One of my favourite debuts last year was Ed McDonald‘s Blackwing. This dark and brooding tale of Ryhalt Galharrow, his lost lady love, and the horrible menace of the Deep Kings was fresh and compelling. McDonald returns that world with the second book in his Raven’s Mark series, Ravencry (review copy from Gollancz).
In Ravencry, we pick up Galharrow’s story four years later. The Deep Kings were driven back from Valengrad, but at huge cost. Galharrow is now a hero, with his Blackwings well funded and resourced by a grateful city. He uses his knowledge and skill to root out threats to the city, including spies and creatures of the Deep Kings. The cult of the Bright Lady is taking root in the city, with people having visions of a beautiful woman they believe will save the city from its enemies, offering hope rather than the dark pragmatism of the city’s normal rulers. One of Galharrow’s childhood friends has come to Valengrad, and he is thick with the leaders of the Bright Lady’s cult.
Second books are always tricky. They need to advance the story, provide enough self-contained pay off in their own right without over-topping the series finale, and help to set up the final book. McDonald pulls off that tricky second book in style. We learn more about Galharrow and his world, with a trip to the Misery that shows us the measure of the Blackwing Captain. The ending has real peril and high stakes. We see how the hope offered by the Bright Lady’s cult is so attractive that it supplants all rational logic and sense. And we see how the unscrupulous are willing to exploit situations for their own self-interest.
Fabulous. I can’t wait for the series finale.
Goodreads rating: 3*