The Banished Lands is torn by war as High King Nathair sweeps the land challenging all who oppose him in his holy crusade. Allied with the manipulative Queen Rhin of Cambren, there are few who can stand against them. But Rhin is playing her own games and has her eyes on a far greater prize… Left for dead, her kin fled and her country overrun with enemies, Cywen has no choice but to try to survive. But any chance of escape is futile once Nathair and his disquieting advisor Calidus realise who she is. They have no intention of letting such a prize from their grasp. For she may be their greatest chance at killing the biggest threat to their power. Meanwhile, the young warrior Corban flees from his conquered homeland with his exiled companions heading for the only place that may offer them sanctuary – Domhain. But to get there they must travel through Cambren avoiding warbands, giants and the vicious wolven of the mountains. And all the while Corban must battle to become the man that everyone believes him to be – the Bright Star and saviour of the Banished Lands. And in the Otherworld dark forces scheme to bring a host of the Fallen into the world of flesh to end the war with the Faithful, once and for all.
John Gwynne has managed to avoid the “sophomore slump” with his latest novel, Valor, which is a real gem. Gwynne is one of my favorite new fantasy authors, and he’s written the traditional good versus evil tale in with very nontraditional twists. This is definitely a series I would like to see become a staple in the fantasy reader’s literary diet, because reading these weighty books is time well spent.
Valor is a great middle novel, where some questions from the first book, Malice, get answered, but in their place two more spring up. Okay, it’s not really that uncertain, but I have serious interest in how certain aspects of the plot play out. If by chance you have already discovered these books, you might understand why I am dying to see how certain characters react when they discover that they have been misinformed about their roles. I am impressed by how well John Gwynne has planned his story and the deception played out by his characters. Not everything is as it seems!
Each of the characters has grown in depth considerably since they were first introduced in Malice (you can read my review ). One of my personal favorites, Cywen, is so resilient and has a brazen streak that has led to her trying to kill at least three high ranking members of Nathair’s circle. She literally just precisely chucks knives in their general directions, but somehow she never succeeds in killing them. Cywen knows she’s important and Nathair won’t kill her outright for her troublesome behavior. Another character, Maquin, was much more secondary in the first book, but really comes to the forefront in Valor. He’s given his own perspective this time around, and we get to see how his desire for revenge drives him through some really brutal situations.
The dialogue and descriptions of fight and battles are highly descriptive- you can really imagine what’s going on almost effortlessly, which is just makes the reading experience ten times better. Because this is such a character driven story, the landscape and scenery isn’t given as much description as in some other books, but it doesn’t detract from the quality in any way. I don’t need to know that there are gray and brown pebbles on a creek bank and that, on average, they are the size of a quarter, because that in itself would take away from the impact of the story. Gwynne gives enough description to get an image of the scene in your mind, but the rest of the focus is on action and dialogue.
I highly recommend the Faithful and the Fallen series because it certainly deserves the attention. If you’ve already read these, leave a comment and tell me your thoughss on them.