Malice by John Gwynne | The Faithful and the Fallen #1 | Book Review

Synopsis

The Banished Lands has a violent past where armies of men and giants clashed in battle. An uneasy peace reigns, but now giants stir once more, the very stones weep blood and there are sightings of gigantic worms. Those who can still read the signs see a prophecy realised: sorrow will darken the world, as angels and demons make it their battlefield.

Young Corban watches enviously as boys become warriors and yearns to join them, determined that he will make his family proud. It is only when everything he knows is threatened that he discovers the true cost of becoming a man.

As the Kings look to their borders, and priests beg answers from the Gods, only a chosen few know that the fate of the world will be decided between two champions, the Black Sun and the Bright Star. And with their coming will be a war to end all wars.

Review

Book one in the Faithful and the Fallen series by John Gwynne has all of the elements associated with classic fantasy. The ‘chosen one’ and ‘good vs evil’ tropes being the main ones here. You may be groaning and wishing to read a fantasy book that doesn’t place so much emphasis on such well known, well overused tropes. Don’t be fooled. Malice is extremely deceptive.

This is my first Gwynne book and from page one I could instantly see he is a master storyteller. Malice is full of page turning prose, a slow burning plot that grows darker and more brutal as time goes by, and a complex, yet defined world full of intricacies that kept me intrigued even with the smallest of details. Gwynne has an easy to read writing style that never made me feel out of depth reading such a high, epic fantasy. I never felt compelled to go back and read paragraphs because the writing easily allowed each sentence to flow on the page. By the end of the book I was able to see just how clever the writing in this book is. Gwynne drops information relating to characters or the plot in a subtle manner that you may not even notice the relevance of why it’s included… until you get to the end and suddenly it all makes sense. This may be my first Gwynne book but it’s already established Gwynne as a potential favourite author.

In this book we follow multiple character perspectives. This can be quite confusing for many (myself included), but I found each character’s voice was so distinct that they never blended into one. I was thoroughly intrigued by each perspective (although I did prefer certain ones, such as Corban and Veradis, over other characters). To begin with the plot is slow, with Gwynne placing more of a focus on developing his characters, but the pay off is worth it. By doing this, Gwynne allows you to get to know these characters, to help you understand who they are and what motivates them. Even before I got halfway through the book, I was already so invested in these characters.

Yet don’t be fooled, the plot may begin at a slower pace than you might like, but there is plenty of action to be found in the 628 pages of this book. From battles and betrayals, Malice is jammed packed with brushes with danger, near misses, and revelations you won’t ever see coming. This is not a light-hearted fantasy. The battles are brutal and bloody… and no one is safe.

Rating

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