The Daughter of Redwinter by Ed McDonald


The Daughter of Redwinter


Ed McDonald 

Those who see the dead soon join them.
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.

Pity she might have to die for that to happen…

This is my first introduction to Ed McDonald’s work (even though I have had his Raven’s Mark series on my kindle for absolutely ages) and I have to say I was very impressed, and I found it to be a satisfying read that has also made sure that I will be going back and reading his first trilogy as soon as I can.

Daughter of Redwinter centres around seventeen year old Raine. When we first meet her, she is saving the life of another young woman who has travelled to the north of the country where the story is set. We soon learn that Raine is holed up in an old monastery awaiting an attack from a local lord. Not only are we thrust into this particular situation where we have no clue what's going , but we immediately learn that Raine can see dead people (which is referred to mainly as Grave Sight in the book, but we learn that it is also part of the wider magical system of ‘Gates’ called Skal).

As the first part of the story progresses, things just get thrown at us. We learn that Raine is part of a wider group of an alternative religion that follows a trio of Seers and that the local lord believes tha they have the Grave Sight, which is seen as inherently evil and is punishable by death. 

When Raine saves Hazia, she subsequently sets off a series of events. You see Hazia is a hunted woman. She is hunted by a small band of Draoihn who are the magic users, and vehemently uphold the Crown’s laws. When she takes in Hazia, we see the release of an ancient evil which has devastating results for Raine and leaves her going back to Redwinter with the Draoihn as a witness to the events at the monastery. 

Now, as a first-time reader to Ed McDonald’s books, one of the first things that I found that immediately engaged me in the book was his prose. The prose on the whole picked me up and swept me away and I was immediately engaged with the book. Not only does he write well-paced action scenes, but the lulls in between the action were equally as engaging. In fact, it was in the lulls of the story that the prose really shone for me, I found it made me want to keep on reading.
As I really did not know what to expect with the book, it took me a while to adjust to Ed McDonald’s style and the differences in pace. Initially, the story throws you in at the deep end and you have to hit the ground running. However, as we get to the second act, the pace slows down considerably as we enter a change in environment and are introduced to the real cast of characters. Not only that, but we also follow Raine as both her environment changes and so does Raine’s sense of self. 

I have to say that I loved Raine as a character, and I enjoyed seeing her journey as an individual. Initially when we start the book, we see Raine as someone who makes bad decisions, but she is passionate. However, when we come to the end of the first act, we see a different Raine who has been affected by the events that she has endured and also the changes that are forced upon her as she enters the service of the Draoihn. We join her in her journey as she undergoes a transformation to a different Raine that we meet at the end of the book and how she finds herself something akin to a family. I made loads of notes in the book, but the one that stands out is this one -

“Man is ever bound by obligations, but to lose them gives no freedom but abandonment”

For me, this perfectly sums up Raine’s journey. Throughout the book she does not adhere to any obligations, and she does not feel tied to anybody, which has been a theme throughout her life, and as we go through the story, we observe Raine actually find these things, to feel a part of something.

In addition to this, Raine is a teenager, and one of the things that Ed McDonald does really well is to allow the characters to be teenagers, struggling to work out how to be an adult while still being immature enough to be a child, and also all the questionable decisions that come with this. 
The plot itself is an interesting one, full of mystery, backstabbing and about turns that confound you. However, the mystery aspect does not become as apparent until it cleverly takes centre stage in the third act. That is not to say that it is not there, it just that in the second act it takes a backseat to Raine’s development. I have to say I found this really clever and absorbing, particularly how the setup is carefully planned out in the background.

The other things that stood out for me was the setting and the lore of the world. Seldom have I seen a fantasy set in a Scottish Highlands themed backdrop. And the incorporation of the folklore of Scotland really sets it apart. I loved the fae aspect of the land and the myths that were interwoven with the story.  

The world building is masterfully done. It is seamlessly integrated into the plot, and it is not until you take a step back you notice how skilfully it is woven into the tapestry of the story that I had those wow moments. 

There is no way that you can not mention the magic system in this book. I was wholly taken with it. The magic system is split into different parts and is really good how each separate aspect of the magic system can be explored, which I am hoping may come up in a later book, and I think that is all I am going to tell you on this because you have to experience the book for yourself.

Now, I think I am done raving about how good this book is. Now just go and read it for yourselves and discover the magic of Daughter of Redwinter. 



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