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Malice (The Faithful and the Fallen Book 1) Kindle Edition
The world is broken. . .and it can never be made whole again.
Corban wants nothing more than to be a warrior under King Brenin's rule -- to protect and serve. But that day will come all too soon. And the price he pays will be in blood.
Evnis has sacrificed -- too much it seems. But what he wants -- the power to rule -- will soon be in his grasp. And nothing will stop him once he has started on his path.
Veradis is the newest member of the warband for the High Prince, Nathair. He is one of the most skilled swordsman to come out of his homeland, yet he is always under the shadow of his older brother.
Nathair has ideas -- and a lot of plans. Many of them don't involve his father, the High King Aquilus. Nor does he agree with his father's idea to summon his fellow kings to council.
The Banished Lands has a violent past where armies of men and giants clashed in battle, the earth running dark with their heartsblood. Now, the stones weep red and giant wyrms stir, and those who can still read the signs see a danger far worse than all that has come before. . .
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
By John Gwynne
All rights reserved.
The Year 1140 of the Age of Exiles, Birth Moon
Corban watched the spider spinning its web in the grass between his feet, legsworking tirelessly as it wove its thread between a small rock and a clump ofgrass. Dewdrops suddenly sparkled. Corban looked up and blinked as sunlightspilt across the meadow.
The morning had been a colourless grey when his attention first wandered. Hismother was deep in conversation with a friend, and so he'd judged it safe for awhile to crouch down and study the spider at his feet. He considered it far moreinteresting than the couple preparing to say their vows in front of him, even ifone of them was blood kin to Queen Alona, wife of King Brenin. I'll standwhen I hear old Heb start the handbinding, or when Mam sees me, he thought.
'Hello, Ban,' a voice said, as something solid collided with his shoulder.Crouched and balancing on the balls of his feet as he was, he could do littleother than fall on his side in the wet grass.
'Corban, what are you doing down there?' his mam cried, reaching down andhoisting him to his feet. He glimpsed a grinning face behind her as he wasroughly brushed down.
'How long, I asked myself this morning,' his mam muttered as shevigorously swatted at him. 'How long before he gets his new cloak dirty?Well, here's my answer: before sun-up.'
'It's past sun-up, Mam,' Corban corrected, pointing at the sun on the horizon.
'None of your cheek,' she replied, swiping harder at his cloak. 'Nearly fourteensummers old and you still can't stop yourself rolling in the mud. Now, payattention, the ceremony is about to start.'
'Gwenith,' her friend said, leaning over and whispering in his mam's ear. Shereleased Corban and looked over her shoulder.
'Thanks a lot, Dath,' Corban muttered to the grinning face shuffling closer tohim.
'Don't mention it,' said Dath, his smile vanishing when Corban punched his arm.
His mam was still looking over her shoulder, up at Dun Carreg. The ancientfortress sat high above the bay, perched on its hulking outcrop of rock. Hecould hear the dull roar of the sea as waves crashed against sheer cliffs,curtains of sea-spray leaping up the crag's pitted surface. A column of riderswound their way down the twisting road from the fortress' gates and canteredinto the meadow. Their horses' hooves drummed on the turf, rumbling like distantthunder.
At the head of the column rode Brenin, Lord of Dun Carreg and King of all Ardan,his royal torc and chainmail coat glowing red in the first rays of morning. Onone side of him rode Alona, his wife, on the other Edana, their daughter. Closebehind them cantered Brenin's grey-cloaked shieldmen.
The column of riders skirted the crowd, hooves spraying clods of turf as theypulled to a halt. Gar, stablemaster of Dun Carreg, along with a dozenstablehands, took their mounts towards huge paddocks in the meadow. Corban sawhis sister Cywen amongst them, dark hair blowing in the breeze. She was smilingas if it was her nameday, and he smiled too as he watched her.
Brenin and his queen walked to the front of the crowd, followed closely byEdana. Their shieldmen's spear-tips glinted like flame in the rising sun.
Heb the loremaster raised his arms.
'Fionn ap Torin, Marrock ben Rhagor, why do you come here on this first day ofthe Birth Moon. Before your kin, before sea and land, before your king?'
