Blackwing tells the story of Ryhalt Galharrow and his increasingly desperate quest to save the Republic from an invasion by the Deep Kings, ancient inhuman sorcerers of near god-like power. He is a mercenary type, commanding a small group that hunts fugitives in the Misery, a no-man’s-land of magic gone awry that separates his nation from the Deep Kings. Galharrow serves one of the Nameless, his republic’s own inhuman sorcerers, pitted in a centuries old war against the Deep Kings.
Our protagonist, Ryhalt Galharrow, is a time honored hard drinking veteran/noir detective trope, that has his own quirks and backstory to differentiate him from other characters cast in this vein. When his long lost loved reenters the picture, his hope and nihilism take turns beating him over the head as he grapples with the hopelessness of his cause, and the reality that he serves a master every bit as selfish and inhuman as his enemy. The supporting cast is also colorful and unique. I wouldn’t say the novel has particularly deep characters, but each serves the story excellently. If there was one part of the book that didn’t quite click for me, it was the love story. It all made sense and read believably and kept things moving, but it didn’t evoke big feels.
The pacing of this novel is absolutely first rate. There was never an instant that felt like it dragged, just a whirlwind that picked you up on page one and dumped you in a heap at the end of the ride.
Blackwing’s prose is similarly excellent. The first person voice is clear and concise, but twisted through the lens of Galharrow’s black humor and cynicism. At every point it flows well, evoking character, and occasionally throwing in a little artistic flourish, or a wisecrack to bring a smirk to the corner of your mouth. Read this book. Can’t be any clearer on that. It’s a goddamned delight.
The setting is another huge selling point for this novel. The darlings and brides and drudges comprise a really cohesive and cool batch of baddies, humans warped by magic into monstrous abominations. The Deep Kings and the Nameless serve as great, epic level contending forces that make their appearances at key moments to ramp up the danger. Not to mention “the Misery”, a patch of land intentionally blighted by magic to ward off invasion. It all combines to create a unique flintlock fantasy with a dark twist.
Blackwing is the most promising first novel I have read in a very long time. I am 100% going to devour the rest of this trilogy in short order. Do yourself a favor and get on board. Five Stars.