BOOK REVIEW | BLACKWING BY ED MCDONALD & NARRATED BY COLIN MACE

Hello Bookworms!

Today I plan to get through as many reviews as I can as I am a wee bit behind. I just posted my review of The Engineer by Darran Handshaw and I want to get through this and at least one other today!

On to the second review of the day…Blackwing by Ed McDonald!

I listened to this mostly via the audiobook and I can thank my other half for choosing it for me. He has some good taste. I gave him my phone with the Audible App open and told him to chose my next audio. There were quite a few choices and he gave me two based of the blurbs, his words were to read the ‘torturer smuggler’ one and the ‘raven tattoo’ one. Those were The Blade Itself (which I did indeed read and review) and Blackwing. So here we are writing a review for this book.

A few facts about this book:

  • Title: Blackwing
  • Author: Ed McDonald
  • Narrated by: Colin Mace
  • Series: Raven’s Mark
  • Published by Gollancz
  • Pages: 360
  • Narration Length: 11 Hours 27 Minutes

Synopsis:

Add It To Your Goodreads!

The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow’s Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer’s legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the wastelands seek to destroy them, but if they cannot solve the ancient wizard’s paradox, the Deep Kings will walk the earth again, and all will be lost.

The war with the Eastern Empire ended in stalemate some eighty years ago, thanks to Nall’s ‘Engine’, a wizard-crafted weapon so powerful even the Deep Kings feared it. The strike of the Engine created the Misery – a wasteland full of ghosts and corrupted magic that now forms a No Mans Land along the frontier. But when Galharrow investigates a frontier fortress, he discovers complacency bordering on treason: then the walls are stormed, and the Engine fails to launch. Galharrow only escapes because of the preternatural magical power of the noblewoman he was supposed to be protecting. Together, they race to the capital to unmask the traitors and restore the republic’s defences. Far across the Misery a vast army is on the move, as the Empire prepares to call the republic’s bluff.

ORDER HERE: Audiobook | Amazon.co.uk

Review:

Here are a few things you can expect from :

  • A creative and inventive debut;
  • A page turner;
  • A grizzly flawed veteran you can’t help but love;
  • A unique and original feeling world; and
  • A gritty, epic dark fantasy.

On to the full review…

Ok, so as I am writing this review I find out that this is a FREAKING DEBUT! Like whaaaat, this book does not say ‘debut’ to me. At all. Though, saying that the last few debuts I have read have been outstanding. I even did a Sundays Seven post (SUNDAYS SEVEN | 7 GREAT FANTASY DEBUTS) on it because there are some brilliant debuts out there! Anywho, I am happy to add this to my debuts list.

I cant really remember what brought this book to my attention, but I sure know what kept it…When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message. I LOVE tattoos and to see them used in a fantasy story in such a key way truly delighted me and I couldn’t wait to see what else Ed McDonald could do.

I really haven’t read that much Grimdark at all. I’m trying to think now and I think I have maybe read ten Grimdark books but something about this book just feels refreshing to me as a reader. Even the common place elements are redefined in my opinion and made into something new and original.

Blackwing opens brilliantly it is gripping and we are introduced to our main character, Rhyalt Galharrow, and this corrupted and warped world. A world that you are introduced to skilfully, you are eased into its clutches and learn all you need to know cleverly and smoothly.

“Hope, Reason, Humanity: The Misery Breaks Them All.”

This book will grab you in its first chapter, as it did for me! Everything about it is great …from your first impression of Galharrow and the world to the terrifying and warped creatures that come out of the Misery.

I also really liked the horror elements in Blackwing, the monsters and creatures of this world were a thrill to read and took this book even further. It wasn’t just monsters, fantasy has monsters, it was the creepiness he brought with the monsters that increased this books fun.

Blackwing is a book that is really well written, it has you completely bespelled throughout, and has you always wanting more. Ed McDonald is able to mix several elements at once and give you and something refreshing and incredible. You truly experience the grimness of this world.  Ed McDonald also writes in first person as opposed to third person. I don’t have an issue with first person at all, but I do prefer third person, and yet I wouldn’t change this book at all as we see so so much of Galharrow.

“Burning was a bad way to go, but my reserves of empathy were usually exhausted on orphans and puppies, a lot higher up the list than arsonists and arseholes.” 

Galharrow is a brilliant character, as are all the other people who accompany him and fill this world. We have a group of grizzled and seasoned mercenaries with a past! Every single character is well built, and you want to know what made them the way they are. They are all utterly believable. Now, I am an absolute sucker for loyalty among groups in a book and its amazing reading and experiencing just how strong of a bond Galharrow has with his companions and the length he will go to make sure they are ok! It made fro some incredibly heartfelt moments and emotional punches.

