11 pages| CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform| Epic Fantasy|
This short story is part of the Art of War: Anthology for Charity collection available in ebook and physical format. I will be reviewing some of the stories as I work my way through the book and will ultimately post a ‘compilation’ review as I did for the first issue of Three Crows Magazine. You can buy the anthology online for about £5 – all proceeds going towards Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
The Breaking of the Sky – Ed McDonald is the first short story in the anthology, set in ‘The same world as The Raven’s Mark series… [set] long before the events of the first book.’ You don’t need to know anything about McDonald’s novels to understand this story, I had never heard of the series and didn’t feel like I missed anything at all.
In these 11-or-so pages McDonald expertly presents a snapshot of a larger narrative, encapsulating what it means to write an entertaining and compelling ‘short story’. There is no attempt to tell a completed tale or a character arc, the author instead taking one short episode of a saga (which I understand to be more fully explained in The Raven’s Mark series) and filling it with a believable point of view, three-dimensional characters, and speculative fiction elements in order to tell a good story. And it really is quite good – it seems to be to have been a perfect choice to kick-start the collection in style.
We follow a protagonist towards the end of his journey after being charged to protect and deliver a mysterious object for the military along with two other… outcasts whom he distrusts and dislikes. His world is at war with an enemy we know little about beyond their sheer numbers and strength; there are hints as to supernatural creates but they don’t feature here.
There isn’t much in the way of gruesome events here and not much action full stop really, so don’t think you’re going to meet something like Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns. The Breaking of the Sky is much more character-driven with elements of political (and social) satire taking the fore.
There are also a few small chuckles that I appreciated and helped to expound the essence of the protagonist: a bit of a bastard with little respect for doing the right thing, muddling along serving only his own interests until the end. I’m not sure if the protagonist features in other works from McDonald but I’d be interested in reading more about him even if I don’t like him as a person. It’s always nice when authors give you more than a typical hero/antihero – we seem to have neither here.
4/5. I am now eager to hunt down a copy of Blackwing (the first entry in this series) and find out exactly what on earth happened at the end of The Breaking of the Sky. I don’t feel as if I missed out by not already having that prior knowledge, instead, with the nods to and omissions of certain details acting as perfect points of intrigue and make me want to pick up the series.