“Another Heart of the Void? The sky is shattered, the rain sends men mad. Even the geese are trying to eat us. What the fuck do we have to gain by unleashing that kind of power again?”
I received an advanced reading copy of Crowfall in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Ed McDonald and Ace Books for the opportunity. May contain spoilers for Ravencry.
Crowfall is an engaging and thrilling final chapter to an excellent dark fantasy trilogy. I have seen the Raven’s Mark series referred to as Grimheart. I thought that tag was a joke initially but the more I have thought about it the more fitting the label actually seems. However chaotic, gruesome, or terrible things may seem in this world there are always underlining currents of hope and love.
This narrative is set six years after the conclusion of Ravencry when Shavada was blasted from the grandspire’s roof and the city was saved. We see a very different Ryhalt Galharrow. Since that event, the Blackwing Captain has been residing in isolation in the Misery. Eating the monstrosities that lurk within the land, conversing with the ghosts that haunt it, and every night returning to the Always House, a comfortable country cottage, seemingly unaffected by the magic of the Misery except that it resets once a day. The reason for Galharrow’s need to be alone and in the Misery of all places is unclear but the Misery has changed him and become a part of him. He’s become an expert navigator and converses with the Misery frequently. He is even referred to as the ‘son of the Misery.’ Although he’s been living as a hermit it seems everybody wants Galharrow eradicated, from the Nameless to the men of the Citadel. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Deep Kings now have an Emperor and are looking to march on the living with their Drudge army. Galharrow knows he has an important part to play in the upcoming war.
I’ve always enjoyed following Galharrow’s first-person perspective. He’s such a likable character throughout the series although he really shouldn’t be. In Ravencry he was traipsing around the fringes of madness however for parts of Crowfall he is as good as insane. It’s written and presented in expert fashion and as a reader, I tried to analyse reality and exactly what was going on in Galharrow’s mind.
The characters that have been crafted by McDonald are brilliant and jump off the page here. Series mainstays such as the aging navigator Tnota and no-nosed violence adoring Major Nenn (even though she’s dead) are as important as ever in Crowfall. Joining these and other players such as Dantry, Maldon, and Valiya are new and influential characters such as sharp-eyed shooter North and marble guardian, First.
I’m not sure what the technical phrasing is but the way McDonald wrote led me to create amazing visuals of all the places frequented and portraits of all the characters in my mind. I was so engaged that I almost felt that I was there alongside Galharrow throughout his adventures and struggles. I was fully invested in him and the narrative as a whole.
I won’t divulge too much information about what takes place in Crowfall other than that there are so many standout moments and stunning set-pieces. As the conclusion to one of my favourite recent fantasy series, I was not disappointed by any aspect. In a few years time when fans of dark fantasy think of standout characters in the genre, Galharrow is a name that will be uttered alongside Jorg, Geralt, and Locke Lamora. The finale was epic, lasted for about twenty percent of the novel and often left me breathless with the battles, showdowns, twists, awesome reveals, and betrayals. Essentially it had everything I required on my epic fantasy bingo card. Blackwing remains one of my favourite ever books. The following two books in the series never quite reached the lofty heights but are still pretty damn awesome. This is a series that needs to be read by all dark fantasy and grimdark fans.