Marrock looked at the silent crowd. Corban caught a glimpse of the scars thatraked one side of the young man's face, testament of his fight to the death witha wolven from the Darkwood, the forest that marked the northern border of Ardan.He smiled at the woman beside him, his scarred skin wrinkling, and raised hisvoice.
'To declare for all what has long been in our hearts. To pledge and bindourselves, one to the other.'
'Then make your pledge,' Heb cried.
The couple joined hands, turned to face the crowd and sang the traditional vowsin loud clear voices.
When they were finished, Heb clasped their hands in his. He pulled out a pieceof embroidered cloth from his robe, then wrapped and tied it around the couple'sjoined hands.
'So be it,' he cried, 'and may Elyon look kindly on you both.'
Strange, thought Corban, that we still pray to the All-Father, whenhe has abandoned us.
'Why do we pray to Elyon?' he asked his mam.
'Because the loremasters tell us he will return, one day. Those that stayfaithful will be rewarded. And the Ben-Elim may be listening.' She lowered hervoice. 'Better safe than sorry,' she added with a wink.
The crowd broke out in cheers as the couple raised their bound hands in the air.
'Let's see if you're both still smiling tonight,' said Heb, laughter ripplingamongst the crowd.
Queen Alona strode forward and embraced the couple, King Brenin just behind,giving Marrock such a slap on the back that he nearly sent his nephew over thebay's edge.
Dath nudged Corban in the ribs. 'Let's go,' he whispered. They edged into thecrowd, Gwenith calling them just before they disappeared.
'Where are you two off to?'
'Just going to have a look round, Mam,' Corban replied. Traders had gatheredfrom far and wide for the spring festival, along with many of Brenin's baronscome to witness Marrock's handbinding. The meadow was dotted with scores oftents, cattle-pens and roped-off areas for various contests and games, andpeople: hundreds, it must be, more than Corban had ever seen gathered inone place before. Corban and Dath's excitement had been growing daily, to thepoint where time had seemed to crawl by, and now finally the day was here.
'All right,' Gwenith said. 'You both be careful.' She reached into her shawl andpressed something into Corban's hand: a silver piece.
'Go and have a good time,' she said, cupping his cheek in her hand. 'Be backbefore sunset. I'll be here with your da, if he's still standing.'
''Course he will be, Mam,' Corban said. His da, Thannon, would be competing inthe pugil-ring today. He had been fist champion for as long as Corban couldremember.
Corban leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. 'Thank you, Mam,' he grinned,then turned and bolted into the crowd, Dath close behind him.
'Look after your new cloak,' she called out, smiling.
The two boys soon stopped running and walked along the meadow's edge thatskirted the beach and the bay, seals sunning themselves on the shore. Gullscircled and called above them, lured by the smell of food wafting from the firesand tents in the meadow.
'A silver coin,' said Dath. 'Let me see it.'
Corban opened his palm, the coin damp now with sweat where he had been clutchingit so tightly.
'Your mam's soft on you, eh, Ban?'
'I know,' replied Corban, feeling awkward. He knew Dath only had a couple ofcoppers, and it had taken him moons to earn that, working for his father ontheir fishing boat. 'Here,' he said, delving into a leather pouch hanging at hisbelt, 'have these.' He held out three coppers that he had earned from his da,sweating in his forge.
'No thanks,' Dath said with a frown. 'You're my friend, not my master.'
'I didn't mean it like that, Dath. I just thought–I've got plenty now, andfriends share, don't they?'
The frown hovered a moment, then passed. 'I know, Ban.' Dath looked away, out tothe boats bobbing on the swell of the bay. 'Just wish my mam was still here togo soft on me.'
Corban grimaced, not knowing what to say. The silence grew. 'Maybe your da's gotmore coin for you, Dath,' he said, to break the silence as much as anything.
'No chance of that,' Dath snorted. 'I was surprised to see this coin–mostof it fills his cups these days. Come on, let's go and find something to spendit on.'
The sun had risen high above the horizon now, bathing the meadow in warmth,banishing the last remnants of the dawn cold as the boys made their way amongstthe crowd and traders' tents.
