Hello humans! And welcome back to those who joined me for part one of this two-part review of Ed McDonald’s Raven’s Mark series. This morning I reviewed Blackwing and this afternoon I’m looking at the sequel Ravencry which is being published by one of my favourite publishers Gollancz on the 28th of June. I enjoyed Blackwing, but I thought there was a little more pushing needed to get the most out of the story – somewhere a sequel can usually win me over.
Potential spoilers for Blackwing ahead but a spoiler-free review of Ravencry.
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.
As with Blackwing, the action in this book is centred around Ryhalt Galharrow, captain of the Blackwing, a man as gruff and gritty as ever, though he has gone up in the world slightly since the events of book one. I didn’t think that Galharrow had changed much between the two books, possibly why I didn’t grow to like him any better, as opposed to being wracked with guilt about his wife, he is now wracked with guilt about Ezabeth. I do believe that Galharrow was deliberately constructed to be a quite unlikeable character, but I prefer there to be a bit more of a heart to them, and not just pining for various women?
However, I did think that the plot of Ravencry was much stronger than that in Blackwing. I could get a handle on who the major players were and their motivations. I thought that the cult that has arisen since the end of the previous book was a great way to show how life had changed since the events of Blackwing and the way that plotline escalated through the book was a powerful reflection of current events (whether that was deliberate or not I’m not sure?).
I quickly got invested in this story, though not because I cared about what happened to the characters – which is normally what draws me in – but because I cared about the wider powers at play. I think it’s this big picture and the wider setting that is truly interesting in both Blackwing and Ravencry. I trust that as this series grows and the plot develops the focus will be on Galharrow’s part in a much bigger game, otherwise I think it might lose me.
One of my main criticisms of Blackwing was that there wasn’t quite enough explanation of how the magic system and powers worked, this book did go into a bit more detail as to how different people’s powers worked, it still isn’t quite clear how this relates to the more global conflict in this world but I do think this will be developed in later books.
Nenn continued to be my favourite character, had these books just been from the perspective of Nenn I would have been incredibly happy. She is the only female character who (for the most part) isn’t defined by Galharrow’s feelings towards her, she makes her own choices and she basically says whatever she is thinking. I do think that the women in this series tend to be written as emotional tools to make Galharrow care about things and that can lead to them having weaker characterisation. This certainly isn’t the worst example of writing female characters in fantasy fiction but it did leave something lacking.
Overall, this was a strong sequel, though the characters are still a little lacking, in my opinion, as the setting develops I find myself much more invested in the happenings of this world than I thought I would be.
Should you read this? If you enjoyed Blackwing you almost certainly will enjoy this book. I would recommend reading these books in order, however, so as to try to get a handle on what’s going on!
My rating: 3/5
I received a digital advanced review copy of Ravencry from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
What say you? Will you be reading Ravencry? Let me know in the comments below!