Review: Valour by John Gwynne

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A few facts about Valour:

  • Title: Valour
  • Author: John Gwynne
  • Series: The Faithful and the Fallen Series (Book Two)
  • Publisher: Tor
  • Pages: 669

I read Valour in paperback, but gods do I wish i had this beauty in hardcover!

Synopsis:

The Banished Lands are torn by war as the army of High King Nathair sweeps the realm challenging all who oppose his holy crusade. Allied with the manipulative Queen Rhin of Cambren, there are few who can stand against him. But Rhin is playing her own games and has her eyes on a far greater prize . . .

Left for dead – her kin have fled and her country is overrun with enemies – Cywen fights to survive. But any chance of escape is futile once Nathair and his disquieting advisor Calidus realize who she is. They have no intention of letting such a prize slip from their grasp. For she may be their one 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. But to get there they must travel through Cambren, avoiding warbands, giants and the vicious wolven of the mountains. And all the while Corban struggles to become the man that everyone believes him to be – the Bright Star and saviour of the Banished Lands. 

Embroiled in struggles for power and survival, the mortal world is unaware of the greatest threat of all. 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. 

(Goodreads)

Review:

If you were an absolute rockstar and read my review of Malice you will know that I enjoyed it immensely. As with Malice, this is probably going to heavy on the gushing and low on the critique. Ahhhh, who am I kidding? I found no faults with this book. Valour is the second book in The Faithful and the Fallen Series, and it was AMAZING! 

In my Malice review I said this series was likely to be my favourite one, and I can say that I still firmly stand by that statement.

John Gwynne does not disappoint, picking up pretty much straight after the ending of Malice, we plunge back into the world that is The Banished Lands. John Gwynne’s incredible writing style remains true in Valour, as he continues to wow with his intricate weaving of facts and simple but profound writing style.

Having read Malice and understanding the level of sly manoeuvrings and betrayals of its characters I was actually able to pick up more little hints of what was to come in this instalment. Now, you might think that a bad thing but I assure it wasn’t. Gwynne did this in such a way that you don’t necessarily notice the first breadcrumb or so, but then maybe three of four down the line something clicks and immediately you are itching to read more to get to what you think know will happen. Simple as these bread crumbs are they give you a whisper of hope, a chance that someone may realise the errors of their ways or a character might just make some choices you wanted and not follow in blind faith! Ohh, and that person you think I’m referring to you are probably wrong. He isn’t that obvious, these breadcrumbs are so finely woven and seamlessly blended you almost miss them. And that my friends is the magic of John Gwynne’s writing.

In Malice we saw a low magic system, so it was nice to see the elemental magic we were introduced to expanded further in Valour. Gwynne better explains the rules of the magic and we see it’s use a little bit more. 

In every book you read there is always a drive to reach the conclusion of the story, a need to finish it and see how it all ends. That need still stands with Valour, but at the same time you are so invested in the smaller things happening to each of the characters own individual stories and relationships. Upon finishing valour I still felt utterly satisfied,  much happens in Valour and Gwynne made it that I wasn’t chasing the end of the greater story but grasping the pages to conclude the smaller plot lines making this book utterly enjoyable.

Gwynne furthers the bonds of brotherhood in Valour, more so than in Malice. I particularly liked the blossoming relationship between Camlin and Dath. Corban also began to show greater levels of camaraderie, not that it wasn’t present in book one, it certainly was especially with his band of friends but Gwynne develops this even more to brother and sisters in arms, bound by the harrowing events of book one and book two.

I also found Valour to be diverse in it’s conflict. In more than one way, as with Malice we saw different levels of good vs evil, some being the greater war, others personal fueds and also that between kings and queens. Gwynne does not fail to keep this diversity in Valour. As a lover of all things military and battle-related I was happy to see that Gwynne treats you to guerrilla warfare, shield walls, magical and monstrous battles between giant and wolven and so much more. He does not fail to mix things up. I also enjoyed seeing the different aspects of a single battle. It was nice to see Corban not fighting but helping Brina in the medical wing at one point.

The plot in Valour is definitely a little darker than Malice, but it fits, we get a deeper look at the prophecy and those who will inevitably play a role in it. The pace is a lot quicker than Malice and things are heating up more and more. This book is amazing, and dare I say more enjoyable than Malice, and if that keeps and these books keep getting better then that’s freaking brilliant! 


Review: Malice by John Gwynne

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A few facts about Malice:

  • Title: Malice
  • Author: John Gwynne
  • Series: The Faithful and The Fallen (Book One)
  • Publisher: Tor
  • Pages: 672

I read Malice in paperback form, but really wish I had it in hardcover.

