Tried a bit hard to be edgy in places but it was a good read.
Our sole POV in this book is Galharrow, a disgraced former soldier and now Blackwing mercenary who works with small crews to chase criminals for bounties. A Blackwing is a kind of servant for Crowfoot, one of the Nameless, godlike magicians who are in an eternal war with their enemies the Deep Kings. He ranges out into a kind of tear in reality that distorts the land and creatures in it and is called The Misery, a not very hospitable place as you can imagine. On a routine mission he is called upon by Crowfoot to go to a station and protect a magician there. From there the story really kicks off.
Well where to start? It’s a seriously cool world this, the Misery is quite a unique setting and really draws you into its weirdness and danger. The way it is described and portrayed really emphasises how messed up it is, and considering it was created by the Nameless, the ‘good guys’, it does make you feel sympathy for the humans trapped between these godlike warring factions. It’s a bleak world and our protagonist is well suited to it.
Galharrow is an alcoholic ageing soldier whose idealism has mostly eroded and he does just enough to survive, keep himself in drink, and look after his loyal comrades Nenn and Tnota. He’s pretty ruthless and does pretty much anything for money. Of course there’s a tragic past that is gradually revealed through the story, and we find out that he’s not lost all idealism, especially as he’s thrown into the path of Ezabeth, a woman from his former life who’s now a spinner, a kind of light weaving magician.
This is definitely trying hard to be Grimdark with a capitol G. There’s lots of blood, brain and entrails descriptions along with plenty of curses, and pretty much everyone you meet is messed up in some way. To be honest I think it almost strayed into parody in places and actually took away from what was a very interesting story and world. Side characters are all great and though I usually actually prefer sole POV’s, I wouldn’t have minded a few chapters from Nenn and Ezabeth.
The concept of the Nameless, the Deep Kings and the Misery were all brilliantly realised and though the story chugged along nicely it did stall in a few places though not too majorly. It is a debut so some of the inconsistencies in characters and plotting I noticed can be given a pass for that. I’ve read a few reviews that are overflowing with praise and though I wouldn’t go that far, it was very enjoyable and promises more as the author gains more experience.
3.5 stars rounded up.