“I saw you stand,” I said. “Saw your courage, back at Twelve. Saw the steel in your will, the power you command. You say there’s nothing of woman about you? You aren’t some painted vase, delicate and useless. You’re a fucking lioness. The strongest damn thing that ever lived. There’s nothing of you but woman.” 

The pacing in this book is excellent, I thought, although I imagine it can be described as a little uneven at times  and sometimes quite chaotic but I really enjoyed it. I got my action, my need for political intrigue, character building, emotional punches and exquisite world-building. Ed McDonald is a great story-teller and as such its 360 odd pages fly by. He has a unique and fascinating mix of heartfelt and meaningful moments with a raw grittiness you don’t see often.

This debut is a solid read, it is well paced with incredible characters and a refreshing and original world and magic.


THE RANKS: 

BUY THE HARDBACK | BUY THE PAPERBACK | BUY THE EBOOK | LIBRARY RENTAL OR SALE PURCHASE

Hmmmm.

What

Will

I

Rate

This

Book

FREAKING BUY THE HARDBACK! And on top of it these books are beautiful! I also got them super cheap on Amazon, I am so glad there are people who take care of books because it allows me to grab them either cheaper, when they aren’t in print any more or just that bit easier than before! And this baby is like NEW!


AGAIN Thank you for reading AND SEE YOU SOON!


BOOK REVIEW | BEFORE THEY ARE HANGED & LAST ARGUMENT OF KINGS BY JOE ABERCROMBIE

Hey Bookish Folk!

I am finally back, I feel like I haven’t written a review or one of my features in such a long time! But hey, a girl has to have some time off over the holidays, right?! Lord knows I didn’t get it at work.

Today I am going to be reviewing not one but two books. I always find it hard to review books the further into the series I get because a lot of the time the same praises from book one still stand and so I just end up repeating myself. So, to avoid that I am going to review book two and three of the First Law Trilogy together and it will likely be a wee bit shorter. Maybe.

A few facts about Book Two and Book Three of The First Law Trilogy:

  • Titles: Book Two | Before They Are Hanged & Book Three | Last Argument of Kings
  • Author: Joe Abercrombie
  • Published by Gollancz
  • Pages: Book Two | 441 & Book Three | 536

Synopsis:

Add Them To Your Goodreads!

Before They Are Hanged | Amazon.co.uk OR Audible Audiobook

Last Argument of Kings | Amazon.co.uk

Review:

Here are a few things you can expect from these two books:

  • Books that live up to the hype;
  • Dry and witty humour;
  • Remarkable characters you can’t help but root for despite their lack of morality;
  • Exceptional storytelling; and
  • Epic bloody battles.

On to the review…

I finally made my way to this series, and I finished it. Shit, folks, I gobbled this up like a woman starved.

I’m so glad I listened to the audiobooks, I have so many books I HAVE to read that I allow audiobooks to be MY books and because of that I was able to go through the trilogy one book after another!

Both Before They Are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings are such good books. Abercrombie set up an incredible set of characters in The Blade Itself and they continue to shine in the following books and remain so captivating. They have so many positives and they are so well crafted, none seem out of place in the world Abercrombie creates including the tone of the book too, while not coming across as copies of each other or too dark. He teases you with a glimmer of hope for al of his characters, whether they get it or not is a whole other kettle of fish.

The plot in books two and three certainly picks up, and shows a good degree more progression than book one. It takes unpredictable turns and stays true to its gritty and darker tone while still keeping one of my favourite aspects…the humour. I was chatting in a forum about The First Law the other day and got to talking about the British feel to Abercrombie’s writing and it is true for the humour too. It is that dry and witty humour the I just cannot get enough of!

Something Abercrombie really excels at in this trilogy is his ability to write brilliant action. I have seen so many YouTube videos about ‘action packed’ books and Abercrombie always popped up. Though, having not read them I was like ‘mmm, can it be that good’…

So, yeah. It is that good. From the larger battles to the close quarters combat, he does it so well. It is vivid and terrifying and done oh in such a brilliant way the action jumps from the pages.

From book one right through to book three you see such growth. Book one is arguably my favourite and it is such a foundational book. Book two moved forward with such amazing relationship building and character depth and the book three solidly concludes everything, it ties up all little threads superbly.

I’m not really sure if I can say anything beyond what the masses have already said for book one, two or three! Just know Abercrombie is a fab writer, he is stupidly talented and these books are simply brilliant.


