Daughter of Redwinter (The Redwinter Chronicles #1) by Ed McDonald

My five Word TL:DR Review : Great start to new series

DaughterofRedwinter

As first in series go Daughter of Redwinter made an impressive start.  Well written, ample world building, sets off with a quick paced and dramatic start and definitely left me wanting to read more.

I’ve read this author before and enjoyed his original series so was excited to see he had a new book about to  release.  To be honest, I absolutely loved that cover and that and the author was enough to make me request this one.  I tend to find these days that the less knowledge I go into the read with the better as my high expectations have less chance of getting  out of control, so, I picked this one up with very little idea of what to expect.  As it happens this is an intriguing world indeed.  I’ve started to form attachments to the characters and more than that I once again found myself enjoying the style of writing which has a gritty earthiness to it.  I wouldn’t call this grimdark more it has a realism that is dark and sometimes harsh in a way that reflects life – although, what, am I talking about?  This world has magic, ghosts, demons and other curiosities.

To  be fair, and given how little knowledge I actually went into this one with I’m a little reluctant to say too much about the plot.  In fact thinking about it now, it’s not that easy to actually pin it down.  We meet Raine as the story begins, she’s in a bit of a predicament and is trying to find an escape route when she comes across an injured woman who she helps to safety.  Now, as it happens this might not have been the best decision and Raine certainly questions her own choices later on but who wouldn’t help out in such a situation?  Anyway, the woman in question is being pursued by one of the Draoihn, who will go to any lengths to capture this woman, or more importantly recover the ancient relic that she carries.  This then forms the catalyst for everything else that takes place and in fact is the start of a mystery that is the central theme of the story.

Characters.  Raine is an interesting character who has led a difficult life.  Seventeen years old, a couple of near death experiences have given her the strange ability to see the dead. This isn’t always a pleasant gift to be sure but more than that it places Raine in a very dangerous situation as such abilities are forbidden and a swift death is the penalty. On top of this Raine encounters a strange woman who appears, at first, to be helping her.  She knows little of this woman other than she doesn’t seem to be a typical ghost or apparition and she can communicate with Raine which is definitely a new and not entirely welcome development.  Raine finds herself travelling back to Redwinter, hoping to become a Draoihn apprentice (having discovered that she has the ability to open the first of the gates) but at the same time fearing discovery in terms of her other magical ability.  There are of course a number of other characters who play strong roles but I’m not going to mention them all here suffice to say that Raine eventually starts to form meaningful friendships and discovers that she likes having friends.  I liked the way Raine’s character developed.  She makes mistakes of course and spends some time blaming herself for events, she can also be very prickly and not altogether likeable given the cold way that she tackles situations (there are reasons for this but I won’t give those away here) and on top of this she finds herself suspecting almost everyone of being party to the main mystery and jumping backwards and forwards before she finally reaches a conclusion.

This is definitely an interesting world although I wouldn’t say that I can at this point speak of it with any real confidence.  There is the Light Above and the Night Below.  Five Crowns, spread across the land, hold the realms together, stabilising the spheres of existence (life, death, creation, etc) and keeping in place a veil that separates mortals from Demons, The Faded, ghosts and the dead.  The Draoihn access magic by opening a gate in their mind that accesses the spheres of existence and provides certain powers), the first gate is the easiest and helps to enhance perception, from there, each gate becomes more difficult to access, each one providing it’s own strengths  ranging from mind control to healing.  I’m actually not doing the best job of describing this so you may be pleased to learn that there is a glossary and list of Dramatic Personae at the end of the book.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, I loved the start of this and was really eager to find out what was going on.  The story had great pace and there was plenty of action.  Once our MC reached Redwinter I found that things slowed down considerably, which I don’t mind, I wouldn’t want the entire book to have the same breakneck pacing, but, the middle of the book felt like it dragged its feet a little. I think some of this was the need to explain things, to have Raine listening to lessons and other conversations as a way of feeding information to the reader.  I wouldn’t say that this made me reluctant to pick the book up though  because that wasn’t the case at all, just I felt like things were drifting a little and at this point I wasn’t entirely sure where the story was taking me.

Overall though, a really good start to series.  An intriguing world that I’m keen to learn more of and a main character who has plenty of scope for future development.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4 of 5 stars

Friday Face Off : compare the covers for two books you’re excited about

FFO

Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .  This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book (this doesn’t have to be a book that you’ve read), compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future’s themes are listed below – if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme.  I’ve also listed events that take place during the year, that I’m aware of, so you can link up your covers – if you’re aware of any events that you think I should include then give me a shout.

I’ve added themes in below. For information, I’m trying out some new ideas so along with coming up with particular items for book covers I thought we could also look for certain elements contained within the book or that play a large part in the story – this really broadens things out because I have plenty of more ideas with this – I’ve gone for a few of the Tough Travel Themes (so a book with that theme – just choose any book – the theme isn’t necessarily on the cover, then compare covers), also, I’ve thrown in some genres and some colours.  Hopefully this will open things out a little and give us some more freedom to come up with new books.

This week’s theme:

Compare the covers for two books you’re excited about

Hopefully another easy theme this week – the only problem is limiting this to two books you’re looking forward to.

