Cover Image: A Blight of Blackwings

A Blight of Blackwings

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This sequel to A Plague of Giants is as detailed and complex and just plain entrancing as the first volume. The war with the Bone Giants may be over, but the giants are anything but vanquished; their spies, invading forces, and menaces of various sorts, natural and magical, seek to weaken the surviving kingdoms. As before, magical gifts called “kennings” arise in certain people by way of life-threatening ordeals; once the kennings were thought to be only five, now a sixth (the ability to speak to animals, including insects, with predictably hilarious and dreadful results) has arisen – could there be more? 

As before, the story is told primarily through a Bard, whose kenning allows him to adopt the appearance, voice, and verbatim tales of his subjects as he relates these songs and stories to the refugees from the Bone Giants war, gathered on Survivors Field. Each character knows only a small portion of the whole; each has his or her agenda, cultural context, affiliations, and personal biases. The effect is a bit like the classic movie, Rashomon, in which each character’s telling of the same events produces a radically different interpretation.

I loved the chance to spend more time with characters from very different cultures (and the utterly delightful portrait sketches). As before, with the first volume, I had favorites and in this installment was coaxed into widening the field.

The story ended on a cliff hanger, so I assume – no, I demand that there will be more.
Was this review helpful?
A Blight of Blackwings (Seven Kennings, #2)
by Kevin Hearne
A Twist on the normal format of story telling. Actually having the character be the story teller. This book is the second in an astounding series. The book shows the further development of the Kennings, with the eighth kenning being the aspect that may either destroy the world or save it. Kevin Hearne had a way of twisting plots, taking story ploys and changing them in unpredictable ways. The story is a dark look into the minds of men.
Was this review helpful?
Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC of this book, in return for a fair and honest review.

I really enjoyed the first book in this series, A Plague of Giants, but I think I liked this one even better.  I would not recommend reading this without reading A Plague of Giants first.

There's a substantial amount of world building here - in the first book, it took a while to get it all straight in my mind.  With A Blight of Blackwings, there's the advantage of having the basic world building done - I already had a grip on the world.  The other thing to get used to is the style in which the book is told - a bard, telling a story each day, filling everyone in on what's been happening around the world.  Again, this was easier here, since it continued from the first book.

One of the most important things I enjoyed about this book is that it expanded further on the first book.  We're not only meeting new narrators, but also learning about other countries that the first group of characters didn't know about.  We're also starting to unpack the mystery of the Bone Giants.

An additional theme that is being developed here is the relationships among the people of different countries, and how those are going to be resolved.  How do you have workable relationships among people with different philosophies and world views?  This look like a theme that may be important in the third book of the trilogy.

I really enjoyed this book - it's one where I really was eager to watch how things would play out, even when I thought I was pretty sure what would happen.  I'm certainly looking forward to the final book in the trilogy!
Was this review helpful?
This book is the second installment following A Plaque of Giants. This book jumps right into the story line so it is best read after the first book as there is not much catch-up information. 

With so many characters and nations and kennings to keep up with, I had some difficulty getting into this one and ended up having to go back and read the first book. Which is freaking amazing so nothing bad to say on that front. However, this one the plot does not really seem to progress much but I still enjoyed the book and would continue the series. I did drop it a star because it feels like a filler that really could have been split into the first book and what I assume will happen in the 3rd installment.

This book has great characters and amazing world-building I was well entertained and it held my attention. 
It was a very good read overall.

I received this book from NetGalley and Random house Publishing Group for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
The second book deals spies and the building of a new city. Only a few new characters come on the scene and there are some interesting discoveries during this book. Everyone finds out what is the seventh kenning and how it will change things. Most of the book is still told in flashbacks with everything being centered in Brynt with Dervan writing down everything the bard says. And even though he has close ties to the leader of his people, he is still surprised by what goes on behind the scenes. 
I’ll be interested to see how things wrap in the next book. With all the bards storytelling to the refugees, they are catching up to current times so I have to wonder if the next book will have as much daily storytelling to move the plot along.
Was this review helpful?
I thought way too many people slept on A PLAGUE OF GIANTS when it was released. It was a unique, accessible doorstopper fantasy that I plowed through quickly. This second installment reminds me of all the things I loved about the first book but also shows some limitations.