FOR ANYONE INTERESTED I WROTE A FULL BOOK RECAP OF THE BLADE ITSELF AND BEFORE THEY ARE HANGED.


THE RANKS: 

BUY THE HARDBACK | BUY THE PAPERBACK | BUY THE EBOOK | LIBRARY RENTAL OR SALE PURCHASE

As with The Blade Itself I would, had I not LOVED the audiobook so much, picked this up in HARDBACK!


AGAIN Thank you for reading AND SEE YOU SOON!


BOOK REVIEW | WE MEN OF ASH AND SHADOW BY HOLLY TINSLEY

Hey Bookish Folk and happy Monday!

It is a good Monday for me as I don’t work Mondays or Tuesdays! Though, I will be getting up stupidly early on Wednesday and rocking a 12-hour shift on Christmas Eve as well as working Christmas Day! It going to be a week for sure!

Today I am reviewing Holly Tinsley’s debut book ‘We Men of Ash and Shadow’.

A few facts about We Men of Ash and Shadow:

  • Title: We Men of Ash and Shadow
  • Author: HL Tinsley
  • Series: The Vanguard Chronicles
  • Published by HL Tinsley
  • Pages: 296

Synopsis:

Add It To Your Goodreads!

Amidst the gas lamp shadows former soldier-turned-mercenary John Vanguard hunts criminals at the behest of his corrupt employer, Captain Felix Sanquain. Shamed by his deserter past and seeking to make amends for his many misdeeds, a chance encounter with Tarryn Leersac – a skilled young would-be-assassin fallen from the graces of high society – leads Vanguard to become an unlikely mentor.

Charged with hunting down the killer of two guards left washed up on the banks of the canal, the further Vanguard delves into the underbelly of the city the more he finds himself entangled in a web of secrets and lies. A prominent aristocrat is missing. Crime lords, con men and harlots run amok and the city teeters on the brink of another revolution.

With his already precarious reputation hanging by a thread, Vanguard must piece together how and why the last war came to pass, find a way to earn redemption for his mistakes and come to terms with the past in a city where few survive, and even fewer can be trusted.

Review:

Here are a few things you can expect from We Men of Ash and Shadow :

  • Serious Gangs of New York Vibes;
  • An utterly fascinating world/city;
  • A unique and refreshing writing style;
  • Brilliant characters carved by a sinister world; and
  • A great start to this series.

On to the full review…

“We are men of ash and shadow. We endure the darkness so that others might see the dawn.”

This book came to my attention from the author, I’m sad to say that had Holly have not contacted me I’m not sure it would have come up on my radar! Thankfully, the totally polite and lovely Holly sent me the best review request I think I have had so it did, but this is not a review of Holly’s social etiquette this is a review of her grimdark fantasy We Men of Ash and Shadows

As I think back to my reading of this book I find that I am quite fond of this tale and its characters. Holly writes in such a unique way, I don’t really know how to explain it. I’ll try, obviously, and I will hope my wittering does Holly’s distinctive and brilliant writing style the justice it deserves.

One thing that Holly really excels at in her writing is her dialogue, I enjoyed every conversation that this book offered, which seems like a really bizarre compliment but they all felt really authentic and representative of the character’s personality, even the side characters. The more and more I read of this book the more I came to agree whole heartedly with my above statement.

“Henriette stood. As she went to leave she placed a hand on Vanguard’s shoulder. “Be careful what you show her. She will see the world through rose-tinted glass and throw herself into a pit of snakes thinking it’s a flower bed. Girls like her die outside these walls. I should hate to have to kill you.”

As I said above Holly has a really unique way of writing, it’s almost 50/50 show me and tell me. Now I know books get slated for telling you something rather than showing you but Holly has managed to do this, twist and remake it into something unique.

Now, having said that I want it known that all of the above is all complimentary to her writing style, so don’t think for one instance think this book is lacking in detail because of it, it isn’t, this book plunges you into the depths of it’s world and has you fully absorbed. There was just such a ‘tell me’ vibe to Holly’s writing style. And you know what? I really fucking liked it. It felt utterly new. Like I said it isn’t lacking in description or world-building. Holly manages to make the smallest things such as the wearing a nightgown and robe relevant to the scene at hand. It’s the little details that add to the tone of the upcoming conversation and the words spoken.

I think my only real criticism, which is one constructive in nature, would be that there could have been a degree more fluidity. There were a lot of characters we had perspectives from but the rate at which they switched sometimes became a tad bit jarring.

With this being a shorter book it meant that some relationships could have been a little more, it wasn’t so much lacking in detail but it could have been made better by more time being spent with them. I would have loved to have seen this book a little longer with more emphasis on character relationships and general characterisation because the characters that filled this book were amazing!