Synopsis:

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. 

Goodreads

Review:

Malice is book one in The Faithful and the Fallen series, and for some reason unknown to me there are still so many fantasy fans yet to read this book. My own Goodreads has twenty GR friends with this marked as ‘to be read’. 

PEOPLE, READ THIS BOOK! It is amazing, and you will not be disappointed.  

Now, Im not sure I am going to say much different to what many have already said, and by far better reviewers but one cannot simply rate this book and leave it without its due praise.

“I shall stay and tell my tale, hope that it may serve some purpose, that eyes shall see it and learn, that the future will not repeat the mistakes of the past. That is my prayer, but what use is prayer to a god that has abandoned all things . . .” 

I can safely say that this book lives up too, and far exceeds all recommendations to read it.

Gwynne is a tremendous writer with his beautiful and effective prose. I found Gwynne’s writing to be excellent if I’m honest. Each description came to life, the world or the scene, blooming in my mind. It was so immersive and real that time just passes you by without even realising. 

To say John Gwynne does anything less than transport you to a breathtaking fantasy world and take you on the journey of a life time is to do it an injustice.

The world that Gwynne has built is fascinating, and has considerable detail. The lore, cultures and religion were all entwined with character views and interactions, and you can see that this world was well thought out. It is incredibly easy to lose yourself in The Banished Lands.

I also really like it when an author distinguishes internal thought by way of italics. It just pleases me.

Gwynne deals more in character depth and development initially in this book, and thus sets a slower pace, but it is still an addicting and exciting read. It isn’t boring at all, or at least I didn’t find it to be, and this is done by the injection of small and frequent action sequences, such as a fight or a wolven encounter, into each POVs story. Honestly, I am struggling to find anything I don’t like about this book. What a debut!

I enjoyed the way in which Gwynne moved forward his timeline too, he smoothly intermingled relevant facts of previous movements/encounters/character actions without overwhelming you with long winded explanation. He points out through a characters internal thoughts a few key conversation snippets without detailing on and on about them walking to a ship, getting on said ship, setting off and so on. So, you know, no unnecessary filler material.

This is a classic tale of Good Vs Evil, though do not mistake this as a simple plot. It isn’t. The plot is filled with intrigue from the get go, it is brimming with dangerous encounters, battles, jaw dropping revelations and gutting betrayals, all of which are written in stunning detail. You will not be bored.

I genuinely don’t know where to start when talking about the characters of this book, there are several of them, and we get a look at all of them. Even the smaller, seemingly less important characters carry with them a massive punch and play an important role in this book. I read this with several people through a buddy read and something I said to them was that I loved the characters more because of the people that surrounded them. Gwynne has written a whole host of characters who all have a massive input in this debut.

Put simply, Gwynne makes use of numerous characters to establish and advance the plot, and though some follow the standard tropes, they are exciting and cleverly written, thoroughly developed, and utterly compelling. 

This book has made me care about the characters in a way no other writer has ever managed, and not just one or two of the lead characters. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. It has left me breathless, had me laughing out loud, scowling at the pages and damned near crying.  

Im pretty sure this is going to be one of my favourite series, and I am only on book one.


Review: Blood Song by Anthony Ryan

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A few facts about Blood Song:

  • Title: Blood Song
  • Author: Anthony Ryan
  • Series: Raven’s Shadow
  • Publisher: First published by Anthony Ryan
  • Pages: 591

I read Blood Song on my Kindle first but I enjoyed it so much I have every intention to buy the hardback for my shelves.

Synopsis:

“The Sixth Order wields the sword of justice and smites the enemies of the Faith and the Realm.”

Vaelin Al Sorna was only a child of ten when his father left him at the iron gate of the Sixth Order. The Brothers of the Sixth Order are devoted to battle, and Vaelin will be trained and hardened to the austere, celibate, and dangerous life of a Warrior of the Faith. He has no family now save the Order.

Vaelin’s father was Battle Lord to King Janus, ruler of the unified realm. Vaelin’s rage at being deprived of his birthright and dropped at the doorstep of the Sixth Order like a foundling knows no bounds. He cherishes the memory of his mother, and what he will come to learn of her at the Order will confound him. His father, too, has motives that Vaelin will come to understand. But one truth overpowers all the rest: Vaelin Al Sorna is destined for a future he has yet to comprehend. A future that will alter not only the realm, but the world.

