Ravencry Called to me from the Depths of Grimdark

ravencry*Received this book off Netgalley in exchange for an honest review- but the crazy gushing you’re about to see is all me*

Well, that’s what I call a sequel! If you remember back to my review from last year, I was *blown away* by the McDonald’s debut Blackwing and was so psyched to pick up an ARC for the sequel… but also naturally nervous because what if it didn’t deliver on the second instalment? I really shouldn’t have worried- because the Raven’s Mark series is shaping up to be a sharp venture into grimdark fantasy!

This begins with a mystery that flies in the face of what we already knew- instantly showing us that this will be different from its predecessor. We then journey with Ryalt into the unknown, travelling deeper into the heart of the Misery. Much like traditional fairy tales where a character treks out into vast unknowable nature- losing pieces of themselves along the way and undergoing a transformation- the trip alters the protagonist irrevocably. Yet here it is all the more traumatic and vividly grotesque. Psychologically and physically it breaks down his character, until he admits “I just wasn’t the same as when I’d gone in”- and we as the reader have changed along with him.

I was sucked straight back into sludge-grey world of the Misery and the Deep Kings. The only anchor was Ryhalt Galharrow’s enigmatic voice, which balanced out this grim vision with chuckleworthy asides. And even as the main character has more prestige and respectability, there’s no way a shall we say less than level-headed hero can wake up and get on with the next book without being drenched in regrets and grief. Ryhalt is most certainly haunted by recent ghosts- especially since there were some very real manifestations of the Bright Lady and a cult that rises up in her wake.

Complex and action packed, the non-stop whirring of the plot takes you through darkness into phos-induced light. The reintroduction of the villain, in particular, felt like we dived into the flesh and bones of the story. Through the amazing twists and turns, there are hints of further intrigues, making me curious as to where it’s going after the enigmatic end.

The level of imagination here is incredible. Like the first, it’s a richly dense book, with terrifying darkness and an unsettling atmosphere. There is an uncanny, gothic element to the magic, which adds tremendously to the world building.

I was gripped by the writing as well. Not only is it creepy, but there’s also a build up to create a sense of dread. My kindle copy was covered in highlights- because, man there’s some effing expertise to the writing. One masterstroke, for instance, was to add Shakespearean technique of giving logic to the ravings of a madman. Phases like “save face” are given multiple meanings. The writing is, to be frank, bloody good (emphasis on the blood- there’s quite a bit of it!)

Yet Ravencry does not simply serve up a dish of graphic entertainment- it will tear at your heart strings and open up your innards. Characters don’t just grow up like Amaira- they ripped from their childhood and thrust into the adult world. Stories like that of Nenn’s aren’t just expanded- they are pushed to the limits- and what happens to them is too awful for words. In the end, this was as emotional as the first:

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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So have you read this series? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

AWESOME Authors I Discovered in 2017 *and* Am Looking Forward to Reading More From

Technically this was a Top Ten Tuesday topic… buuut it’s not this week’s, so this is a fail 😉 Ah well, pish posh, who cares about rules when it comes to sharing great books? I certainly don’t. And I really wanted to do this topic, because there’s nothing I like more than talking about AWESOMENESS (aside from griping about suckfests… moving on…). Besides, it was this or talk about *nothing* for Nothing Day (yes that’s a thing to, happy Nothing Day everybody!)

Anyhoo enough rambling- gonna try to not repeat myself too much from my best of 2017 post, although it can’t be entirely avoided 😉 Here’s some amazing authors I discovered in 2017:

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Solzhenitsyn– I’m beginning to sound a lot like a broken record when it comes to the Gulag, but that’s not the only book I read by Solzhenitsyn last year. I started off my journey into the Siberian wastes with One Day in the Life of Ivan Densovitch and that motivated me to continue reading. Speaking of Siberia…

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Ruta Sepetys– WOW what a writer. Of the two books I read by her last year, I preferred Salt to the Sea to Between Shades of Grey, but either way her stories pulled me in and were impossible to forget. There’s no question that I want to read more by this author.

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Agatha Christie– two things happened on my blog last year relating to Christie: 1) I announced that I had zero intention of reading her work and… 2) I actually read her work. I have since seen the error of my ways and plan to read more soon 😉

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S. K. Tremayne– gosh Tremayne reminded me reignited my zest for thrillers… I have to read MORE!

