“Nobody ever wants to go into the Misery, but sometimes you just got to follow the trickle of fate’s piss.”
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An absolutely wonderful dark, unique world.
Almost a century before the events of the book, a war between what pretty much amounts to gods reached a stalemate after one of the Nameless destroyed a long swath of land creating a vast wasteland that no one dares to cross. An enigmatic machine known as the Engine has kept the opposing god-like creatures, the Deep Kings, from crossing it themselves.
Now it appears that the Deep Kings don’t believe they need to fear the Engine anymore and are driving their forces across the misery to end the war once and for all.
Where so many fantasy stories open with the apocalyptic war not yet begun, this one opens after the war has been going on for many, many years. Because of this, the pacing of the book pretty much hits the ground running and doesn’t really stop. Even the parts that are not action-filled keep the pace up.
The Misery itself is just amazing. This is an enormous section of land dividing two warring nations in which the laws of reality hold only a tenuous sway. The land is constantly moving so there are only a few fixed geographic landmarks that people trained specifically in navigating the Misery can use to chart a course.
The second big draw for this book is the main character, Ryhalt Galharrow.
Galharrow was once the son of a nobleman and a soldier in the war against the Deep Kings until tragedy struck and he left behind his name and his place in the army to become a Blackwing, which basically amounts to being a mercenary that answers first and foremost to the call of the Nameless Crowfoot.
Galharrow strikes a perfect balance of being a good man at heart but that heart is covered by years and years of tragedy and travelling in the Misery. While he is a “good guy”, he is not quite a hero and it would be perfectly within his characterization to run from a fight he thinks he will lose than to take on more than seems reasonable. He is an excellent fighter but will avoid fights in which he is outnumbered and mentions that he has run away from battles before when it seemed hopeless.
While there are logical reasons for his actions and decisions in this story, the main driving factor for him is a woman he knew as a teenager but has not seen in decades, Ezabeth. Once it seemed like they would be married but before this became little more than a thought, Ezabeth disappeared from his life and he thought he would never see her again.
Galharrow is so hypnotized by Ezabeth that he can’t seem to be able to tell her no. Had this been a woman that he just met, this swooning would have gone completely against his character and, honestly, probably ruined the book as it his motivations for the entire story would have felt very forced. However, with their past history and knowing that beneath the rough exterior Galharrow is a good person, it all works together really well.
Beyond this, there are some epic fight scenes that were nothing short of a joy to read. There are swordfights, gun fights, magical battles, a battle that takes place solely in a character’s mind. This last sounds strange but it was described so well that it was easy to envision even though it was kind of bizarre.
The only negative thing that I have to say about Blackwing was that I felt like the logic behind the magic system was a little forced at times. It tries to follow a scientific approach and have formulas and definite laws laid down but I didn’t feel like they were clear enough for a reader to be able to follow them. There is a point where the characters are discussing the Engine and, while I understood the conclusion they came to, I did not understand how they got there even though they just had a long conversation about it.
Apart from this though, I found the book to be just in general a great read. There were some plot twists that I thought I saw coming but I didn’t quite see all of it and others that I did not see coming at all. I really want to know more about the Nameless and the Deep Kings; who they are exactly and why they have been at war for so long.
It is obvious to see why this book is so popular. The main character feels real and acts the way you think he would. The world is in treating and exciting. Something simply made like the Misery, seems so obviously cool! How come I didn’t think of that!
I will be trying to catch up and finish this since I didn’t before this review. I am looking forward to what we will see for Ed McDonald.