The framing device of Fintan the bard worked beautifully to introduce the world and the struggle in the first book. Here, there are so many characters (old and new) to juggle that the brief glimpses we get of them in Fintan's story don't seem sufficient. This is both a critique and a praise: I enjoy the various characters enough that I think they need *more screen time.*

Another thing I struggled with was the seeming tonal shift; it felt like some of the bawdy humor of KILL THE FARM BOY sneaked in here, and it read oddly.

All of that said, the magic, the world-building and the mystery remain great. I just wish I'd liked the narrative more. Still very much looking forward to A CURSE OF KRAKENS. 

Also, a plea to fantasy authors: If you're going to pick up right where you left off, please put a recap at the start of the book. Please.

(Posted to Goodreads)

Also included in Book Riot's Most Anticipated Books of 2020 list prior to publication:
Was this review helpful?
If I could, I would wax poetic over Kevin Hearne, and all the glory that is the Seven Kennings series. I adored this first book, I am considering proposing to the second. 

I can't live without this book in my life now that it is here! I was thrilled to find out there would be a second book. A Blight of Blackwings follows pretty quickly after the events of A Plague of Giants. This book was even better than the first.

 5 beautiful stars. Hearne c an not write anything I wouldn't read.
Was this review helpful?
Like the character Dervan in this story, I became so caught up in the tale as it unfolded that I wanted spoilers! Or at least I wanted Fintan the Bard to get on with it a whole lot faster. Which meant that as much as I love the audio version of this story, I switched to the book at about the ⅓ point just so I could find out what happened next. And next after that. And after that. And so on right until barreling through to the end, even knowing that this story as a whole is not done yet.


Just as in the first book in the series, the extremely awesome and utterly marvelous A Plague of Giants, the story that we are reading is mostly the story itself being told by Fintan the Bard to the crowd camped on Survivors’ Field in Pelemyn. The people who survived the events of the first part of the story and fetched up in Pelemyn as refugees from the multiple crises that have afflicted Teldwyn.

Not just one but two plagues of giants.

The title of this entry in the series is a tad more subtle. The book A Plague of Giants contained actual plagues of giants, after all. But the blight of blackwings referred to this time is not a literal plague of the same sort.

Instead, a blight of blackwings feels like it’s the equivalent of “a murder of crows,” or “an unkindness of ravens.” Or possibly both, as the blackwings of Teldwyn occupy the same niche as crows and ravens do. They are carrion birds. They eat the dead, and they feast after a battle.

They also hover over trouble in the hopes that said trouble will result in some dead for them to eat. Hopefully soon, from their perspective. Which means that if you are a human blessed by the sixth kenning, and your gift is communication with blackwings, you can spot trouble coming before your blackwings get a meal.

And that’s the story of A Blight of Blackwings, the spotting of trouble on the horizon. However, just like in A Plague of Giants, there are lots of blackwings hovering over trouble in lots of places. A concept which the UK cover for the book makes much more clear!

With even more on the horizon by the end of this portion of the Bard’s tale. And it’s awesome every step of the way. For multiple definitions of the word “awe”.

UK cover
Escape Rating A++: To paraphrase Hanima the Hivemistress, this book is the BEST!

This is a huge story, covering an entire world. You do have to have read A Plague of Giants to get into A Blight of Blackwings. If you love epic fantasy you’ll be glad you did. This world-spanning story is a real treat.

That being said, it’s necessary to talk about what makes it such a treat.

A big part of that for me was that the author’s experiment in voice really worked. The author said that he was trying to recreate the feeling of the old bardic tales as Homer used to tell them. While we don’t know what that was really like, what he has created here turns out to be a fascinating way of telling a big story with a huge cast of characters while making sure all of those threads are easy to follow.