'I didn't think there were this many people in all the village and Dun Carregput together,' said Dath, grunting as someone jostled past him.
'People have come much further than the village and fortress, Dath,' murmuredCorban. They strolled on for a while, just enjoying the sun and the atmosphere.Soon they found themselves near the centre of the meadow, where men werebeginning to gather around an area of roped-off grass. The sword-crossing ring.
'Shall we stay, get a good spot?' Corban said.
'Nah, they won't be starting for an age. Besides, everyone knows Tull is goingto win.'
''Course,' Dath sniffed. 'He's not the King's first-sword for nothing. I'veheard he cut a man in two with one blow.'
'I've heard that too,' said Corban. 'But he's not as young as he was. Some sayhe's slowing down.'
Dath shrugged. 'Maybe. We can come back later and see how long it takes him tocrack someone's head, but let's wait till the competition's warmed up a bit,eh?'
'All right,' said Corban, then cuffed his friend across the back of the head andran, Dath shouting as he gave chase. Corban dodged this way and that aroundpeople. He looked over his shoulder to check where Dath was, then suddenlytripped and sprawled forwards, landing on a large skin that had been spread onthe floor. It was covered with torcs, bone combs, arm-bands, brooches, allmanner of items. Corban heard a low rumbling growl as he scrambled back to hisfeet, Dath skidding to a halt behind him.
Corban looked around at the scattered merchandise and began gathering up allthat he could see, but in his urgency he fumbled and dropped most of it again.
'Whoa, boy, less haste, more speed.'
Corban looked up and saw a tall wiry man staring down at him. He had long darkhair tied tight at his neck. Behind the man were all sorts of goods spread aboutan open-fronted tent: hides, swords, daggers, horns, jugs, tankards, horseharness, all hanging from the framework of the tent or laid out neatly on tablesand skins.
'You have nothing to worry about from me, boy, there's no harm done,' the tradersaid as he gathered up his merchandise. 'Talar, however, is a different matter.'He gestured to an enormous, grey-streaked hound that had risen to its feetbehind Corban. It growled. 'He doesn't take kindly to being trodden on ortripped over; he may well want some recompense.'
'Aye. Blood, flesh, bone. Maybe your arm, something like that.'
Corban swallowed and the trader laughed, bending over, one hand braced on hisknee. Dath sniggered behind him.
'I am Ventos,' the trader offered when he recovered, 'and this is my faithful,though sometimes grumpy friend, Talar.' Ventos clicked his fingers and the largehound padded over to his side, nuzzling the trader's palm.
'Never fear, he's already eaten this morning, so you are both quite safe.'
'I'm Dath,' blurted the fisherman's son, 'and this is Ban–I mean, Corban.I've never seen a hound so big,' he continued breathlessly, 'not even your da's,eh, Ban?'
Corban nodded, eyes still fixed on the mountain of fur at the trader's side. Hewas used to hounds, had grown up with them, but this beast before him wasconsiderably bigger. As he looked at it the hound growled again, a low rumbledeep in its belly.
'Don't look so worried, boy.'
'I don't think he likes me,' Corban said. 'He doesn't sound happy.'
'If you heard him when he's not happy you'd know the difference. I've heard itenough on my travels between here and Helveth.'
'Isn't Helveth where Gar's from, Ban?' asked Dath.
'Aye,' Corban muttered.
'Who's Gar?' the trader asked.
'Friend of my mam and da,' Corban said.
'He's a long way from home, too, then,' Ventos said. 'Whereabouts in Helveth ishe from?'
Corban shrugged. 'Don't know.'
'A man should always know where he's from,' the trader said, 'we all need ourroots.'
'Uhh,' grunted Corban. He usually asked a lot of questions–toomany, so his mam told him–but he didn't like being on the receiving end somuch.
A shadow fell across Corban, a firm hand gripping his shoulder.
'Hello, Ban,' said Gar, the stablemaster.
'We were just talking about you,' Dath said. 'About where you're from.'
'What?' said the stablemaster, frowning.
'This man is from Helveth,' Corban said, gesturing at Ventos.
'I'm Ventos,' said the trader. 'Where in Helveth?'
Gar looked at the merchandise hung about the tent. 'I'm looking for harness anda saddle. Fifteen-span mare, wide back.' He ignored the trader's question.
'Fifteen spans? Aye, I'm sure I've got something for you back here,' repliedVentos. 'I have some harness I traded with the Sirak. There's none finer.'
'I'd like to see that.' Gar followed Ventos into the tent, limping slightly asalways.
With that the boys began browsing through Ventos' tent. In no time Corban had anarmful of things. He picked out a wide iron-studded collar for his da's hound,Buddai, a brooch of pewter with a galloping horse embossed on it for his sister,a dress-pin of silver with a red enamel inset for his mother and two sturdypractice swords for Dath and himself. Dath had picked out two clay tankards,waves of blue coral decorating them.
Corban raised an eyebrow.
'Might as well get something my da'll actually use.'
'Why two?' asked Corban.
'If you cannot vanquish a foe,' he said sagely, 'then ally yourself to him.' Hewinked.
'No tankard for Bethan, then?' said Corban.
'My sister does not approve of drinking,' replied Dath.
Just then Gar emerged from the inner tent with a bundle of leather slung overhis back, iron buckles clinking as he walked. The stablemaster grunted at Corbanand walked into the crowd.
'Looks like you've picked up a fine collection for yourselves,' the trader saidto them.
'Why are these wooden swords so heavy?' asked Dath.
'Because they are practice swords. They have been hollowed out and filled withlead, good for building up the strength of your sword arm, get you used to theweight and balance of a real blade, and they don't kill you when you lose orslip.'
'How much for all of these,' Corban asked.
Ventos whistled. 'Two and a half silvers.'
'Would you take this if we leave the two swords?' Corban showed the trader hissilver piece and three coppers.
'And these?' said Dath, quickly adding his two coppers.
Corban gave him their coin, put the items into a leather bag that Dath had beenkeeping a slab of dry cheese and a skin of water in.
'Maybe I'll see you lads tonight, at the feast.'
'We'll be there,' said Corban. As they reached the crowd beyond the tent Ventoscalled out to them and threw the practice swords. Instinctively Corban caughtone, hearing Dath yelp in pain. Ventos raised a finger to his lips and winked.Corban grinned in return. A practice sword, a proper one, not fashioned outof a stick from his back garden. Just a step away from a real sword. Healmost shivered at the excitement of that thought.
They wandered aimlessly for a while, Corban marvelling at the sheer numbers ofthe crowd, at the entertainments clamouring for his attention: tale-tellers,puppet-masters, fire-breathers, sword-jugglers, many, many more. He squeezedthrough a growing crowd, Dath in his wake, and watched as a piglet was releasedsquealing from its cage, a score or more of men chasing it, falling over eachother as the piglet dodged this way and that. They laughed as a tall ganglywarrior from the fortress finally managed to throw himself onto the animal andraise it squeaking over his head. The crowd roared and laughed as he was awardeda skin of mead for his efforts.
Moving on again, Corban led them back to the roped-off ring where the sword-crossing was to take place. There was quite a crowd gathered now, all watchingTull, first-sword of the King.
The boys climbed a boulder at the back of the crowd to see better, made shortwork of Dath's slab of cheese and watched as Tull, stripped to the waist, hisupper body thick and corded as an old oak, effortlessly swatted his assailant tothe ground with a wooden sword. Tull laughed, arms spread wide as his opponentjumped to his feet and ran at him again. Their practice swords clackedas Tull's attacker rained rapid blows on the King's champion, causing him tostep backwards.
'See,' said Corban, elbowing his friend and spitting crumbs of cheese, 'he's introuble now.' But, as they watched, Tull quickly sidestepped, belying his size,and struck his off-balance opponent across the back of the knees, sending himsprawling on his face in the churned ground. Tull put a foot on the man's backand punched the air. The crowd clapped and cheered as the fallen warrior writhedin the mud, pinned by Tull's heavy boot.
--This text refers to the paperback edition.
