Valour by John Gwynne
KAREEM MAHFOUZ SAYS . . .
So often you read a great book that leaves you thinking, ‘how the hell did he/she do it?’ I think I said that a hundred times while reading this. I will start by saying this is one of the hardest books to close, EVER! So if you start it, make sure you don’t have to be up early.
It pretty much picks up straight where Malice left off. You don’t have to wait very long to get thrown back into the action and once you’re in it, YOU ARE IN IT!
Valour has a huge cast of POVs and astonishingly, I found none of them boring. There is usually at least one when reading multiple POV’s that makes me skim through to the next chapter but there was no such thing here. Each story arc takes you on a really exciting journey, and the way each of them intertwines is done in such a way that refuses to let your posterior make it past the edge of your seat!
While Valour is epic fantasy, it very much centres around the characters and their individual journeys. Secondary characters are often as exciting, if not more! … coughs, splutters … Orgull! … ahem.
The most striking thing about the book is how for six hundred and more pages it just builds and builds. I’ve never know tension and pace like it! The action scenes are written in a way that puts you right there next to them. There are a lot of different styles of combat, often going on at once and amazingly there is no confusion.
As well as action there are some beautiful scenes amongst friends and family. You find yourself heavily invested in a lot of the characters and the emotion really radiates off the page. You get the impression John has drawn on some life experience and it really comes across.
There is a lot of perspective going on, by that I mean there is none of the traditional good vs evil. Characters believe utterly in the purpose of their quest, all the while the puppet masters pull this way and that, in an attempt to manipulate the outcome. Nothing is certain.
Quite often I found myself finishing chapters with a very wide smile and realised I had probably been like that for some time. Apologies to any who had to witness that. But, for that reason and many more I would say Valour is the best book I’ve read to date. Certainly the most enjoyable and I cant wait to get stuck into the third instalment, Ruin.
In fact, I’ll do just that!
J. P. ASHMAN SAYS . . .
Well I… wow… I… speechless.
What pacing. What characters. This series gets better and better. So many things happening, it’s a whirlwind of excitement and adventure, sorrow and fear; epic fantasy at its best!
John Gwynne has ramped it up in this book, and I loved the first one. Here’s to those I’ve yet to read.
Do yourself a favour and treat yourself to a series filed with warm and cold characters, subtle magic and brazen giants; pit fighters, beasts and epic battles. Valour has it all!
LAURA M. HUGHES SAYS . . .
Book two of The Faithful and the Fallen picks up almost exactly where book one left off, which was a little bit disorienting for me as it’s been a few months since I read Malice. However, everything started to come back to me after a few pages, and I was surprised at how much I remembered. Valour begins in the aftermath of huge events, and this instantly gives the book a slightly different atmosphere.
As with Malice, I really enjoyed the parts of the story that were set in the Celtic-influenced areas. The settings are beautiful and vivid, and the forests and mountains and castles distinctly brought to my mind the time I’ve spent in Wales and Scotland. However, a large part of the story also takes place in a Spartacus-like setting, which provides a nice sense of variation between chapters.
One of my main criticisms of the first book was the use of named POV chapters as popularised by GRRM. While the author does still use this format, he keeps it interesting by introducing several new and varied POV characters, and also by varying the length of the chapters, some of which are only a few pages long. The new POV character additions also help to address the imbalance of male and female characters, which is always a good thing.
It was nice to see the characters from Malice grow and develop, particularly the younger ones, who were essentially children in the previous book; and the growing focus on characters who were barely even mentioned in the first book of The Faithful and the Fallen really begins to hint at the grand scale the series is intending to achieve.