The framing story is that Fintan the Bard is telling the tales using the voices and faces of the people who experienced each part, strung together with a bit of what is going on in the city through the eyes of Dervan, the chronicler and confidant of the city’s ruler. So we see what has happened in the past through Fintan’s tale, and what is happening in the present through Dervan’s first-person asides.

I will also say here that the two voice actors do a terrific job of making all of the voices distinct. Even when I switched to reading the ebook I was still hearing their voices in my head and it definitely helped form my picture of who each of the different characters was.

The invention of the “kennings” the magic of this world, is a new take on the whole magic in fantasy idea, and the way that it works underpins the politics and people’s perspective on their world. On the one hand, there’s the sense that the kennings kind of function like the old saying about when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail, just writ very, very large.

At the same time those kennings underpin both politics and religion, so the discovery of a sixth and possibly even a seventh upsets a whole fleet of apple carts.

One other thing that makes this magic system different is the price that is paid to wield it. One of the terrible things that frequently happens in other magic systems is that magic is either the ultimate power or so easy to use that everyone gets lazy. The cost of magic in this world is extremely dear, both to acquire it and to use it. Magic users always have to think about whether the ends they have to achieve justify the loss of years of their lives. Perhaps even all the years they have left.

This is also a story where the use of language can shock you with it’s terrible beauty. After discovering that his entire town has been slaughtered in his absence, the leader of a band of hunters reflects that, “Most of us were still in the shock stages of grief, the foyer to a mansion of pain in which I knew we’d dwell for many years. Just beyond, however, a red room beckoned, a spacious expanse for rage, and I had little doubt the entire band would step in there with me for an extended period.” I was struck by that phrase, and chilled by an intense feeling of recognition. It feels right and true and haunting in the vividness of the image. A haunting that returned every time that character refers back to it. Because he’s right, they are all heading for that red room of rage – and possibly taking the rest of the country with them.

We’ll find out in book 3 of the series, tentatively titled A Curse of Krakens. I want it so bad, and I want it now! But I expect I’ll have to wait a couple of years, based on the time between A Plague of Giants and A Blight of Blackwings. And it will be SO worth it!
Was this review helpful?
3.5 stars Satisfying sequel to A Plague of Giants if you have just recently read that one--or have a better memory than I do, anyway. I thought Hearne could have done a better job catching the reader up a bit rather than just jumping right in. With so many characters and nations and kennings to keep up with, I had some difficulty getting into this one. However, like the first, I did enjoy the characters and the pretty amazing world-building. I didn't feel like the plot advanced much here, but the book did keep me interested in finding out what happens next, so I'll be looking for #3.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a free e-ARC of this book.
Was this review helpful?
This is old school epic fantasy at it’s finest! It has many points of view, but the story is gold beautifully. I can’t wait for volume 3.
Was this review helpful?
This book is an excellent follow-up to A Plague of Giants. Great storytelling that transitions well between character storylines kept me enthralled and I couldn't put it down. The story is captivating and the characters are nuanced. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to fans of Kevin Hearne's work, of which I am one!
Was this review helpful?
4.5 stars

Wow. What a fantastic second book in an entertaining, riveting fantasy series. I loved the first book, A Plague of Giants so much that I was worried the second book would let me down. It did not.

The second book picks up shortly after the ending of the first book. The book is told in short chapters from different characters' perspectives, narrated by the bard Fintan, just like the first book. In addition to the returning characters, we are introduced to two new characters, and delve deeper into the characters wielding the sixth Kenning.

Daryck is the leader of a band of warriors whose city was decimated by the Bone Giants. They seek revenge against the giants and accept risky assignments to help the cause. I really like this new character and this band of warriors. They add a grittier fighting element to the stories and aid in expressing the sense of revenge and thirst for vengeance that all of the people that have lost their loved ones and way of life must be feeling.

Koesha is the captain of an all-female crew that is exploring unknown waters trying to find a path around the globe. Koesha is also looking for her sister, who was on a voyage two years ago and never returned home. I really like this new group of characters as well. They are a very tough crew, but add some lightness to the stories as well. There is also an element of mystery surrounding their homeland that I can't wait to find out about in the next book.

