Series: Raven’s Mark #2.
Writer(s): Ed McDonald.
Publisher: Ace Books.
Release Date: August 21st 2018.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★★.
Previously on Raven’s Mark:
Blackwing by Ed McDonald.
If you thought you’ve seen it all then Ed McDonald has a message for you and he’s put it in the form of what’s sure to be a breathtaking trilogy. With Ravencry marking the second installment in the Raven’s Mark series, but also the halfway point of Ryhalt Galharrow’s misery-filled adventures, it’s safe to say that Ed McDonald is a master story-teller whose understanding of dark fantasy is beyond this world. His very ability to build a grim and suffocating universe while developing a complex protagonist struggling with his own issues amidst all the ravage around him brings readers to quickly realize that there’s little that can be criticized but plenty that can be praised in Ravencry. Whether it is the deadly creatures that roam Valengrad and the Misery, or the political and religious figures who come complicate his duties as a blackwing, Ryhalt Galharrow’s personality, experience and decision-making absorbs readers into a trance from which they cannot find any escape except the ending of Ravencry itself.
Taking place four years after the tragic events in Blackwing, Ravencry continues to follow Ryhalt Galharrow as he lives day to day as a bounty hunter who seeks out any individual who has been turned by the Deep Kings. While his situation has greatly improved in terms of housing and business, his mental state continues to suffer with only sleep deprivation, booze and action-seeking as his go-to methods for coping with his depressive life. It doesn’t help when the little sleep he does try to get, he is haunted by a figure that he has not yet completely dealt with on an emotional level. But when he finds himself confronting an individual that he thought he had already finished off in the past, things slowly unravel for Ryhalt Galharrow to the point where he’s dragged into another battlefield against mysterious forces that are only looking for trouble.
Ravencry bleeds with passion. Once again told in first-person, it’s near-impossible to not get sucked into this dark world built by Ed McDonald and find yourself having compassion and understanding towards Ryhalt Galharrow. The weight of his past is easily felt and continues to eat away at his sanity without ever showing any sign of wanting to leave him alone. His character easily goes down as one of the most complex being I’ve ever had the opportunity to follow. The challenges he faces truly puts him to the test and his desire to always put himself in harm’s way for the things he believes in is unbelievable. With the addition of new characters who add not only innocence, but strength to this squad, I found myself far too often in awe at how brilliantly the dynamic between the characters was conveyed by Ed McDonald. And to put the cherry on top of the cake, the return of certain comrades allowed Ed McDonald to further explore their own issues and give readers an idea of how much the world impacts not only the protagonist, but also his friends.
Character- and world-building might have been impeccable, but the story in Ravencry merits a standing ovation. Blackwing showed us the multi-layered complexity of the war between powerful beings while focusing on the pawns in that giant game of chess. Ravencry didn’t exactly follow this idea since fans were likely to pay particular attention to the clues that could hint at the bigger scheme of things. Instead, Ravencry went for a plot that almost felt like it was meant to be a mystery built within a dark fantasy lore. Ed McDonald’s ability to develop his world and characters while maintaining the intrigue is simply phenomenal. He doesn’t use the first book of this trilogy as a reason to focus solely on his characters and the plot in Ravencry; he takes the time to set up more pieces to his world and deliver a stellar story no matter how much time that would take.
Among those pieces, religion and faith are some of them and they were brilliantly brought to life. Throughout the story, from the very first pages, readers will slowly notice the birth of a religion which all starts with what we know as religious experiences. This underlying component to the plot is thoroughly explored and Ed McDonald always finds a way to explore how mankind interprets what they don’t understand. Starting off as a dream to then turn into a vision until it finally becomes a calling, I thoroughly impressed by how well Ed McDonald made it a intricate and essential plot device. Funny enough, within the context of a dark fantasy, this whole angle also had a mysterious facet that led readers to wonder if rationality should be prioritized over skepticism.
Ravencry is simply a marvelous sequel that continues to deliver in every department. It not only plays on your feelings through the connections you form with the characters, but also through the poetic writing style that Ed McDonald is blessed with.
Thank you to Ace Books for sending me a copy for review!