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“Alan Partridge”– I read two books by “Alan Partridge” last year- I don’t think I’ve ever laughed at a book so much. It’s easy for me to say, considering that there are hilarious (yet totally mundane) asides on getting a car into gear in these books, that Steve Coogan could literally put out *anything* for this character and I’ll read it.

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Robin Hobb– it took me long enough but I finally read Assassin’s Apprentice last year! And as some of you may know, I was so blown away it that I ended up going a little crazy, reading both the Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies in one go… Yeah, it’s no wonder I got a bit Hobbed out by the end of my massive binge. Still, though my appetite may have been dampened temporarily, I want to *jump right back up on that horse* and continue reading in 2018!

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Mark Lawrence– I read a very respectable 4 books by Lawrence last year and they were all fantastic fantasies- now I want MORE… Lucky for me Grey Sister is out this year 😉

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Ed McDonald– Blackwing was certainly one of the best debuts I’ve ever read- WOWEE- you can make a safe bet that I want to read the next one!

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Katherine Arden– what list about 2017 would be complete without Arden? You all know by now how much I loved Bear and the Nightingale (if not, hi nice to meet you, I’m the Orangutan Librarian and I loved this book). So naturally I’ll be reading and reviewing Girl in the Tower soon- watch this space.

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Eowyn Ivey– gorgeously atmospheric and beautifully written- I adored how this was a fairytale retelling woven together with a historical setting. I will definitely have an eye out for her other books!

Phew- managed to only repeat 3 from my top ten! Have you read any of these? What’s the best author you discovered in 2017? Let me know in the comments!

Blackwing: Taking Fantasy to New Heights

*Received this book off Netgalley in exchange for an honest review- but the crazy gushing you’re about to see is all me*

Blackwing2Wowzers. Bloody hell. Fuck yeah! Honestly, I don’t have anything other than expletive laden exclamations right now. One of the Deep Kings in this book must have cut out my tongue and fed it to the Misery, because Blackwing has left me speechless. Yet even if words are failing me right now, there’s a lot of well-deserved buzz for this book. After reading Liis’ *stunning* review, I just knew I *had to* read it- and by some miracle I was able to get hold of it.

Well, it would be more accurate to say that this book got hold of me- it grabbed me by the throat and throttled me with an intense plot straight away. The reader is flung head first into the Misery and explosive action before you can say “shit there’s a Darling!” (you’ll find out what that is when you read it- no spoilers from me- but trust me that’s what you’ll think). Somehow, as the story winds on, it manages to crank up that initial tension, bit by bit, building to an epic conclusion that no one could predict. Seriously, if you want a well spun tale you’ve come to the right place. Not one thread of Blackwing is out of place- it is an exquisite tapestry of twisted, inventive, mindboggling magic! There’s nothing you can do with a book like this other than step back and admire the view. And if I sound possessed- that’s cos I’m still in its thrall.

One of the most spellbinding things about here is easily the writing. I could wax lyrical about how beautiful every inch of this book is- but what really got to me was how strikingly distinctive the voice was- so much so that the main character leapt off the page. Don’t ask me how, but that grouchy, wry tone will charm the pants off you. I was chuckling along with his backhanded remarks (“standard fortress stuff” teehee), eagerly awaiting where his tale would lead and by the end of the story I wanted to take him out for a pint… Until I remembered he wasn’t real.

And that was just the thing- I left reality behind when I read Blackwing. Atmospheric and creepy, wading into this world was a treat in its own right. Layer upon layer of nameless wonder had me totally absorbed. Even though the palate for this world was suitably grim and gutsy, it felt surprisingly vibrant, and, most importantly, *different*. Rarely do I find any book that feels as new as this fresh-faced fantasy.

There was more to it than that though. Full of broken, scarred and near-ruined characters this story was to its core about humanity. Speaking of heartache and hinting at redemption, the hidden depths sold me more than anything else. No doubt, this book took me too some pretty dark places- but in the end it was so dark it was an uplifting read.

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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Released on: 27th July  so be sure to snag a copy here!

Was there any doubt I’d give it that rating? Are you gonna give this a go? Let me know in the comments!