Book Review: Crowfall – by Ed McDonald

Raven’s Mark #3

Grimheart, Epic, Fantasy

Ace; July 2, 2019 (US)

416 pages (ebook)

5 / 5 ✪

I was kindly furnished me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to both NetGalley and Ace Books. All opinions are my own.

WARNING SPOILERS: The following contains spoilers for the previous Raven’s Mark novels!

Ravencry ends with Saravor thwarted, Nenn slain, and Ryhalt staring out over the Misery. Crowfall opens with Galharrow hunting drudge. The Deep Kings (shockingly) didn’t abandon their plans to overthrow the Range following Saravor’s defeat atop the Valengrad spire. They had since evolved a new breed of servants; drudge that are blue in pallor and cast, noseless, featureless, they retain very little of their former humanity. He has recently come across quite a few of their number and left their bodies broken in the wasteland.Crowfall opens with Galharrow hunting drudge. The Deep Kings (shockingly) didn’t abandon their plans to overthrow the Range following Saravor’s defeat atop the Valengrad spire. They had since evolved a new breed of servants; drudge that are blue in pallor and cast, noseless, featureless, they retain very little of their former humanity. He has recently come across quite a few of their number and left their bodies broken in the wasteland.

Since the events of Ravencry, Galharrow has made a home for himself in the Misery, leaving his old life behind. In return, the Misery has grown within him, changed him. In many ways, he is no longer the man he once was. And, alike the drudge, he seems to retain little of his former humanity. But a trip back to the Range proves that he still is—while reminding Ryhalt of the life he left behind him.

For not only the Deep Kings have been restless since the Crowfall—a “sorcerous cataclysm” that had occurred three years prior, very reminiscent of the strike that once created the Misery itself—the Nameless are moving as well. And events have somehow become even more dire.

But something more moves in the dark. Something the likes of which Galharrow has never seen, and it will take all his strength and cunning to deal with this new threat, while not sacrificing the last shred of his humanity in the process.

It’s humanity’s last stand—an epic conclusion to an epic series.

Crowfall really is epic, and brilliant.

What starts with a changed Galharrow kicking about the wasteland, soon returns to the Range itself, in a scenic tour around humanity’s last bastion of the continent. Old friends, old enemies join the fray, which is peppered with gods and mortals both, each with their own agenda. Crowfall incorporates much of the past two adventures with fresh content: places, people, monsters, things. It’s a pleasant mix of past and present, without leaning too heavily on either.

Galharrow’s personal story is a bit of a quagmire of emotion. It’s a bit of a convoluted mess—quite like real life, in fact. I guess that’s why McDonald didn’t like the term ‘Grimdark’ applied to his work and instead coined the term ‘Grimheart’ for it. Much of the book—inhuman monsters and immensely powerful magic and gods aside—explores a very real world, with very real emotion. Ryhalt’s passage through the story is but one of many, something the book does rather well at relating. That McDonald managed to pull this off is impressive, especially when writing with a 1st person POV. And yet, at times Galharrow’s story sometimes interferes with the mood of the overarching plot. Its feeling. It’s not that his journey is at odds with the plot, it’s just that occasionally one might distract from the other. I found it a bit of a stutter at the time, but no more. Crowfall races along quite nicely once it gets going, with only this slight impediment to the pace.

There’s a real sense of desperation in the story, one that’s only built upon by the past desperations of the previous two books. I really enjoyed the book, the story it told, the lasting mood that it imparts. Galharrow takes some surprising steps—some that may seem contradictory, ablative, yet rarely out of character—to achieve his ends. It all feels very human, raw and emotional, to an extent I didn’t expect. Blackwing was a great book, Ravencry almost as good—but Crowfall was an experience for me, a journey I won’t soon forget. Now, everyone will have their own reaction to the story, but really, if you enjoyed the first two, you’ll enjoy the third.

Crowfall is much more than the end of a series, it’s the creation of something new. McDonald has expressed a desire to return to the world—and while Galharrow’s own story seems pretty much wrapped up by the end of the book—the sheer amount of half-rendered lore and untold stories of war, toil, and survival certainly give him a multitude of places, and times, to begin anew.

Crowfall comes out July 2nd in the US, and will be published by Gollancz in the UK June 27.

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