals known as the Deep Kings. The war ended nearly a century ago, and the enemy is kept at bay only by the existence of the Engine, a terrible weapon that protects the Misery’s border. Across the corrupted no-man’s-land teeming with twisted magic and malevolent wraiths, the Deep Kings and their armies bide their time. Watching. Waiting.
Bounty hunter Ryhalt Galharrow has breathed Misery dust for twenty bitter years. When he’s ordered to locate a masked noblewoman at a frontier outpost, he finds himself caught in the middle of an attack by the Deep Kings, one that signifies they may no longer fear the Engine. Only a formidable show of power from the very woman he is seeking, Lady Ezabeth Tanza, repels the assault.
Ezabeth is a shadow from Galharrow’s grim past, and together they stumble onto a web of conspiracy that threatens to end the fragile peace the Engine has provided. Galharrow is not ready for the truth about the blood he’s spilled or the gods he’s supposed to serve…
Dark immortals never rest. Neither do the Blackwings who stand against them.
Haunted by the bodies he’s left in his wake, Blackwing captain Ryhalt Galharrow hunts spies, traitors and sorcerers along a blighted frontier of bad magic and vicious, mutated creatures. The remnant of apocalyptic war, the toxic wasteland he patrols has earned its name: the Misery. Beyond its twisted realities, the ancient Deep Kings plot their next move against the free states.
When a garbled, frantic message from his godlike master sends Galharrow to an arcane vault, he finds its wards breached and an object of great power missing, propelling him into a race against time to return it. But in a city where new, insidious factions are rising and the corrupting influence of magicholds sway, can he trust even his closest allies?
As Galharrow searches for the answers he needs, his journey will take him further and further into nightmare . . . perhaps even to the Misery’s twisted heart.
Crowfall, volume three of The Raven’s Mark arrives in June 2019.
Crowfall is a gritty epic fantasy for fans of Mark Lawrence, Scott Lynch and Daniel Polansky.
A sorceress cataclysm has hit the Range, the final defensive line between the Republic and the immortal Deep Kings.
Tormenting red rains sweep the land, new monstrosities feed on fear in the darkness, and the power of the Nameless, the gods who protect the Republic, lies broken. The Blackwing captains who serve them are being picked off one by one, and even immortals have learned what it means to die. Meanwhile the Deep Kings have only grown stronger, and are poised to deliver a blow that will finally end the war.
Ryhalt Galharrow stands apart from it all.
He has been deeper into the wasteland known as the Misery than ever before. It has grown within him – changed him – but all power comes with a price, and now the ghosts of his past, formerly confined to the Misery, walk with him everywhere.
They will even follow him, and the few surviving Blackwing captains, on one final mission into the darkness.
Here’s the publishing details for all three volumes.
Blackwing (368 pages, $16 trade paperback/$9.99 digital, October 3, 2017)
Ravencry (384 pages, $16 trade paperback/$9.99 digital, August 21, 2018)
Crowfall (384 pages, June 13, 2019)
The series is published by Gollancz in the UK and Ace Books in the US.
See ald our coverage of the best new fantasy series here.
Blackwing and Ravencry are two of my absolute favorite books published in the last couple years. I’ve seen them described as “Grimheart.” I described them as “Grimdark with hope.” Well written, well told, inventive world, great action set pieces, the whole nine yards.
Thanks for the link. That’s a great review! I can’t resist sharing a paragraph from it here:
“Blackwing has a lot going for it. The worldbuilding is tremendous, the action scenes bloody, the human interaction surprisingly poignant. The plot is well crafted. One of my favorite aspects is the depiction of the Nameless and Deep Kings. They are almost entirely offstage, but always near to mind. McDonald really dives into what it means to get caught in a struggle between immortals. It is the definition of a long game, and not one where you worry too much about the odd pawn.”
I’ll definitely be checking out your blog over the next few days.