It took me a little bit longer than usual to read this book considering it is less than 300 pages long, but that is nothing to do with the book and everything to do with my work schedule! I have to admit though, I’m a little thankful as I wouldn’t have noticed my next point had I not have read it the way I did.

We Men of Ash and Shadow felt like an old friend, weird praise I know but hear me out.

This book felt like an old friend in the sense that I could not read this book for a few days, a week or however long and when I went back to read it , it felt like I had only put it down an hour ago. We Men of Ash and Shadow is so incredibly easy to slide back into, I didn’t need a moment to reacquaint myself with the characters or the world at all. I read a few words and I was once again absorbed into this world.

We all know the pros’s and cons of a books cover, right? Well, Holly truly demonstrated this to me. Don’t get me wrong I know the uses of a cover but it wasn’t until We Men of Ash and Shadow that I truly understood that the cover is as much a part of the story for some books as the writing inside is. It’s the start of the journey, I went into this world with just the book cover and it’s blurb and as soon as I read the first page the world burst from it’s pages. There is such a sly, unfair and sinister feel to this world and Holly incorporates it into every aspect. It is in the world-building, the character interactions and well, just about everything. Holly has got the tone of this book down! 

“There was a thin line between mercenary and soldier, and an even thinner one between mercenary and murderer.”

We Men of Ash and Shadow is a great book and the world that Holly has created very much reminded me of Gangs of New York just in Victorian England. It is filled with bloody crimes, sewer riddled districts and a bustling and territorial underworld. D’Orsee is a fascinating city and one I am eager to know the rest of its story.

I know I mentioned earlier that more characterisation and the relationships would have benefited from greater detail, but I also have to compliment those characters. It is something worthy of praise that I still loved the characters that filled this book despite my earlier criticism. Vanguard is such a compelling character and he is someone I am excited to see grow even more in any following books. He has such a rich and harrowing history and you can feel the emotions he feels, his tiredness and so much more. I also LOVED Mandego, and I would love to see more of him in the future.

“Mandego’s face changed. “You come into my home, with your hands dripping in the blood of my people and have the gall to insult me by telling me that you need my help?”

Every character in this book has been carved and defined by the world in which they reside and it has led to hardened people who have little choices in the direction their lives will go.

“They were both relics of the past trying to live in the new world.

We Men of Ash and Shadow is a thoroughly enjoyable book and a great start to its following books. The characters are brilliant and while the plot is more of a setter-upper it is still a great read.


THE RANKS: 

BUY THE HARDBACK | BUY THE PAPERBACK | BUY THE EBOOK | LIBRARY RENTAL OR SALE PURCHASE

I would happily pick this book up in its paperback form, I really enjoyed this book. I would definitely reread this book when it comes time to read the second. The cover is great and oh so appropriate.


AGAIN Thank you for reading AND SEE YOU SOON!


BOOK REVIEW | THE BLADE ITSELF BY JOE ABERCROMBIE & NARRATED BY STEVEN PACEY

Hello Bookish Folk!

I finally joined the party. I finally read one of Joe Abercrombie’s famed and well loved adult books.

I have read his Shattered Sea Trilogy and I really enjoyed them but a lot of people reviewed it lower than his adult books and said it was a watered down version, I still really enjoyed them and for me it was a great introduction to his writing.

A few facts about The Blade Itself:

  • Title: The Blade Itself
  • Author: Joe Abercrombie
  • Narrated by: Steven Pacey
  • Series: The First Law (Book One)
  • Published by Gollancz
  • Pages: 515
  • Narration Length: 22 hrs and 15 mins

Synopsis:

Add It To Your Goodreads!

Logen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian, has finally run out of luck. Caught in one feud too many, he’s on the verge of becoming a dead barbarian – leaving nothing behind him but bad songs, dead friends, and a lot of happy enemies. 

Nobleman Captain Jezal dan Luthar, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, has nothing more dangerous in mind than fleecing his friends at cards and dreaming of glory in the fencing circle. But war is brewing, and on the battlefields of the frozen North they fight by altogether bloodier rules. 

Inquisitor Glokta, cripple turned torturer, would like nothing better than to see Jezal come home in a box. But then Glokta hates everyone: cutting treason out of the Union one confession at a time leaves little room for friendship. His latest trail of corpses may lead him right to the rotten heart of government, if he can stay alive long enough to follow it. 

Enter the wizard, Bayaz. A bald old man with a terrible temper and a pathetic assistant, he could be the First of the Magi, he could be a spectacular fraud, but whatever he is, he’s about to make the lives of Logen, Jezal, and Glokta a whole lot more difficult. 