Hanima is one of the new generation of magical talents with the sixth Kenning. She can talk with animals. As she and a few others with her powers return to their home city, their presence threatens its rulers, who seek to destroy them. As she seeks to try to help those most in need in the city, she finds herself the leading a revolution. Hanima is one tough cookie, but she has a huge heart and a good head on her shoulders. She is the perfect reluctant leader of the revolution.

As the nation tries to figure out what the Bone Giants want and how to stop them, new revelations come to light and new questions emerge. Although I love the method of storytelling the author chose, and it works in this book, it's still hard sometimes to keep everything straight. This is particularly hard when events continue in the second book that first started in book one. Since I read that book so long ago, it took me awhile to figure out what was going on and why certain things had significance. It's not bad enough to quell my enjoyment of the book, and it's a similar problem in most fantasy book series that have 2-3 years in between books.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend you read it. I can't wait to read the next book in the series.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I love this author!  They are one of my favorites!  I enjoyed the first of this series and was excited to read this.  I would definitely recommend this to my patrons.
Was this review helpful?
If the first book was a story of war, and tragedy, and the ways in which humans respond to grief, then this book is a larger and more advanced version of that. Now is the time for rebuilding (or revenge), renewal (or revolution), exploration of new discoveries (or a desperate search for that which was lost).

As in the first book, we see many different points of view — some old, some new — as told in a public recounting to the narrator of the book (among many others). It’s an oddly layered way of storytelling, but it somehow works. Hearne has truly come a long way in his skill since Hounded — which was also a damned good book, don’t get me wrong!

I told a few friends, shortly after finishing this book, that I recommended it. I did so with the following explanation.

It’s about grief and rage, revenge and kindness, revolution, and how human-kind rebuilds after tragedy, and it’s amazing.

Me, to friends. January, 2020.

I meant it then, and I repeat it here for you now. In this second book, the story gets larger and deeper. We resolve a few questions, and discover several more we should be asking. If you haven’t picked it up yet, get going! And don’t forget that you can always pay a visit to your local library!
Was this review helpful?
A great second installment in a great series.
It's got all the elements that make me love Kevin Hearne: a great plot, humour, well developed characters and an amazing world building.
it can't be read as a standalone.
I love it and I strongly recommend it.
I received this ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a honest review.
Was this review helpful?
A worthy follow-up to the first volume, I can't wait to see what happens with Fintan and the rest of the crew in the final book.  So good!
Was this review helpful?
5/5 stars — epic hopepunk fantasy at its most appealing

You might not expect a setting with animals like gravemaws and meat squirrels to be home to an upbeat, optimistic narrative. Then again, maybe you’re familiar with Kevin Hearne’s talent for juxtaposing the absurd with the touching and having both come away stronger for the proximity. A Blight of Blackwings, the second installment in the Seven Kennings trilogy, is Hearne in fine form, an intricately layered tale with insightful commentary on the impact of violence and lots of lovable (and some not-so-lovable) characters. The prose and narrative style—not to mention the quick-witted dialogue—are an absolute joy to read, like coming home to your favorite armchair and finding it even more comfortable than you remembered.

As in A Plague of Giants, the story revolves around main character Dervan du Alöbar, with a handful of other point-of-view characters whose journeys are relayed through the bard Fintan. Some long fantasy novels lose me when they try to juggle a dozen storylines and keep all of them exciting and tied to the central plot, but this one had me hooked again at every POV change. Incidentally, this made the book really hard to put down. A few of these secondary characters were holdovers from the previous book—Abhinava Khose, relatably anxious plaguebringer, and Gondel Vedd, linguistic scholar and lover of mustard among them—but this book adds several more voices to the mix. My personal favorites were the grieving, conflicted firelord Olet Kanek and the hivemistress Hanima Bandury.

Characters tend to be my priority in any story, and these have an excellent playground in the rich and colorful world Hearne has created. A Blight of Blackwings reveals more of the setting, geographically speaking, and showcases novel uses of the magical kennings. The ‘cost of magic is years of your life’ concept isn’t unique, but this series commits to it in emotional stakes as well as physical, making it very effective.

