Reviewed in the United States on May 8, 2020
I grew up a bookworm.
No, you don't understand.
When I got into trouble as a kid, my parents didn't ground me from friends or TV....They grounded me from books. But unfortunately, college murdered that love of reading by throwing so many atrociously boring books in my face and assigning neverending, 30 paged papers on said boring books. I haven't been able to read a book sense.
Not until this series, anyways.
Now, "Malice" took me a year to read. Not that it was a bad book--quite the contrary, in fact--but I just couldn't muster the will to read period. In fact, it was only because my students have to read a book for 20 minutes every day in a certain class period that I would pick up "Malice" just to set a good example. Immediately after finishing "Malice," I picked up "Valor" and DEVOURED it in a month. Same for "Ruin." Because of the craziness of teaching in COVID-19, it took about two months to read "Wrath," and I finished it last night!
This was such an intimidatingly large series, but they were so excellent that, at long last, I found my love of reading again!! Bravo, Mr. Gwynne!!
The series, overall, is 5 stars, no questions asked. The character growth, the character's journies, the plot twists, the fact that even important characters die (I mean, he did warn us that "Even the brave will fall"), the humorous bits (Craf is just amazing), the superb action sequences, I mean, I can go on--but I have places to be, and I bet you do too.
However, there were a few elements in "Wrath" that knocked it down to 4.5 stars for me. ****SPOILERS BELOW***
(This kind of goes for book 3 too, but it just got too much on my nerves in book 4.) I was just so disapointed in the character of Coralen. I LOVED her in her first two chapters, and...that's it. She got on my last nerve from then on. She was so promising! But ultimately she was by far the flattest main character in the series. (No, Dath, Farrell, Gar, Kulla, etc., are side characters. Side characters don't get full characterization, I get that. But Coralen was a main character with her own point of view.) It was like she was just brought in to be a love interest for our guy Corban, and just reduced to arm candy. All her thoughts ever seemed to be was that Corban was an idiot, Corban was handsome and strong, she liked Corban despite the fact that she rolls her eyes at such emotion, Corban is in danger, she has to save Coraban, and Corban is, once again, an idiot. But an honorable idiot and she loves him. And so on. Other character's descriptions of her were even all the same: she was pretty, she was always scowling and hot-headed, her red hair was always in the sun and it looked pretty. All her character's purpose seemed to be was to be your cliche, hot-tempered and pretty ginger, to save Corban when he needed it, and take up the spot of a female warrior who is as strong as any male warrior (and she'll tell you as such). Don't get me wrong, as a woman, I love seeing strong females! Especially women who can kick butt! And what I loved about John Gwynne's female characters was that they were all so strong in their own unique way, without losing their femininity, and they were all so entirely different! They were by no means weak. This man knows how to craft awesome, strong female characters. Cywen, Edana, Brina, Rhin, Fidele, Nemain, Ethlinn, and even Roisin were just joys to read about! And that's why I'm so puzzled that Coralen was just so static and flat--an empty shell for Corban to claim as a simple love interest. He could have done much better by her.
If you've been hardcore shipping Veradis and Cywen like I have, you'll be very disappointed in this book. John Gwynne has been such a TEASE with these characters! And finally, when they're on the same side and safe at Corban's camp, they don't even have a conversation. No, correction: they don't even have a conversation in the entire book. Oh, Corban and Coralen can make out and you'll be stuck with mushy, teenage-ish thoughts from both of them. Maquin and Fidele have a whole dramatic love story happening. Cywen and Veradis don't even have a single conversation. They blush, they quietly acknowledge the other's presence and are very glad that they see each other. But that's it. I totally understand that this book series does not have a place in the romance genre--it's about war and the end of the world! I don't want a romance book. But having to deal with Corban/Coralen for so long, and of Maquin and Fidele's obsession with one another (but in their defense, that romance definitely moves the plot along with their storylines), the couple that has been hinted at happening since book 2, the couple that wouldn't have been overly mushy, dramatically obsessive over one another, the couple that would have been so darn COOL (the Dark Sun's loyal, right hand guy having a thing for the Bright Star's sister!), never even got a moment to have a verbal conversation. I kept waiting and waiting and waiting. I got to smile a little at the last few pages, but it was a half smile.
So between these two disappointments, I'm giving this terrific book 4.5 stars. These things are minor in the big picture of such a grand series, but they really irked me as a reader.