Ravencry by Ed McDonald

Four years have passed since Nall’s Engine drove the Deep Kings back across the Misery, but as they hurl fire from the sky, darker forces plots against the republic.

A new power is rising: a ghost in the light known only as the Bright Lady manifests in visions across the city, and the cult that worship her grasp for power even as the city burns around them.

When Crowfoot’s arcane vault is breached, an object of terrible power is stolen, and Galharrow and his Blackwings must once find out which of Valengrad’s enemies is responsible before they have a chance to use it.

To save Valengrad, Galharrow, Nenn, and Tnota must venture to a darker, more twisted and more dangerous place than any they’ve walked before: the very heart of the Misery.

When I reviewed Blackwing last year, before this blog even really existed, I noted that it was a novel that “did everything very well”.

Blackwing was a great book, but I thought it stopped just short of excellent. It had solid characters, an engaging plot, an interesting setting… but I didn’t quite think it was top-drawer.

Then came Ravencry.

When I’d finished, the first words out of my mouth were “Now THAT’S a fucking sequel.”

Too often I read the 2nd book in a trilogy and find myself a little disappointed. Maybe the magic of the first book isn’t there. Maybe it’s little more than a set-up for the third. Maybe it tries to be more introspective but the story falls a little flat.

There are countless things that can go wrong with a sequel.

I don’t think much went wrong here.

Ravencry has everything you loved about Blackwing and more. It’s a grimdark book, but not typically so. The characters are violent and coarse, but decent. It’s a gritty, violent world, but this story has a heart to it. It has a soul. It has a voice.

And it’s that voice that ties everything together.

Both Blackwing and Ravencry are written in an incredibly distinct, engaging style. We experience the story from the perspective of Captain Ryhalt Galharrow, and it’s his thoughts and internal monologue that make the books what they are. Galharrow feels larger than the words on the page. He feels alive; angry and sorrowful and cynical. This is a character powerful enough to make you forget that you’re reading a book. Instead, you experience a story.

But Galharrow isn’t the only character. A few familiar faces return, as well as a few that aren’t so familiar. The events of Blackwing have changed things, and McDonald isn’t afraid to explore that change.

Ravencry doesn’t retread old ground, and it doesn’t try to be something completely different. Instead, it takes everything that was great about Blackwing and builds on it, making for an even better book.

The plot is established from the first chapter, but with just enough mystery to grab at your curiosity. The pacing is on point. It begins with a jog, then builds up to an all-out sprint for the second half of the book. The setting is fascinating: a neon-lit city on the brink of dystopia, bordering a magical wasteland crawling with nightmares.

Ravencry was everything that I wanted in a sequel.

It continued the story of the previous book, was a fantastic story in its own right, and left me wondering how the hell the next book was going to top this.

If Blackwing was great, then Ravencry is excellent.


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