Saturday, September 2, 2017

Blackwing

Blackwing
The Raven's Mark Book One
By Ed McDonald

The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow's Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer's legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the wastelands seek to destroy them, but if they cannot solve the ancient wizard's paradox, the Deep Kings will walk the earth again, and all will be lost.

The war with the Eastern Empire ended in stalemate some eighty years ago, thanks to Nall's 'Engine', a wizard-crafted weapon so powerful even the Deep Kings feared it. The strike of the Engine created the Misery - a wasteland full of ghosts and corrupted magic that now forms a No Mans Land along the frontier. But when Galharrow investigates a frontier fortress, he discovers complacency bordering on treason: then the walls are stormed, and the Engine fails to launch. Galharrow only escapes because of the preternatural magical power of the noblewoman he was supposed to be protecting. Together, they race to the capital to unmask the traitors and restore the republic's defences. Far across the Misery a vast army is on the move, as the Empire prepares to call the republic's bluff.
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The stage is (what feels like) a grimy city of dust, pollution and decay. It is a place where humanity has been reduced in stature to such a degree (by war and the Misery that lays outside the walls of their home, and whose taints permeates everything) that base traits and are buried only by a thin veneer of skin. The people eke out a meagre living while trying to avoid becoming casualties in what is essentially a war between gods. Or beings of godlike powers. The Nameless and the Deep Kings are never overtly named deities in the sense that they are believed by the populace to have created the universe/life/everything but the powers the wield place them so far above mortals the difference becomes moot. It is the type of dark and war-torn landscape that would be familiar to readers of Joe Abercrombie and Daniel Polansky and other grimdark authors.

Unlike many heroes of epic fantasy, our main - Ryhalt Galharrow, through whose eyes the story is told - is a 40 year old war vet and agent of Crowfoot, one of the great powers in the land. He is charged by Crowfoot to protect a noblewoman and discovers a secret that could see his city and those he cares destroyed. This begins a rip-roaring tale of conspiracy, treachery and murder that will keep you on the edge of your seat and guessing until the end.

Blackwing - Ed Mcdonald's debut - is a finely wrought novel of grimdark fantasy lightened by sparkling rays of rainbow hued magic and has a weighty sense of history of which only a fragment is revealed in this volume. He is also particularly talented at creating monsters!

Given Blackwing is a 'book one', yet resolves nicely and without any over cliffhangers I am very keen to see where McDonald will take us next.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Lotus Blue

Lotus Blue

Seventeen-year-old Star and her sister Nene are orphans, part of a thirteen-wagon caravan of nomadic traders living hard lives travelling the Sand Road. Their route cuts through a particularly dangerous and unforgiving section of the Dead Red Heart, a war-ravaged desert landscape plagued by rogue semi-sentient machinery and other monsters from a bygone age.

But when the caravan witnesses a relic-Angel satellite unexpectedly crash to Earth, a chain of events begins that sends Star on a journey far away from the life she once knew. Shanghaied upon the sandship Dogwatch, she is forced to cross the Obsidian Sea by Quarrel, an ancient Templar supersoldier. Eventually shipwrecked, Star will have no choice but to place her trust in both thieves and priestesses while coming to terms with the grim reality of her past and the horror of her unfolding destiny as the terrible secret her sister had been desperate to protect her from begins to unravel.

Meanwhile, something old and powerful has woken in the desert. A Lotus Blue, deadliest of all the ancient war machines. A warrior with plans of its own, far more significant than a fallen Angel. Plans that do not include the survival of humanity. 
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Easy reading with a very cool take on the post-apocalyptic story. Sparks is an accomplished writer with an imagination that is a treasure-trove of ideas and the chomps to mark her as an Aussie writer to watch. 

The melding of superstition, religion and left over technology as magic was brilliant and evocative, I wanted to dive right into that world and learn everything I possibly could about it. But Sparks knows quite well how to dole such wonders out and tease the reader along as the story progresses. I felt the ending was a little rushed but that has less to do with the author and more to do with me. There IS an ending but some threads are still left hanging. Which is good.

I want more. 

When is the next book due, Cat? Is there a title yet? :D

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Last Mortal Bond

The Last Mortal Bond
The Unhewn Throne
By Brian Staveley

Death is near, armies are gathered, and the future rests on a knife-edge.

The Annurian Empire is losing a war on two fronts - and it's unclear who is in command. Adare is stationed in the thick of battle and now calls herself Emperor. However, she can't hold back the nomadic Urgul forces for much longer. She needs her brilliant general, Ran il Tornja, but will he betray her again?

Her brother Kaden is the true heir, yet he'll accept a Republic to save his divided people. And he faces something even more terrible than war. He's unmasked Ran il Tornja as a remnant of an ancient race who attempted to destroy mankind. The general plans to finish what they started, and is amassing all the power he needs.

The empire calls on the Kettral, its toughest soldiers, but their order has been decimated. Its last fighters are in disarray, but could they still turn the tide of war? Most disturbingly of all, capricious gods walk the earth in human guise. And their desires could seal the fate of a world.


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Loved it! After a somewhat rough start (mainly because I was unsure that the book was heading in a direction that I would like) Staveley changed my mind about EVERYTHING and I couldn't put it down.

An awesome conclusion to a gripping debut trilogy. The Unhewn Throne is an epic tale full of politics and machinations, ambition and servitude and with a new and interesting mythology and magic system.

Dark and bloody, The Last Mortal Bond is a masterfully told story by an author whose future works I am very much looking forward to reading.