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Malice by John Gwynne
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I liked this book very much. The characters are likeable and even the evil ones show some depth. Not too much but some.
My main grievance is that the changeos of POV come too quickly from one character to another. I would have prefered more chapters in a row devoted to the same character. I didn't give 5 stars because of that. ( )
  Sept | May 21, 2019 |
This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Malice
Series: The Faithful and the Fallen #1
Author: John Gwynne
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 641
Format: Digital Edition


A thousand years ago there was a god-war between the Creator and his highest created being, Asroth. Asroth and his allies came to the physical world to destroy what they could. In the god-war Asroth and his minions were banished to the realm of the spirit. Not content to exist, Asroth sent a star from heaven to the earth from which both giants and men fashioned items. Being from Asroth, such items corrupted their bearers. Eventually, giant warred against giant and man against man and each against the other. The Creator finally had enough and sent a cataclysm that destroyed much of the world.

The remnant of humanity that survived washed up on the shores of the Banished Lands and started the 7 kingdoms. Now, 1000 years later, a prophecy is found that foretells of another god-war in which the Creator will have his champion of Light and Asroth his Dark Champion. It also reveals that Asroth will try to return to the physical realm to completely destroy it to simply spite the Creator.

One of the Princes' of the land is convinced he is the Champion of Light and determines to unite the various kingdoms into an Empire, the better to fight Asroth. We also follow a young village boy who is growing up and his challenges as he works toward becoming a warrior.

Eventually the Prince murders his father, attacks the giants and takes one of the objects of power and the readers realize, even while the Prince does not, that he is the Dark Champion. The young boy saves a small company from treachery by the Prince and it is obvious that he is the Champion of Light.

My Thoughts:

This book went all over the place in terms of rating from me. I enjoyed parts tremendously and would think “Oh, 4 stars easily” then I'd consider dnf'ing and at other points I thought “Not even Robert Jordan and Sanderson were this arrogant in their books”. So this might turn into something a bit longer than I intended.

I deliberately cut the synopsis down to it's absolute minimum because Gwynne doesn't. Gwynne makes things as complicated as possible in several ways. First off, he introduces over 35 named characters within the first 10% of the book. I counted and listed them on Librarything because it was NEVER obvious who was a main character and who was just somebody that Gwynne gave a name and backstory to. The second part of the complication was Gwynne's shifting of Point of View every chapter. Sometimes a chapter would be 2 pages and at others 20. But it was always from somebody else than the previous POV. Finally, Gwynne had no problem with worldbuilding. He'd give as much character time to some one who we'd never see again as to some of the more central characters.

I found all of these authorial choices frustrating and incredibly anger inducing. The thread of the story was obscured by all the loose ends and dead ends, etc. I WILL NOT pay attention to 45 characters (that was my rough count by the end of the book) just because the author wants to be clever. It was overwhelming and even now, writing this, I'm getting steamed all over again. Even the Malazan books were easier to keep track of than this and that is not any sort of praise if you've read my Malazan Re-read reviews. I felt like I was juggling 45 balls never knowing which one had the live grenade inside that I needed to pay attention to. Juggling 45 live grenades is very stress inducing, let me tell you! I also felt like Gwynne was wasting my time as this book was almost 700 pages. Why did I need to know about Jack the boy farmer and his whole family when he dies 3 chapters later? It just came across as the author telling me that every idea he had was more important than the time I was spending on reading about them.

On the positive side, I absolutely loved the story. Two Chosen Ones is awesome. It is obvious to the reader that the Prince is the dark champion but to those around the Prince it seems like he truly is the Champion of Light. He is trying to unite the humans, comes up with new fighting tactics, achieves goals no one thought possible and wants to protect the land from Asroth. Knowing that Asroth is the arch-deceiver, it is no surprise that no one thinks they're the bad guy. I like Epic Fantasy and this is definitely Epic Fantasy. The politics going on between the kingdoms is great and adds a real depth to the story too.

