Paul reviews Daughter of Redwinter, book one in Ed McDonald‘s new series The Chronicles of Redwinter.
An eARC was provided via Netgalley so thank you to the publisher, Gollancz.
|Series: The Redwinter Chronicles #1||Genre: Fantasy, Dark Fantasy|
|Date of Publishing: June 28th, 2022||Trigger Warnings: Death, Death of Children, Violence, Murder, Spirits, Drug Use|
|Page count: 352||Publisher: Gollancz|
From the author of the critically-acclaimed Blackwing trilogy comes Ed McDonald’s Daughter of Redwinter, the first of a brilliant fantasy series about how one choice can change a universe.
Raine can see–and more importantly, speak–to the dead. It’s a wretched gift with a death sentence that has her doing many dubious things to save her skin. Seeking refuge with a deluded cult is her latest bad, survival-related decision. But her rare act of kindness–rescuing an injured woman in the snow–is even worse.
Because the woman has escaped from Redwinter, the fortress-monastery of the Draoihn, warrior magicians who answer to no king and who will stop at nothing to retrieve what she’s stolen. A battle, a betrayal, and a horrific revelation forces Raine to enter Redwinter. It becomes clear that her ability might save an entire nation.
“I was sick of being treated like an adult by men when it suited them, and an incompetent child when it didn’t.”
Following on from his fantastic The Raven’s Mark trilogy, Ed McDonald is back with the first book of a brand new series, Daughter of Redwinter.
While Ed’s many fans will be clamouring to pick up his new offering, I do have to say that this is a very different beast. It’s undoubtedly an Ed McDonald book, but whereas Raven’s Mark was a brutal, action-packed grimdark extravaganza, Daughter of Redwinter is far slower and a great deal more introspective. The narrative has somewhat a Gothic feel; the development is gradual and tense, laden with heavy purposes, like the final steps of a dying man’s stride.
Again we experience the story from a first-person perspective, perhaps not everyone’s preferred perspective, but Ed McDonald is a master of creating nuanced main characters with whom you share an almost immediate connection.
Our main character here is Raine, a seventeen-year-old woman who, despite possessing a ‘curse’ that would have her killed if known, possesses, initially at least, a tremendous amount of innocence and, to a degree, naivety. Raine is the anchor around which everything else revolves, and as the story develops, we see her becoming more and more self-aware and cognizant of her own power and desires. She is an utterly compelling character, operating in two different worlds, and with so many paths open to her that it’s genuinely exciting trying to predict what she’ll do each time that she’s faced with a tough choice.
As with McDonald’s other work, nothing has been spared when creating the supporting cast or developing the lore-rich history. The characters are all strong in their own ways, their personalities both rough and smooth, and they all possess their own secret motivations and far more autonomy than you’d expect to see in secondary characters.
The world itself is fantastic, medieval in structure and Scottish in flavour. Much like The Raven’s Mark, there is profound, esoteric lore, you want to see it all, but McDonald teases it so deliciously. Haunted ruins litter the landscape, the influence of long since fallen empires linger, and beings of malevolent power bide their time in the dark.
In terms of pacing, everything is pretty much spot on. The opener tosses you straight into the action; it’s compelling and a lot is thrown at you, but it then drops into a slow-burn mystery with an abundance of development. The ending was a little quicker and easier than I’d perhaps of liked, but it wrapped up what it needed to nicely. Throughout Daughter of Redwinter, the writing is beautifully crisp with poetic turns of phrase and gorgeous imagery.
As the first book of a new series, I couldn’t have asked for any more, it’s gripping, exciting, and I want more.