Blackwing is equal parts The Vagrant by Newman, Beyond Redemption by Fletcher, and The Court of Broken Knives by Spark but vastly original in its own right. It is a refreshing yet GDAF debut by McDonald and should be put on a pedestal with the likes of Abercrombie. Simply brilliant.
Colin Mace is the best thing to happen to grimdark since Mark Lawrence. His narration is simply tops and should be at the top of the list for any writer/publisher of the genre.
Ryhalt Galharrow isn't a hero and doesn't pretend to be. He is a bounty hunter; on a mission with a ragtag bunch of ingrates to find a noblewoman with a great power welling inside her. What lays in front of him is the 'Misery', a barren, post-apocalyptic wasteland full of vicious creatures and covered with a bruise colored sky. What lies on the other side are the Deep Kings, immortals kept at a distance thanks in part to the Engine which created the wasteland and acts as a sort of shield to keep civilization safe from their destruction. What Ryhalt doesn't expect to find is a well-hidden conspiracy that comes unhinged as the creatures of the waste begin knocking, and civilization faces impending annihilation. Galharrow must rely on the noblewoman, his fellow mercs, and Crowfoot, one of the "nameless" whom guides Ryhalt on his venture, in order to save what shred of humanity is left.
McDonald has written one of my top 3 reads of the year. I'm struggling saying it is #1 because Kings of the Wyld by Eames and The Court of Broken Knives by Spark are still swirling around in my mind. I'll probably just have a top 3 and say they are my top reads for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd quarters of the year. What makes the book is the pure grittiness, brutal bloodshed, original magic system, and overshadowing wasteland. Though there are parts that may drag a bit, as in any novel, each and every piece is needed for the overlying story and simply adds to the enjoyment. It reminds me a lot of The Vagrant by Peter Newman in so that it takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland full of disturbing, bloodthirsty creatures and mysterious foes on a mission for destruction. Galharrow is a nod, IMO, to Bedeckt in Michael R Fletcher's Manifest Delusions series: an old, battered drunkard who only sees the dreariness and chaos around him, but is a total BA when it comes to slaughtering foes and taking punches. The Bride characters also remind me a lot of Erbrechen the slaver, living off of the praise and worship of their followers and their power/influence (not to mention their bodies) growing with each and every addition.
If you haven't had a chance to pick up Blackwing, do yourself a favor and get a copy.