A few final negative thoughts though. I'd been warned that Gwynne takes his time and that reviewer wasn't kidding. This meanders, but once again that is a product of Gwynne placing world building above all else. Secondly, this book doesn't have a beginning, middle and end plot point. There is no goal. Even Robert Jordan and his first Wheel of Time book, The Eye of the World, told a complete story. This was just 1/4th of a story artificially cut into a separate book.

I do plan on reading the next book. I am desperately hoping that there is not another list of 40 new characters to juggle. If there is, then I'll be parting ways from Gwynne after that. All of the before mentioned issues might not bother you, but they bother me immensely.

★★☆☆½ ( )
1 vote BookstoogeLT | Apr 19, 2019 |
When earlier this year I read John Gwynne’s A Time of Dread, the first volume in his new saga titled Of Blood and Bone, I was immediately captivated by the author’s storytelling and the complex background of the novel, so that once I learned of the existence of a previous loosely connected series, I knew I would not wait long before reading it. Which brings me to Malice, the start of The Faithful and the Fallen epic.

On the surface, Malice looks like a classic good vs. evil tale, and in truth it employs several traditional elements of the genre, like the prophecy of an impending conflict between the champions of light and darkness, or the coming of age of a young man destined to greatness, but it does so with such narrative skill that it’s impossible not to be absorbed by the story and enjoy its rhythm and subtle buildup. I have come to envision the author as a bard of old, of the kind who once gathered people around a fire as he recounted tales that everyone was familiar with, but that gained new depth and meaning with clever storytelling, one where the journey matters more than the end. As a longtime admirer of JRR Tolkien and his Lord of the Rings, I found here the same kind of epic tale I love to lose myself in.

As far as the background is concerned, the novel takes place in the Banished Lands, a region where people retreated after the devastating war between the gods of good and evil, Elyon and Asroth, and where humans dwell in uneasy balance together with giants, wyrms and other outworldly creatures. High King Aquilus, who oversees the various realms in which the Banished Lands are divided, has been warned about the prophecy that heralds a new war between the opposing forces of light and darkness and the final battle between their champions, the Bright Star and the Black Sun: when he calls the other rulers to council, asking for an alliance against the coming darkness, his proposal is mostly met with uncertainty and disbelief, since the forces of evil have already begun to sow their seeds, so that what should have been a united front is fractured by mistrust and competing shows of strength.

I’m not going to delve further into the story because I think it must be enjoyed on its own: no matter how familiar the premise might sound, it’s the kind of tale that takes hold of your imagination and carries you, slowly but surely, toward its stirring climax: Malice works very much as an introduction, and as such it takes its time to gather clues and build them up, requiring some patience from the reader, but that patience is more than rewarded in the last segment of the novel, when events are brought to a peak that leads toward the next book in the series.

The real backbone of the book comes however from the characters: Mr. Gwynne gives us a good number of points of view, alternating them between chapters so that the story flows easily from one to the other: here lies my only contention with this novel, because we make the acquaintance of too many characters all at once, and that might prove a little daunting since we are not given enough time to get to know them properly before moving on to the next one. Aside from this little snag – that I overcame by taking notes to fix their traits in my mind – observing these individuals’ evolution in the course of the story was indeed a fascinating exercise.

The main point of view belongs to young Corban, a village smith’s son: he’s looking forward with some trepidation to the warrior training that all village boys undergo, especially since the local bully does his best to undermine Corban’s faith in himself and his abilities. It does not help that his fiery sister Cywen often comes to his rescue, somehow giving strength to the bully’s claim about Corban’s cowardice: it’s at this point that the mysterious stablemaster Gar offers his services as a combat instructor, mentoring the boy in what look like unusual techniques geared to face worse danger than what the usual village defender encounters. The relationship with the wolven Storm, a wild creature everyone else is wary of, lends a further patina of mystery to Corban’s destiny, and makes for some wonderful passages of bonding between boy and animal, that were among my favorite segments.

