Malice by John Gwynne
J. P. ASHMAN SAYS . . .
I don’t know where to start, since I’m worried I won’t do Malice or John Gwynne justice with my review. Here goes…
I frikkin’ loved it! How’s that? It’s the truth!
The first book in this series is slow to get going, but not in a boring way. It paves the way for multiple POV’s (a single POV per chapter) and really builds each one well. By half way through, to two thirds, you really feel like you know the characters. You fear for some, snarl at others, trust a few and narrow your eyes in distrust of one or two, at least. It has you guessing who will do what, who will tread what path, until… Bam! The final third is a powerhouse of action, intrigue, answers and more questions; revelations, clashes of will and might and friends and foes. New enemies and old all come together in what is set – I have no doubt – to be in my top three fantasy series ever. EVER!. I have already bought Valour and Ruin. I can’t wait to get stuck in! There were some other physical books on my TBR pile that I have on the shelf (I read ‘real’ books and eBooks side by side), but I think Valour shall jump to the top of that pile and I shall start it right away. I can’t not.
Epic fantasy in the truest sense, both through scale of scenes and depth of characters alike. Monsters and magic (although both subtle – but not too subtle – at this point, hinting at much much more), giants and warriors galore. It brings an every day life in a wonderful world to its knees and promises to excite with the war that comes… has now started, in truth. I’m rambling now, I think. Just do yourself a favour and buy it! Buy them all! If you like epics such as Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen or GRRM’s work, then you’ll love ‘The Faithful and The Fallen’ series.
Huge thanks to Kareem for recommending this with such passion, I understand why you did! And a huge thanks to John himself, for writing such a great saga and for being a top bloke to boot.
I’m off now, to work on my own series. I feel inspired!
LAURA M. HUGHES SAYS . . .
Malice is the first novel of The Faithful and the Fallen. Gwynne’s debut has a Celtic, almost historical feel, with character and place names such as Dun Carreg, Cywen, Gwenith, Mordwyr, Dath etc., and with its use of dialect, such as ‘aye’ and ‘bairn’, which creates a great atmosphere. At the same time, however, the book also has a strangely dystopian feel, being set in desolate lands in an era following an apocalyptic event known as the Gods-War. It’s an interesting combination.
I found Malice to be a little slow to begin with. There are times when it felt like I was reading every little detail of everything that happens, particularly to the children, and I felt that this made it a little bit repetitive. However, it picks up after a while, and by the end I wanted to start straight away on the next book. The characters are interesting as well as ambiguous, and the way the author switches between different points of view creates tension and pace very effectively, often reminding me of A Song of Ice and Fire in this respect.
Another aspect of the novel that I felt was reminiscent of GRRM was the characters themselves, several of whom are morally ambiguous. Yet most of them are likeable, or at the very least sympathetic, and it’s really interesting to see them change, particularly those who are being subtly manipulated. The characters are all very different – we have the blacksmith’s son Corban (my personal favourite PoV), his fiery knife-throwing sister Cywen, the skilled archer and former brigand Camlin, the gentle giant-hunter (and unwilling noble heir) Kastell, and finally Veradis, the first-sword and blood-brother to an unwitting servant of Asroth. All these characters are very different in their own ways, and it’s not immediately clear how they relate to one another, but as the plot unfolds we begin to see how they each might be involved in the grand scheme of things.
The Faithful and the Fallen is clearly intended to be a sweeping epic series, with conflict spreading across the entire world and involving gods and monsters. However, there are some nice personal moments that stand out in my memory, namely involving Corban, such as the naming of his horse (Shield) and his defence of the wolven cub Storm. It would be nice to see more of these, and perhaps more character-driven scenes within battles, which are often described in ways that give more of an overview than a one-to-one account.
Malice won the Gemmell Morningstar Award for best debut novelr, and although I haven’t read any of the other books that were shortlisted for this one, I can understand why this one made the list. Slow to start with, but intriguing, and improving in pace and intensity with every chapter. As Conn Iggulden announces on the cover: it’s a ‘hell of a debut’. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.