From a more meta standpoint, the subplots involving revolution, poverty, and classism were timely, their framing inspirational rather than bleak. Quotes like this one about the entitlement of wealthy and privileged people really resonated with me: “Folks like that tell themselves a story where they worked really hard for what they were given, so that anyone who isn’t rolling in luxuries and benefiting from cronyism and nepotism simply isn’t working hard enough.” Another favorite was, “The assumption that manual laborers cannot lead rich intellectual lives is offensive.” I’d be doing the book a disservice to make it sound entirely serious, so I should mention it also includes gems like Dervan’s “All I want in the morning is a peaceful time for toast,” and, from the midst of the Nentian civil war, “Deploy the tactical moths.”

I appreciated that the ending of A Blight of Blackwings felt more conclusive and satisfying than the previous book’s cliffhanger. Plotlines are obviously left open for the last installment, but this one felt more self-contained as it wrapped up a couple of mysteries. My only quibble with the book is the use of “wheelchair-bound” for a disabled character, when mobility devices are less a restriction than a useful tool, in my experience.

I highly recommend A Blight of Blackwings to anybody who enjoyed the first book in the series! Further, readers of Tolkien, Sanderson, and Jordan—anybody who loves epic fantasy, really, and especially those looking for a ray of hope in a genre lately leaning into its grimdark side—should pick up A Plague of Giants and dive into this thoughtfully constructed world. I described this series to a friend as “like Lord of the Rings, but with actual female characters,” which is untrue only in that it oversimplifies the ways in which Hearne writes for diverse modern audiences.

Content warnings: gore, fantasy violence, spiders, snakes, insects
Was this review helpful?
Kevin Hearne has imagined another spectacular series to devour. He has created a unique writing style that pulls the reader into the world of his creation.

I do have to admit, this book had a slow start. It took me awhile to get caught up in the telling, which I do feel is the transition between storyteller (the bard) and the story itself but once it gets going, I’m all in.

I highly recommend you sit aside plenty of time to travel through the lands that contain Bone Giants and Kennings.

I received this ARC copy of A Blight of Blackwings from Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine - Del Rey. This is my honest and voluntary review.
Was this review helpful?
Through more fabulous world building Kevin Hearne continues the saga he began in a Plague of Giants, the first book in the series. If you have not read it go read it. This book picks up and continues the tales told by Fintan the bard who is blessed with a perfect memory and magical orbs that allow him to project the look of the person telling the story and for his voice to be heard throughout the city of Pelemyn, a city recently attacked by bone giants whose people are trying to recover and make sense of their changing world. Fintan has traveled the world collecting information and telling the stories of those involved in the events.This is a luxurious read with characters you understand and grow to love.  You become invested in their fates and how the story will progress.This is epic fantasy at its finest and I look forward to the next book in the series.
Was this review helpful?
My Review:  Since I read A Plague of Giants 2 years ago, this book has been on my most anticipated list, and it is finally here and I will start off by saying it was so worth the wait!! I am glad I took a bit of time in January to re-read the first book because this one picks up immediately where it left off. I am so glad we get to dive right back in with Dervan and Fintan as well as the overall story. We got some new character POVs which was great too, I love Olet's and you can't help but smile at Hanima's quirky and cheerful determination. While this book is clearly a transitional book, it doesn't suffer from that second book slump we see so often in trilogies. There isn't as much action as there was in the previous book but we get an opportunity to get to know the characters better when they aren't scrambling in life or death crisis' constantly. There are some great discoveries revealed throughout the telling of the story that will have you just as excited as the citizens are. Also, thank goodness for well made maps to help visualize where all the characters are throughout the story! And now I have to wait ages for the next and I believe final book.

My Rating: Even though there wasn't as much action in this book as there was in the first, I was still fully invested in the story. There are some great twists, some fantastic character development and great plot movement that just keep the pages turning.  I am beyond excited for the next and final book and I can't help but give this one a rating of Four Paws and a Stump Wag!
Was this review helpful?