On the opposite side of the social spectrum there is Nathair, heir to King Aquilus: he’s eager to prove his worth and somewhat stifled by his father’s caution and his mother’s fear for his safety. The prince’s determination to show his mettle takes him toward a path where darkness rules more often than light does, and in so doing carries along with him another young noble, Veradis, enrolled in Nathair’s personal guard and looking for the recognition that his father always denied him. The theme of a remote father whose absence or lack of interest – which in some cases becomes outright hostility – drives the son away in search of respect encompasses another character, that of Kastell, whose path is however different because he puts himself to the service of the land, joining a specialized cadre of warriors who battle the dangerous creatures roaming the Banished Lands: Kastell’s journey is one of my favorite narrative threads, mostly because I enjoyed his relationship with older Maquin, who acts as a mentor and protector to the younger man. Last but not least is Evnis, the counsellor of King Brenin (one of the lesser rulers under Aquilus), who is painted from the very start as the true villain of the story since he sells his soul to evil Asroth in search of vengeance – and yet he’s not a totally negative character because there are somewhat valid reasons for his actions, although the choices he makes lead him on a dark path.

The character list is by no means limited to the ones I quoted of course: there is a great number of minor figures who enrich the variegated tapestry of this story and add interesting points of view that deepen our understanding of this world – I’d like to quote healer Brina here, because her caustic demeanor and sarcastic wisdom were among the highlights of Malice, to the point that I hope she will be present in the next volumes as well. All these figures contribute the immersive experience of the novel, one where the themes of courage and deception, of selflessness and wickedness, of friendship and hate all contribute to create a lively, believable background that is brought to life piece by piece as the complex mosaic of the story comes together. When taking into account the fact that this first volume of The Faithful and the Fallen is the author’s debut novel, Malice looks an even more extraordinary feat, one I know blossomed into the successful A Time of Dread, and one that makes me quite eager to continue exploring this saga.

Originally posted at SPACE and SORCERY BLOG ( )
  SpaceandSorcery | Dec 25, 2018 |
Such a fun exciting read! Like a familiar friend:a combo of Tolkien and Martin. Can't wait for book 2 - this one ended with quite a cliff hanger. I particularly enjoy the detailed characterization and the intricate plot. Good job on your first novel, Mr. Gwynne! ( )
  decaturmamaof2 | Nov 28, 2018 |
just the right number of independent story lines - good characterization - good growth of characters (not always in the right direction) - realistic feeling pro and antagonists - good world building

not quite a "must read" but getting very close to that and very solidly written
will definitely be reading more by this author ( )
  jason9292 | Aug 12, 2018 |
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Book description
A black sun is rising … Young Corban watches enviously as boys become warriors under King Brenin’s rule, learning the art of war. He yearns to wield his sword and spear to protect his king’s realm. But that day will come all too soon. Only when he loses those he loves will he learn the true price of courage. The Banished Lands has a violent past where armies of men and giants clashed shields in battle, the earth running dark with their heartsblood. Although the giant-clans were broken in ages past, their ruined fortresses still scar the land. But now giants stir anew, the very stones weep blood and there are sightings of giant wyrms. Those who can still read the signs see a threat far greater than the ancient wars. Sorrow will darken the world, as angels and demons make it their battlefield. Then there will be a war to end all wars. High King Aquilus summons his fellow kings to council, seeking an alliance in this time of need. Some are skeptical, fighting their own border skirmishes against pirates and giants. But prophesy indicates darkness and light will demand two champions, the Black Sun and the Bright Star. They would be wise to seek out both, for if the Black Sun gains ascendancy, mankind’s hopes and dreams will fall to dust.
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"The Banished Lands has a violent past where armies of men and giants clashed in battle, but now giants are seen, the stones weep blood and giant wyrms are stirring. Those who can still read the signs see a threat far greater than the ancient wars. For if the Black Sun gains ascendancy, mankind's hopes and dreams will fall to dust ... and it can never be made whole again. Malice is a dark epic fantasy tale of blind greed, ambition, and betrayal."--… (more)

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