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