Ravencry (600th review)

Despite its flaws, I felt that Ed McDonald's Blackwing was a promising debut. The kind of novel Joe Abercrombie and Glen Cook would come up with if they ever teamed up to collaborate on something. And the exciting endgame and rousing finale made it impossible for me not to immediately jump into the sequel, Ravencry.

And though this second installment showed marked improvement regarding certain aspects, it did suffer from some of the same shortcomings that plagued its predecessor. Still, McDonald tells a compelling story and I'm curious to see where he'll take his readers next. Having said that, I'm persuaded that the third volume will either make or break this series. The author will need to elevate his game if he is to take his place among the best grimdark writers out there.

Here's the blurb:

For Ryhalt Galharrow, working for Crowfoot as a Blackwing captain is about as bad as it gets - especially when his orders are garbled, or incoherent, or impossible to carry out.

The Deep Kings are hurling fire from the sky, a ghost in the light known only as the Bright Lady had begun to manifest in visions across the city, and the cult that worship her grasp for power while the city burns around them.

Galharrow may not be able to do much about the cult - or about strange orders from the Nameless - but when Crowfoot's arcane vault is breached and an object of terrible power is stolen, he's propelled into a race against time to recover it. Only to do that, he needs answers, and finding them means travelling into nightmare: to the very heart of the Misery.

RAVENCRY is the second book in the Raven's Mark series, continuing the story that began with the award winning epic fantasy BLACKWING.

The worldbuilding was once more my favorite facet of this work. As I mentioned in my review of Blackwing, I love the concept behind the Misery, a dangerous post-apocalyptic wasteland where reality itself unraveled when a magical weapon detonated. And this time around, McDonald took Galharrow to the very heart of it. All the way to the Endless Devoid, the epicenter of the Misery. The place where the Heart of the Void created a fault line in existence. That portion of the plot was awesome. And the Misery's taint changed Galharrow in a profound way. More than we saw in this novel, methinks. The Bright Order, the High Witnesses, and their ultimate creation, the Grandspire, would have benefited from more depth, however. Especially given their importance in the main arc of the plot.

In my review of the first volume, I bemoaned the fact that Ed McDonald came up with lots of interesting concepts and ideas, yet sadly he played his cards very close to his chest and did not elaborate a whole lot on them. Well, I'm glad to report that the author wasn't as parsimonious regarding information in this sequel. He still doesn't reveal much, yet we do learn more about Crowfoot and the other Nameless, the Deep Kings and their objective, the Darlings, and more. We finally discovered some things about the world at large, and the conflict that opposes the Nameless and the Deep Kings. Still, nothing that explained why what is occurring at what appears to be the ass end of the world was of capital importance. Once again, the bulk of the action takes place in and around the Misery and the city of Valengrad.

Ravencry features the first person narrative of Captain Galharrow. A battle-hardened veteran whose past nearly unmade him, his perspective once again made for a captivating read. One the one hand, he remains a kick-ass, no-nonsense kind of officer, so not always the most likeable of fellows. But on the other, he is also a broken man who continues to drink himself into a stupor so he won't dream about his past and fall from grace. And, perhaps more importantly, so he won't dream about Ezabeth Tanza. The pain of losing her remains too acute for him to think that there is any truth to the myth of the Bright Lady. It took a while to get used to his idiosyncrasies in Blackwing, but now it's impossible for me not to root for the poor guy. McDonald made an effort to humanize Galharrow in this sequel, and his relationships with Valiya and Amaira, a woman and an orphan girl now working for Blackwing, were particularly touching at times. Bringing himself to care for other people is not easy for the main protagonist, for it makes him vulnerable. Galharrow showed some character growth in Ravencry, which definitely raised the bar a few notches. Other than Valiya and Amaira, the supporting cast consisted of a number of familiar faces, chief among them Tnota and Nenn. Maldon, the former Spinner now trapped in the body of a child, was great. And it was obvious that Saravor the Fixer would return, but I did not expect him to play such a big role in this second volume. It is now evident that Ed McDonald has a knack for creating engaging protagonists. Which bodes well for things to come, no question about it.

As was the case with its predecessor, the pace of Ravencry can be uneven. At times, the rhythm can be quite sluggish, and then it's balls-to-the-wall action. These pacing issues don't take much away from the overall reading experience, but they can be off-putting. Say one thing about Ed McDonald, say he knows how to close the show with style! Once again, the endgame was thrilling and led to a rousing finale which packed a surprisingly powerful emotional punch.

McDonald now has two quality grimdark yarns under his belt. Yet he needs to up his game and bring the Raven Mark's series to another level. There have been glimpses of a bigger, more ambitious story arc. But we now need more than just tantalizing hints. The author needs to step to the plate and deliver. As I said before, the talent and the potential are definitely there. It's up to McDonald to bring it on.

Will he be the next Joe Abercrombie? Or will he just be next? Time will tell. . .

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

0 commentaires: