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Malice (The Faithful and the Fallen Book 1) by [John Gwynne]
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Editorial Reviews

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Malice


By John Gwynne

Orbit

Copyright © 2013 John Gwynne
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-316-39973-9


CHAPTER 1

CORBAN


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.'

'Think so?'

''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.'

'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.

Gar blinked.

'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.

'Deal.'

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.


(Continues...)

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.

--This text refers to the paperback edition.

Review

"A series that promises the same degree of complexity and depth found in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time books and George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series."―Library Journal (starred review)

"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.

Product details

  • 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
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,961 ratings

About the author

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I am the author of epic fantasy series The Faithful and the Fallen, Of Blood and Bone and The Bloodsworn Saga. I’m also a Viking re-enactor and enjoy nothing more than standing in the shield wall with my three sons, who are as passionate about swords and axes as I am (when I’m not stuck in my coat of mail; it’s harder than it looks).

I live on the south coast of the UK with my beautiful wife, three sons and my daughter, and an assortment of animals (at the moment three dogs, a horse and a lamb who thinks she’s a dog).

My dogs think I am their slave.

Malice, my debut novel, was published by Pan Macmillan in 2012 and went on to win the David Gemmell Morningstar Award for Best Fantasy Debut of 2012. That was a truly wonderful moment, as David Gemmell is a hero of mine and one of the reasons I write.

The following three books in the series – Valour, Ruin and Wrath, were all shortlisted for the David Gemmell Legend Award for Best Fantasy Novels of 2014, 2015 and 2016.

My second series, of Blood and Bone, is set in the Banished Lands, the same world as the first series. Book 1, A Time of Dread, begins 130 years after the events of the first series.

A Time of Courage, book 3 Of Blood and Bone, made the Spiegel Bestseller’s List in Germany.

My latest book, The Shadow of the Gods, book 1 of the Bloodsworn Saga, will be published in May 2021. It is inspired by Norse mythology, Beowulf and Ragnarök.

I am represented by Julie Crisp.

You can find me online at:

https://john-gwynne.com

https://twitter.com/JohnGwynne_

https://www.instagram.com/john_gwynne_author/

https://www.facebook.com/john.gwynne.12

Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5
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Steve4500
5.0 out of 5 stars Very slow start, but my word worth the wait!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Hard work for the first half due to information overload
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3.0 out of 5 stars Too many voices slows it down
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5.0 out of 5 stars You need this book in your life!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Slow initial start in an otherwise amazingly series
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