With the first book in a fantasy series published, many things have been established—mood, style, setting, characters, genre, etc. What remains a wide open question, however, is how the author will continue the story. Regardless whether they ended the first book on a cliffhanger or natural pause, an organic extension of the first volume is not always a guarantee—particularly in the glut of epic fantasy on the market today. Another way of putting this is, could Ed McDonald follow up upon his tightly-crafted, entertaining Blackwing with equal success in Ravencry (2018)?
Ravencry opens four years after the events of Blackwing. Galharrow has cleaned up slightly and is a major in the army. Rubbing elbows with the city’s elite is not to his liking but becomes a necessity when a mysterious meeting between spinners and darlings in the Misery comes onto his radar. Further complicating matters is that a powerful artifact from Galharrow’s master, Crowfoot, is stolen. Utterly destroying the calm of the whole city of Valengrad, however, are crystal missile attacks from the Misery targeting the Grand Spire. Becoming a quasi-detective, Galharrow begins digging into the layers of aristocracy to connect the dots, all the while trying to dodge the incoming missiles. He finds that matters which seemed to have been extinguished in Blackwing may have just been left smoldering… (
It’s good to report the quality of story McDonald spun in Blackwing is equaled by Ravencry. While perhaps expected for fans of Joseph Campbell’s hero theories, it remains full on, quality escapism. There are new characters and new magical possibilities (none of which break the “rules” established in Blackwing). And most importantly, as hoped for in the introduction, it is a natural extension of Blackwing rather than a forced or incongruent offshoot.
Building from the foundational elements, new layers are added that enhance and engage. Likewise,McDonald keeps the storyline unpredictable. George R.R. Martin likes to surprise readers in ways inherent to the story (versus out of the blue sky), and McDonald too utilizes this method to positive effect. Like the reveal of Blackwing, the reveal of Ravencry sees a confluence of powers and people that surprises for its twists and turns in ways that McDonald paved the way for but didn’t make blatantly obvious—a talent, that.
In the end, Ravencry is just as entertaining as Blackwing, if not a touch simpler. An unforced extension of the story, it delivers the same enjoyable storytelling in a satisfying package that leaves the reader wondering how the closing novel in the trilogy, Crowfall, will be continued from what remains. With the glut of epic fantasy on the market these days it’s tough to gain interest in any particular series, but this is one that continues to be worth the while.