Murderous conspiracies rise to the surface, old scores are ready to be settled, and the line between hero and villain is sharp enough to draw blood.

Review:

Here are a few things you can expect from The Blade Itself:

  • Flawed yet utterly loveable and compelling characters;
  • The most character driven book I think I have ever read;
  • Waring peoples;
  • A grumpy ass mage;
  • A slower pace; but
  • A seriously enjoyable book!

A little bit about the narration…

Firstly, I would like to say that Steven Pacey is an absolute pleasure to listen to. I didn’t overly love the sample when I first listened to it, it wasn’t bad but as a newb listener to audiobooks I wasn’t sure I could actually listen to it. I listened to the sample three times to try and get a feel for it. I don’t really know why I did, I guess I appreciated his voice and tone but wasn’t sure if it was for me. Alas, I decided to jus pick it up and I am really glad I did.

I have already demolished book two and I am currently maybe three hours or so into book three of this trilogy and I LOVE listening to Steven Pacey. I honestly cant fault anything with the narration and I really bloody hope he narrates all Abercrombie’s books!

On to the full review…

I was going to say I don’t really know where to start with this review because so many have already reviewed this and it will be hard to say much different than what I imagine has already been said, but I’m not one to pass up any opportunity to talk. I’m just not about that life, you know!

I’m going to start this review with the BEST thing about this book, it only seems right…

Logen Ninefingers. Bayaz. Sand dan Glokta. Jezal dan Luther. Collem West. Ardee West. The Dogman.

Abercrombie does a damn fine job of creating his characters. He focussed on the creation of his characters and it paid off! All of his charters are so well written and they are a pleasure to read! You are totally invested in everything they do, even when they are simply staring at themselves in a mirror relishing their good looks and spectacular man jaw.

I have no issue with a character driven books and find them to be my favourite reads when they are done well, and this book is done well. All of the characters are so well crafted that you don’t care that the plot is slow, you don’t care that what they’re actually doing is a little boring. I genuinely think I could read the most mundane and boring day in eternity if it was from Logen POV, he is incredible!

This is also the first grimdark book I have read, I have read books that have darker themes and those that toe the line of grimdark but this is my first legit grimdark. The grimness was there and the gore was there but as this is my first I don’t have much to compare it too, I certainly didn’t expect as much humour. I found myself chuckling a fair amount through this book be it a witty remark, a characters vein comments as to their beauty or the sarcasm but I laughed a hell of a lot in this.

Abercrombie’s prose…well they are spot on! His writing is expressive, captivating and easy to follow. Also, now I don’t know if this is in the writing or the narration but, you always know who you are reading before the writing even mentions a name to set the POV. It may have been both, Abercrombie has his characters voices well established and so does Pacey in his narration.

The world-building was incredibly well done too, Abercrombie writes it in a way that the characters almost make the world, more so than any elaborate descriptions do. The characters tell you enough about their surroundings to paint a vivid picture of their location, which are all different for most of the characters.

The Blade itself is definitely a foundational book, it sets up everything you need to know and more for the rest of your journey with Logen, Glokta and Jezel. It’s a pretty bold move too, in order for Abercrombie to have achieved such meticulous detail and fully establish his characters with such depth he inevitably had to slow things down and that can alienate a good few readers. For that however, I don’t think Abercrombie’s really gives a glittering shit! And rightly fucking so. Not much really happens and you still love the book, love the world, the characters and the whole bloody experience. If that isn’t one of the finer examples of talent then I don’t really know what is.

I don’t really know what else to say, this book is a great first book and it sets a solid foundation for what I expect to end up a brilliant series. It is home to some of the best characters I have had the pleasure of reading and it has a decent dose of humour.


THE RANKS: 

BUY THE HARDBACK | BUY THE PAPERBACK | BUY THE EBOOK | LIBRARY RENTAL OR SALE PURCHASE

I always wonder how to rate a book when I listened to the audiobook because I will then continue to listen to the rest via audiobook because were I to read this book again I would again listen to it over reading it. Though saying that I do like having the option to bounce between them. So, i’m going to rate this as if I hadn’t listened to it via audiobook and tell you to BUY THE FREAKING HARDBACK.

I would grab this in hardback for several reasons, one of which is that the characters are amazing and they are one of the finest examples of what a character should be in a book. They come off the pages and take a seat in your thoughts even when you are not reading this book.

I have also read book two and I am a little way into book three, and I know how much I am enjoying them so that definitely influences this rating too.


AGAIN Thank you for reading AND SEE YOU SOON!