I have a good number of books that I’m looking forward to over the next few months but I’ve chosen two books that both have eye catching cover designs.  The first book has two covers and I’ve chosen to show both.  My books are Daughter of Redwinter by Ed McDonald and In the Shadow of Lightning by Brian McClellan.

2022

Apr
8th – Fresh and Green – a cover that is predominantly green
15th Genre – a book or series that is urban fantasy
22nd – Tough Travel Tropes – unknown magical ability
29th – Long/pointed ears
May the Month of Wyrd and Wonder
6th All about the women – kickass moms, daughters, grans, etc
13th A favourite book to film
20th Sunny and bright  – a cover that is predominantly yellow
27th Books with ‘You’ in the title
Jun
3rd  Under the Sea – anything you like
10th Sparkling like the sea – a cover that is turquoise
17th So pretty – exactly what it says
24th Daddy Dearest – a book with a strong father role
Jul  
1st Genre – epic – any book that fits into the genre
8th Hazy and hot – a cover that is predominantly orange
15th Tough Travel Tropes – Snarky sidekick
22nd Off the TBR
29th Gigantic – monsters, giants, buildings,insects – anything at all
August
5th Tough Travel Tropes – out for summer – school or academic setting
12th Dark/sky/navy  – a cover that is blue
19th Scantily Dressed
26th Tough Travel Tropes – Vacation time – the quest
September RIP
2nd Fallen leaves – covers that are brown
9th Armour/Protection
16th Rage against the machine – anything, cogs, clockwork, AI
23rd Tough Travel Tropes – Coming of Age
30th Genre – horror
October – Horror/Dark
7th Guess who’s back?  – Vampires – popular again?
14th Witches vs warlocks
21st Tough Travel Tropes – Good vs evil
28th  Covers that are black
November – Scifi Month
4th Red skies at night – Covers that are red
11th Tough Travel Tropes – The gang
18th Genre – Swords and Sorcery
25th Genre – And they all lived happily ever after – fairy tales retold
December
2nd Tough Travel Tropes – Assassins
9th Tough Travel Tropes – Darklord
16th Genre – Grimdark (most recent/favourite, etc)
23rd Decadent and rich – a cover that is purple
30th Completions – a satisfying conclusion to a book or serie

Ravencry (Raven’s Mark #2) by Ed McDonald

ravenBlackwing (Raven’s Mark #1) was one of my favourite books last year.  Ed McDonald was a new voice on the grimdark scene, his debut was rich in creativity and it was one of those books that although it brimmed with brutality also managed to maintain a sense of hope and an element of much needed humour.  Ravencry is the second in series and I was very keen to pick this one up and read once again the trials and tribulations of Captain Ryhalt Galharrow.  I will say from the outset that Ravencry does not disappoint.

It’s been four years since the siege.  Galharrow seems to be fairly settled in terms of an important position, a decent home and the respect of his colleagues.  It doesn’t take a genius though to see that he hasn’t fully come to terms with certain events and alcohol plays a large part in keeping him propped up.

Within a few chapters it becomes fairly obvious that trouble is once again brewing, although on the face of it it’s difficult to pin down exactly what shape it will take.  A stolen artefact, countless visions of a ‘bright lady’ that have led to a disturbing growth in numbers of a new religious cult coupled with the appearance of some suspicious characters – who become even more suspect when it’s discovered that they’ve already died at least once already – these things just don’t sit well.

I’m not really going to go into the plot at all.  For me, I did find that it meandered a little at the beginning before becoming a real threat – which, is fair enough.  It took time for Ryhalt to investigate things and at first he was floundering a little until the penny finally dropped and the realisation of what was actually about to take place became evident.

What I thoroughly enjoyed about Ravencry was the return to a world that has been so well established and the joy of spending time with characters that are simply great to read about.  Galharrow, and Nenn, are such persuasive characters.  Galharrow in particular.  He’s so easy to read and such a great narrator.  He gets himself into countless desperate situations that there really doesn’t seem any likelihood of coming back from and yet with sheer determination he manages to find a way, be it swimming through a filthy canal, scouring the sewers or once again tracking into the very heart of the Misery with all its evil critters and haunted beings in order to stop a force against seemingly impossible odds.

I also admit that I love the style of writing.  Mr McDonald has a vivid imagination and a way with words that makes the world and the terrors it holds simply jump off the page.  There’s no shortage of death and heartbreak in these pages and the author undoubtedly made some difficult decisions.  There are numerous fights and skirmishes and unspeakable crimes and I’m hard pressed to decide which is worse between the horrors unfolding in the City or Galharrow’s own personal journey through hell when he spends more time than is wise in the Misery.  I’m probably painting a grim picture here but with good reason I think.  Strangely enough, although the overall threat didn’t seem quite as real in this instalment (or at least the focus seems to have changed) the death and subsequent despair undoubtedly reached a high.