Excerpted from Malice by John Gwynne. Copyright © 2013 John Gwynne. Excerpted by permission of Orbit.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
"Influenced by Gemmell's Rigante and George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones ... Hell of a debut."―Conn Iggulden
"Middle Earth-ish extravaganza with all the usual thrills, chills, spills and frills ... there's plenty of action."―Kirkus
"Three-dimensional characters, a gripping plot, and a world that became real to me ... this is the type of fantasy I love to read and I truly can't wait to read the next volume in The Faith and the Fallen!"―Fantasy Book Critic
"John Gwynne hits all the right spots in his epic tale of good vs evil . . . there's a lot of pleasure to be had in this debut novel; Gwynne is definitely one to watch."―SFX
"Warring clans, sleeping giants, Banished Lands and omens and portents ... a strong contender for 'if you like Game of Thrones, why not try this?' award."―Independent --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B00BL3P47Y
- Publisher : Orbit (December 3, 2013)
- Publication date : December 3, 2013
- Language : English
- File size : 2460 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 648 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #31,883 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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Now, with that out of the way, I will continue to read the series because I like the characters and I knew in general, or at least hoped I knew how it was going to end..the journey is the goal in this instance. It is a testament to the author's ability to engage me as a reader and make me want to follow the journey, EVEN THOUGH I KNOW HOW IT ENDS! grrrr
Was it perfect? nope. Was it worth the read? yes! I found some of the tried and true fantasy tropes still alive and well in this novel, however, let me just say..nothing is new under the sun. How the author chooses to craft these tropes into something, if not entirely original is still engaging enough to turn the page..here I believe Gywnne did excellent work.
I enjoyed the cast of characters and while not as fleshed out as I typically like, I'm thinking the remaining books should do that and I am willing to give the next one a whirl.
It's always a mission of mine to find new authors to read. Whether they are indie authors or names I just haven't heard of before...then I stalk them. Okay, I don't stalk them, but I follow what they are writing and will continue to read their works, as long as they stay good. By putting together a well crafted, what I believe is a first novel, Gywnne has joined that list I'm happy to say.
The only issue i have with these books are some choppy action sequences, a few two dimensional characters (hoping this changes). Well done...and please please fix that darn excerpt at the end of book 1.
Most of the critical reviews stated that the book was filled with the usual tropes, that the story lacked originality and many of the story lines were contrived. To them I say so what. Aren't most novels in this genre?
Granted there were many things here we have seen before, but I felt there was plenty of originality and each character's POV was well thought out and well written. It was a novel I felt familiar with from the start and it didn't take long to settle right in to the narrative.
The only negatives I found were a lack of world building and an underdeveloped magic system, although the story line does hint at more to the magic in future books. Also, based on the fact that I see there are four books, I'm confident the author will add to the world building.
I plan on purchasing the next book immediately and I am looking forward to moving through the series quickly. I would highly recommend this book to someone looking for an enjoyable new series to start.
My first and foremost gripe is that Gywnne seems to not be able to keep track of his characters. Just now I read that Alana and Cywen were approaching Corban and Dath, and Cywen (not sure because POV is pretty fluid, another problem, particularly when these two females are together: one of the womens is talking/thinking, but we don't care which because WOMENS) notes that the wolf (also, why not just make her a wolf instead of some fantasy extra-wolf??) is at Corban's feet. But after they reach Corban and Dath, without Corban moving at all (I went back and checked, twice, another thing I found myself doing all the time with this book as objects and people randomly move around so much), the wolf is suddenly coming out from behind a boulder. This is almost constant.
The passage of time is a similar issue: it doesn't seem like Veradis has been with Nathair for terribly long (they just did the one mission) at the point when he returns home for the first time, but they all act like it's been years and years. The pacing is just all off.
Another huge problem is that everyone we meet gets a name, whether they are going to be important or not. So there's a ton of POV characters already, and I can handle that, but ordinarily the naming of the person is a signal to the reader to pay attention. Many false signals here. In addition, introducing a brand new POV character about a third of the way in was super awkward feeling. I will also add that I'm halfway through and only just beginning to decide who is the bad guy is going to be of all these POV characters.
