Saturday, March 2, 2013

Malice - The Faithful and the Fallen #1 - John Gwynne

Release Date: December 6th, 2012
Publisher: Tor Books
Age Group: Adult
Pages: 672
Format: Paperback

Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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 a classic High Fantasy tale of Good versus Evil in an all-consuming war set in a medieval-esque world. It tells the story of Elyon and Asroth, two gods, good and evil respectively, and how they use the creatures on earth to fight their war. We follow a colorful handful of characters throughout the book, every chapter another POV. Every element you would expect in such a classic tale can be found within the pages of Malice: heroes, destiny, betrayal, gods, a prophecy, war, battle, terrifying creatures and so on.

Gwynne choses to fill his world with an elaborate cast of characters, telling his story from many different angles to give the reader a chance to experience the different sceneries, cultures and viewpoints, thus shaping an overall image of the many things going on, ultimately merging into one storyline in the end.
Some of the characters really touched a string and pulled me in, like Corban and Cywen, but not all succeeded at that. 
I did really like his choice of POV’s, which were not always the most important pawns on his elaborate storyboard, but some secondary characters that give a different spin to the story and show another side of classic Fantasy.
Gwynne also uses some tricks to give a twist to his story and to surprise his readers. You're never really sure who'll be on Asroth's side and who'll be one of the good guys. You just know all of them will have a part to play in the oncoming God War. The further you read along, the more the places seem to shift and the ones you already gave a spot on a certain team (Good or Evil) show another side that makes you rethink everything.

The reader gets to know all of the different kingdoms throughout the story, so all the new information is never overwhelming or too much. We get accustomed with the different cultures and landscapes at an easygoing pace. Gwynne describes his scenery with just enough detail to help you paint a vivid picture in your mind, without the unnecessary long elaborations that usually make these passages tedious when overdone.
The worldbuilding is rather marginal, not that detailed, more of a general image of the different kingdoms and their scenery than a close-up, which I actually liked a lot.

I loved the explosive ending, which makes you yearn for the sequel, as a good ending should do. There is still so much that needs to happen, lots of tension hanging in the air, characters whose destiny is still uncertain… I’m really curious how all will come together in the second book.

The writing is sharp, clean and reads fluently, although it’s not in league with the big names, like Martin and the others that are mentioned on the back cover.  
The pacing is very good, there's never a dull moment, the author knows how to keep his audience satisfied. The book is filled with exhilarating battles and action, enough to keep a fan of swordplay and medieval-esque battlefields satisfied.
“Malice” is an enjoyable read and a strong debut and I will certainly be looking forward to the next installment in the Faithful and the Fallen series!


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