In terms of criticisms.  No deal breakers here fortunately.  Thankfully this doesn’t fall victim to ‘middle book syndrome’.  I think the only thing I would mention is that I felt the pacing of the first half stalled a little.  I also felt an element of near death experience fatigue on behalf of Galharrow – in fact I don’t know how he just didn’t fall over into a ditch and stay there at one point because he seemed to have had such a lot thrown at him and certainly more than most people could survive.  That being said – I am relieved that he didn’t fall into said ditch.

Overall this was a great read and one that really sets the stall out for the final instalment.  A fine demonstration of writing prowess and an author to keep firmly on the ‘must read’ list.

I received a copy through Negalley, courtesy of the publishers. for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

 

 

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Ravencry (Raven’s Mark #2) by Ed McDonald

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : Ravencry (Raven’s Mark #2) by Ed McDonald. 

ravencry.jpgFour 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.

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

Expected Publication : June 2018

Blackwing (#1 Raven’s Mark) by Ed McDonald

I think I can say with a good degree of confidence that Blackwing will be on my end of year list of favourite reads.  This was so good it’s given me a whole new bout of faith in grimdark, which, I confess, I was becoming a little jaded with just recently.   Why did I love this? I’m not really sure I can’t explain to be honest, other than this is a book that is rounded. It has plenty of action and yet has taken the time to establish the roots of some excellent world building.  It has characters that feel familiar, they’re maybe not breaking the mould, but you will end up liking them with all their flaws.  It has surprises that really do surprise but more than that it manages to achieve a balance that keeps you teetering on a knife edge between hope and despair and for that I raise my glass to Mr McDonald.

This is a world where past wars have left a grim reminder of the price of super weapons. Many years ago The Nameless (long lived, powerful sorcerers) and the Deep Kings  (immortal and almost Gods would be my best description) went to war.  As a result the sorcerers unleashed their super power, Nall’s Engine.  Killing vast swathes of innocents and blighting a huge expanse of land (known with good reason as The Misery) in the process they succeeded in killing one of the Kings, stopping the war and holding off future attacks by the mere threat The weapon posed. The Kings are immortal though, they have patience and they haven’t really given up, they’re simply biding their time and gathering strength, waiting for weaknesses to be exposed.

The Misery is a haunted and poisonous wasteland full of dark magic, teeming with ghosts and inhabited by the strangest and deadliest critters.  Spending more than a couple of days under its brooding skies is enough to give the most battle hardened a case of the violent shakes and a need for alcohol in sufficient quantities to induce otherwise unattainable sleep.  But, more than that, The Misery is almost like a character in itself with its constantly changing landscape, deadly terrain and unnavigable skies it certainly is a fascinating place to read about although I wouldn’t personally want to pay it a visit.  Cowardly am I.

At the start of the story we make the acquaintance of Captain Galharrow as he heads into The Misery with his team of mercenaries in search of his latest bounty.  That is until he receives a mission from one of the Sorcerors.  Galharrow is in service to Crowfoot and one does not ignore a sorceror’s demands, therefore he and his team find themselves crossing part of The Misery to one of the outlying forts where they will pick up a young woman and return her to the safety of the City. The woman in question turns out to be a blast from the Captain’s past and the two of them are about to be thrown together in pursuit of a conspiracy that will threaten the lives of everyone outside The Misery..

in terms of characters.  The story is told through Galharrow’s POV and this is definitely one of the strong points to the book.  There is much more to Galharrow than at first meets the eye.  He’s an intriguing fellow.  A cynical veteran who isn’t afraid to do what’s necessary to survive and yet he also displays a touching display of loyalty to his band of reprobates. He’s plagued by memories that eventually help to bring together a portrait of his difficult past and it hasn’t always been pretty and to all extents he’s a man who has given up hope of anything better.  Much more than that though, he’s interesting.  A conflicted character who firmly gets you on his side and during the course of the book will have you glued to the page with his exploits and smiling to yourself at his sarcastic banter.  The supporting cast are also excellent, my favourite being Nenn.

The plot is fast moving and unpredictable.  Every time I made a stab at second guessing the outcome or thinking where the story would go next I was pretty much, on all but one occasion, wrong.  There are battles and fights and plenty of magic and the creativity on display is excellent. I’m not going to elaborate too much, the author has come up with a whole host of evil doers such as Darlings, Brides and, my personal favourite, Gillings that are creepy, nasty or plain revolting. Yes, there is bloodshed but not enough to steal the show and although the battle scenes are brutal they don’t feel too overwhelmingly so.

Finally, I felt the world building was really strong.  I got a good feel for the places involved and the political hierarchy involved. I loved that this has an almost mediaeval feel but one that also feels strangely more advanced with gunfire and lighting provided by energy sourced from one of the moons.  We have Spinners, who seem to be able to work with the energy drawn from the moon and use it more physically and then a lesser version known as Talents who are treated terribly and live their lives like slaves working day in and out drawing threads of power to feed the master weapon.   I look forward to seeing how the world develops in further instalments, maybe travelling further afield and maybe broaching a little more on the history of the Sorcerors and Kings and why they went to war.

All told I have no criticisms to level at Blackwing,  it was a thoroughly engrossing read, I could barely put it down, I loved it and I want more.  I can’t recommend it enough basically.   Do yourself a favour and read it.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.