Repetitive descriptors: when Nathair follows Meical into the stable, Meical's horse's eyes are described as "dark and liquid." Then not even two pages later: Meical's eyes are described as "dark and liquid." Though to be clear, I actually have no idea what anyone looks like, except "Ronan" has freckles. Not sure who Ronan is, he just appeared. It's like all the characters have these relationships with each other already but we don't get to know anything about that. (Because no character development.) Except that Alana is suddenly making friends with all these local kids who she's just now met for the first time: that isn't believable. If she could meet and interact with them so easily, that is a relationship that would actually already exist.
Some more: why is time described as "half a ten-day?" That's literally 5 days, so just say that. Why is Nathair eating a plum before Midsummer? Most fruit doesn't ripen until later in the summer (this would have been a great time to make up some fantasy fruit, BTW). Basically, if the author wants to do to a little world-building and so uses some made up things, fine. Excellent even. But when the author is borrowing from real things, it needs to work. Like plums get ripe after Midsummer in northern hemisphere-ish type countries, and a week has seven days and a month around 28, etc. Lots of fantasy books use old timey words like "league" and "fortnight" and yes, "score" (too much used here) to add that medival patina and keep things unconfusing for the reader.
Lastly, the dialogue. It's used all the time to advance the plot, but in the wrong way. I was just now reading a very boring and stilted scene where the aforementioned kiddos are on the beach and Alana is telling them her father's plans for pages and pages. You know what would be much less dull? Letting us, the readers, hear the King's plans when firsthand throught the kiddos. Also less grunting. The characters are always grunting.
Anyway, halfway though, just watching these characters do stuff, no building toward anything. Plus there was the killing of all the wolves scene, which was just awful to read for a dog lover. I'm out. Life's too short to read bad books.
Top reviews from other countries
Boy was I glad I stuck in there, finally after a few weeks of reading and wondering why I was wasting my time, BOOM everything begins to come together in a masterful blend of action, heart break and understanding of John Gwynne's vision for this series. You gradually find yourself getting a feeling of building tension when suddenly the plot line suddenly comes together in a rushing realization of great story telling. At this point I couldn't put the book down, so many betrayals, unexpected deaths and alliances, and gory action kept me engulfed where I read the final 40% of the book in about 3 days.
By the end I felt an attachment to the main protagonists, and sympathy for the blind loyalty that some of the characters had for their masters, competently unaware of their evil. I enjoyed the transition Corban has into adulthood, and Veradis' coming to understand he's going to be playing a big part in the events of his prince - finally the unexpected two or three pages that stole the entire show from nowhere with Gar and Nathair's bodyguards.
I've read a lot of fantasy books in my time, by damn the second half of this book was right up there with the best. ABSOLUTLEY worth a read.
The book moves between different character PoVs, which is fairly common these days, but I found some of the characters to be indistinguishable. For the first third of the book, if the PoV was Camlin, Kastell or Veradis I struggled to remember who he was or what he had been doing. This did start to improve around the halfway mark, but it is quite a slog at times to remember the events preceding this chapter.
The bulk of the book, however, follows Corban, a young blacksmith's son hoping to become a warrior some day, but is stuck working his da's forge, helping stablemaster Gar or apprenticing to healer Brina. His development over the book is well told, he doesn't suddenly become a master swordsman but at the same time we don't have to sit through chapter after chapter of him learning sword forms (Rand al Thor could learn a lot from Corban!).
Along the way, Corban has also become friends with a wild wolven (giant wolves hunted near extinction), whom he raised from a pup. Yes, exactly like the Stark children in GoT. Leave it.
The political intrigue and manoeuvring throughout the book is great as events seeming to be based on one king/queen's ambitions actually turn out to be based on another's treachery.
The battle scenes are well told and believable without the main characters always escaping unscathed.
The book finished with a number of deceptions uncovered and the main group of characters fleeing for their lives, with more secrets to be uncovered.
On the plus side, the author has a way with words that engages and makes the reader want to complete the series. Corban's progress is a bit erratic, though, and there came a point where I seriously contemplated stopping reading when a particular line of development was simply cast aside. And most of the characters start to feel like facets of a primary character (even the bad guys), which is probably inevitable when so many people are being characterised.
