Malice by John Gwynne- Review

Cover- Malice

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.

Malice is John Gwynne’s debut novel and the first book in the Faithful and the Fallen series. Let me just say it was quite the debut. There were several different character perspectives, but my favorites by far were Corban and Veradis. Corban was just so young and distinctly good while Veradis had some obvious family issues and NEEDED approval and he was an unquestioning follower. They were a type of counterpoint to one another. I’ll be honest, Veradis’s loyalty to Nathair really annoyed me because Veradis didn’t second guess him. He was JUST SO EAGER TO PLEASE I COULDN’T STAND IT. But really though, Veradis was one of my favorite sections to read and he is going to be one of the central POVs in this series.

Corban’s chapters were great! I am a sucker for the characters your get to watch grow up and evolve into someone powerful and Corban was spot-on. He also acquired a wolven pup (kind of like a direwolf I guess) that he raised and trained. I am also a sucker for lovable critters, so more points to Corban. He also has some secrets that he doesn’t even know he has yet. By the end of the book the secret is becoming very clear to the reader but poor Corban still doesn’t know what the big deal is! CORBAN YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT YOUR SECRETS ARE??!!! I can’t wait to dive into Valor (book 2!!!) and have my suspicions officially confirmed.

The other characters were fun too and none feel forced into the book. For some reason Kastell makes me think of Jalan Kendreth from the Red Queen’s War series by Mark Lawrence. It’s inexplicable, since Kastell is not a smart arse and not as witty by half. Cywen has more attitude than Corban (her brother) and she is a tough chick. She throws knives at bandits for goodness sake! Evnis….Well, he just sucks.

I would also like to mention that there are some intriguing secondary characters that don’t get their own perspectives. I cannot say too much without getting spoiler-y, but this is where the reader becomes more acquainted with the magic!!!! It’s not thoroughly described so we don’t know if there are rules, but as the story progresses we see some limitations (stamina/energy).

The story is definitely a compelling tale that I look forward to continuing in Valor, book two of the Faithful and the Fallen. The wordbuilding was solid and Gwynne did a great job giving the world a convincing history, not just a present which I think is a mark of an especially talented writer. During the middle and latter parts of the book the political intrigue began to play a more central role in the storyline than I initially expected it would. I give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars for the exciting story arc, the well-written charcters, and also mysterious magic and magical items. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a fantasy that’s less Arthurian than some and more morally grey. Not all the characters are clearly good or evil, which keeps you on your toes!


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