When I finished The Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie back on December 31, 2017, I was left with such a hollow feeling in my gut that I put off reading the sequel trilogy for over a year. Then when A Little Hatred was announced, I knew I needed to finally dive back into the First Law world, and I am so glad I did.
The House of Sacrifice by Anna Smith Spark is the third and final installment of the Empires of Dust Trilogy and finally answers that age old question, who would win in a fight: an entire fantasy world filled with people, magic, and dragons or one murdery boi?
The answer may surprise you.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis is a fantasy classic. Ask any number of adult readers of fantasy what their first fantasy book was and many will list one of the Chronicles of Narnia. I don’t have statistics to back that up, but it’s a trend I’ve observed. I am no exception to this. The book was recommended to me by my third or fourth grade English teacher, and I read it reluctantly…School had taught me to hate reading. Wardrobe was the first book to really capture my imagination, forcing me to make full use of the library next door as I tore through the rest of the series with a theretofore hunger I’d never experienced. So it was with some excitement and nervousness that I revisited Narnia while reading it to my oldest son (age 5).
Erin Swan’s YA fantasy debut Bright Star follows Andra, a slave girl left mute by a traumatic event early in the story. When her master’s son is slain by assassins, she finds herself caught up in a rebellion against the corrupt government. If the rebellion is to succeed, Andra will need to find her voice, realize her potential, and become the leader Paerolia needs. Luckily, she has the help of a dragon.
The Well of Ascension is Brandon Sanderson’s second Mistborn novel and a genuinely awesome read. Following the staggering conclusion to The Final Empire, Well of Ascension picks up some time later with the city in a state of unrest. The Lord Ruler – the man believed to be god incarnate – is dead. Unfortunately, the man who masterminded the whole affair, Mistborn Murder Jesus…errr…Kelsier, is also dead. The rebuilding effort therefore has fallen into the laps of Kelsier’s protégé Vin, King Elend Venture, and the rest of Kelsier’s crew.
I began my Brandon Sanderson journey with the Way of Kings, and I haven’t had any regrets so far. Still it was a little strange moving backwards in time to the final three Wheel of Time books and now onto The Final Empire. Much like the Realm of the Elderlings books, I am playing catch up with my wife who finished the first Mistborn trilogy earlier this year. I put off reading this book for years despite having heard so many people sing it’s praises (I mean, it has 4.5 stars out of nearly 320,000 ratings on Goodreads). It’s fair to say there was a considerable amount of hype leading up to it.
It lived up to it.
Gentle reader, I will do everything in my power to limit them, but there will inevitably be some SPOILERS for Priest of Bones and Priest of Lies. Viewer discretion is advised.
“Vengeance is mine, sayeth Our Lady, and I am Her priest.”
Priest of Lies (Book #2 in the War for the Rose Throne series) picks up shortly after the end of Priest of Bones and deals with some of the fallout of that event. The power dynamic in Ellinburg has been forever changed and the town stands on the brink of war with the Skanians. Bloodhands, who readers of Priest of Bones will remember, has assumed full command of the artists formerly known as the Gutcutters and now pulls the strings on Ellinburg’s governor. This new gang, rebranded as the Northern Sons, is really the only other crew of note in Ellinburg. There are a few secondary gangs of note, but they generally support either the Pious Men or the Sons.
I have a soft spot for Norse mythology. Like Neil Gaiman, I was first introduced to the Norse pantheon in the pages of The Mighty Thor. I am a lifelong fan of superheroes, and yes that does include the Big Lethorski featured in Avengers Endgame. It wasn't until my introduction to Odin in Final Fantasy VIII, however, that I decided to begin exploring Norse myths, picking up hefty tomes from the library next door. I am so glad I did. In the author's note preceding this collection of stories, Gaiman expresses his desire for the reader of Norse Mythology to share these stories with each other and to envision an older time of Vikings. I hope you do.
I have never watched Peaky Blinders. Therefore, the comparison to the TV series starring Cillian Murphy was lost on me. After reading Priest of Bones by Peter McLean though, I’m thinking maybe I should check it out because this is a damn fine book.
For those of you like me who have never seen Peaky Blinders, Priest of Bones felt like the Godfather meets the Warriors if it was set in Edwardian(ish) England and written by a particularly pissed off Mark Lawrence.
Who are you, you ask? Never heard of me, you say?Well, I'm here now. You're here now. And you're here to read about books you want to read. Let's call ourselves acquainted and move on to the good stuff. And let me assure you, gentle reader, Crowfall by Ed McDonald IS the good stuff.
Crowfall is the third book in the Raven’s Mark Series. Although I have not done full reviews on Blackwing and Ravencry, you should know how much I enjoyed the first two books. Blackwing was very good. Ravencry blew my mind. Needless to say, I had lofty expectations for Crowfall. It was my most anticipated book of 2019. So the question remains: How did it hold up?
Well...first let's talk about what Crowfall is about.
Crowfall (and the Raven’s Mark Series so far) follows the journey of Ryhalt Galharrow, ex-sophisticated soldier turned merc turned agent for an ancient maniacal crow wizard. Upon his forearm is a tattooed raven that on occasion rips itself free from his arm to deliver his master’s instructions. Comedy ensues. Sorry. Misery ensues.
The Misery is a magically corrupted wasteland where Ryhalt finds himself all the time over the course of the books. In fact, in the six years since the end of Ravencry, MFer has just been subsisting on Misery stuff, eating the monsters, and sucking in all that magical filth to right the wrongs of the previous two books. Become the Anvil, as his arm states. To make matters worse, Crowfoot (his mystic master and creator of the Misery) has unleashed a new fresh hell on the humans living in the Range in the form of insanity rain. Imagine acid rain…like LSD rain…that makes you trip balls and die. On top of that, our old pals the eldritch god-like Deep Kings have tapped into the power of The Sleeper, an even more terrifying and ancient eldritch god and raised a spirits-damned Deep Emperor. Not a great time to be a human. Galharrow (with the help of his compatriots) works to stave off humanity’s destruction while haunted by the ghosts of his past, the hope of his future, and the turmoil of his present. Bleak times all around.
So…How did it hold up?
Even with Ravencry right up until the end. Crowfall’s ending sets it just above Ravencry in my estimation. Which is quite a feat. Because I was SO looking forward to this book, I was prepared to be let down. I shouldn’t have worried.
McDonald manages to work a substantial amount of worldbuilding into his third entry so that a number of the history questions I had were answered. Not all of them. This world feels ancient, and she hides her secrets well. I hope to learn more about her someday.
McDonald’s writing (in Ryhalt’s voice) continues strong throughout, and the philosophical journey the reader takes with Ryhalt over the series is impressive. From cranky man with a deathwish to cranky man with a…lifewish? That’s a thing, right? There is more than enough to convey the story without ever feeling bogged down while painting a grim portrait framed with hope. It’s a large reason I’ll continue coming back to these books in the future. Even when everything seems lost, grim and dark, you believe in Ryhalt. You want him to succeed. He want him to earn his ending.
Spoiler: He does.
Crowfall is a stunning conclusion to the Raven’s Mark trilogy, and for my money the best of the three. McDonald never lets misery leech all of the hope from his audience, and the result is a story that is visceral while also philosophical, unique in setting, and bold in presentation. McDonald never lets his reader sink deeper than his protagonist, and he is always ready to offer a hand through the supporting cast.
The Raven's Mark Trilogy is not only worth your time, but I think is worth repeat visits. I know this won't be my last ride into the Misery.