The series is a good read, but no romp. For the nature of the plot, this should never have exceeded three volumes, and the amount of different perspectives tended to drag things out almost to the point where the reader began to wonder when a particular episode would finally finish and a new start.
It is boderline whether I would recommend this book/series. It has some good twists, and the author executes a few good RR Martin moments that don't feel too contrived, but this needs to be weighed against the sheer effort required to get to the end of four heavy volumes.
John Gwynne what have you done?! Malice was just FREAKING amazing! I can honestly say I loved and devoured every bit of it, so much so that I'm having a hard time forming words - maybe emojis would better express how I felt!
😁😁 😱😱 🙈🙈 😭😭 - these are all the stages I went through whilst reading!
The book starts off a bit slow, there is a lot of world building and a lot of character development, and there had to be really because there are a lot of characters to set up, a lot of POV's to get into. This didn't put me off at all though, it was all really interesting, both the characters and the world. It just highlighted what I love about high fantasy, you get fully immersed into this world. You feel like you're apart of it all, you're there with the characters. Strange to say but it felt like being right at home!
A few characters I really liked were Corban - his story of personal growth was something I really loved. His sister Cywen was also cool - being female she was pretty restricted in her role within the castle but she still found ways to train and defend herself and she had a lot of bravery within her. Gar - the crippled stablemaster was amazing and his identity kept hooked, but I won't say too much about him. Brina (the witch!) was really amusing, as was her crow Craf! Kastell - the giant killer was also a favourite.
Along with these characters there was also monsters! Great big huge snakes called White Wryms, an army of giant ants and various clans of giants. Not to mention my favourite the huge wolven. Oh and a magical cauldron!
I never mention too much about the plot because I think it's best to discover it all for yourself. I will say though that there is a really exciting and something quite unique about this plot. Essentially there is a war between gods, between good and evil yes, but trust me the events in this book are more complicated and the key thing to remember is, it all depends on 'whose side you're on'. Intriguing, right?
There is also the thirst for power, the rivalries between kings and queens, and betrayals galore. You know any book I love is going to have amazing violent battles, and this one has them in plenty. Towards the end these battles were literally non stop! So much happened.
I'd say Malice has elements of both Wheel of Time and Game of Thrones, and I praise Gwynne for having this well crafted book as his debut. Bring on the sequel Valour! ⚔️
This initial book in terms of pacing is actually fairly slow, however it sets the ground for an amazing adventure that speeds up massively and by book 4 you will be hard to tear your eyes away. However what it does mean is the initial part of this book can be a bit slow and I imagine people giving up part way though, but keep at it. Similarly it has gone down the Game of Thrones route with multiple POV’s. This also makes it somewhat hard combined with the initial slow pacing of the book to get into, but rewards you with dividends by the end.
The book and series keeps to the theme of good vs evil, something done a million times in the genre, but as the books and series evolve, the series gets darker and the series more complex with multiple strands, but amazingly still easy to follow by that stage.
The characters, more so the primary ones tend to fall easily on the side of good or bad, however there are a few who fall within the grey area and as a result keeps things more interesting. By the end of book 4 these characters have grown amazingly and some are the most memorable characters I have read to date and even within this book we see them grow substantially. Heck by the end of the series I think I was weeping over some characters. I also love the ladies of this book, unlike many others the ladies in this book are just as baddass as the guys. In some series women tend to come off worse but no so here.
The world itself is rich and vibrant with details explained well enough without going over the top (AKA Wheel of time). You can believe it’s a real and dynamic world with the map giving an idea of the topology. The animals the roam the place and form bond with the people add a further depth and some relationships are detailed extremely well.
Something also well done it the battle scenes. They are not perfect, but they are written very well, in particular the single person duals. Many authors tend to struggle with battles, but not so here, fights are depicted very well and I get absorbed enough that I feel I am a bystander at spots (or maby have an OTT imagination more likely!)
In all this are a great book and just the initial step in an amazing series. This initial book I give a 4/5, just due to the slower nature, but the series as a whole is easily a 5, it’s not perfect, but then what book / series is. The characters are memorable, the world well detailed and scenes depicted amazingly well. Cant wait to see what series John Gwynee writes next.