Review:

I am such a stickler for the start of a novel, I have read books that have hooked me in a page, the first ten per cent or books that have gotten to thirty per cent and I’m still not excited. So to see Anthony Ryan begin this novel in such a brilliant way, it was safe to say I was in for an enjoyable read. The book begins with a scribe and an imperial prisoner who is being transported to a trial by combat. The whole encounter between these two men made me wonder so much, who was this man? So calm in the face of death, so well spoken and polite and oddly enough respected by those who would seemingly hate him, enough to be gifted not only something that was once his but another precious gift. If that doesn’t grip you then I don’t know what will, but I instantly wanted to read on and know all there was to know about this man.

First we begin with the scribe’s POV, who is with Vaelin, then the rest of the book is written in a flashback, exquisitely done I might add, from Vaelin’s POV where he is explaining to the scribe the events of his life up to the present day.

This is an incredible book, and one I struggle to find fault with and totally worth the five stars given in this rating/review. Anthony Ryan writes in a way that is wholly immersive and easy flowing.

Vaelin’s tale is one in which we experience bonds of friendship/brotherhood, war, politics, religion, conspiracy and so much more. I am all about bonds of brotherhood in books, they are my weakness, so when I say I loved Vaelin and his brothers of the order it is no small thing. Frentis, Dentos, Brakus, Caenis and Nortah were all sublime, they were utterly believable and so well developed. I am a firm believer that a main character is only as good as the characters that surround them, and with Vaelin surrounded by these boys and many more amazing character this book has to offer, this had the makings of a five star read. It is safe to say this is a character-driven book, and one which is filled with emotion and character development, so if that is your thing read this book. Simple.

This book, I would say, is a relatively slow-paced book being one of training and coming of age but make no mistake this book does not allow you to stop reading. It is a seriously addictive page turner and does not falter under the dreaded middle phase slump that is often seen in books.

I would highly recommend this book to those who love the epic/high fantasy genre, its world building is light and wonderful, its character outstanding and its plot intriguing.


Review: Blood of Heirs by Alicia Wanstall-Burke

My Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

A few facts about Blood Heirs:

  • Title: Blood Heirs
  • Author: Alicia Wanstall-Burke
  • Series: The Coraidic Sagas
  • Publisher: Self published by Alicia Wanstall-Burke
  • Pages: 335

I read Blood Heirs on my Kindle.

Synopsis:

Lidan Tolak is the fiercest of her father’s daughters; more than capable of one day leading her clan. But caught between her warring parents, Lidan’s world begins to unravel when another of her father’s wives falls pregnant. Before she has time to consider the threat of a brother, a bloody swathe is cut through the heart of the clan and Lidan must fight, not only to prove her worth, but simply to survive. 

Ranoth Olseta wants nothing more than to be a worthy successor to his father’s throne. When his home is threatened by the aggressive Woaden Empire, Ran becomes his city’s saviour, but powers within him are revealed by the enemy and he is condemned to death. Confused and betrayed, Ran is forced to flee his homeland, vowing to reclaim what he has lost, even if it kills him.

Facing an unknown future, and battling forces both familiar and foreign, can Lidan and Ran overcome the odds threatening to drag them into inescapable darkness?

Reviews:

Blood Heirs is a promising debut and sets itself up for a darkly entertaining second book. I enjoyed reading Blood Heirs due to the amazingly beautiful writing style that is Alicia Wanstall Burkes and the great characters, but I did find myself wondering where the story was going. 

The beasts, magic/curse, ghosts and monsters are all really enjoyable to read and bring the world to life. 

Both Lidan and Ranoth were great characters and I enjoyed their journeys so much, though both did fall flat at times for me. Thankfully, when I found myself wanting more or getting a little bored (for lack of a better word) the POV switched and the pacing shifted, balancing it out nicely. 

Wanstall Burke also did amazing to create complex and well developed secondary characters. Sellan and Erlon were great, as was Ran’s ghost friend and, although a small part, Brit. They fleshed out the word and added much appreciated detail to the characters journey and emotions.

At times I did feel like the two POVs were too separate, they felt worlds apart and totally disconnected. Having read the first installment I am still yet to see the bigger picture. To me this book felt more like a build-up to the second book as a lot, if not everything, is left unanswered. I will definitely read the second book as Wanstall Burkes makes it difficult not too. 

This is definitely a character-driven book, we see Lidan and Ranoth deal with their own problems and emotional turmoil. Both characters worlds are turned upside down and each is faced with a world-wind of emotions. The two need to decide who they are, what person they want to be, in a world filled with betrayal and deep family bonds, and what they want in the end. 

I did enjoy Blood Heir and I am intrigued to read the next book but I found the plot to be a little bland, which is silly because so much happened. I don’t know, it didn’t feel like it had a build up or a climax, and because of that I wasn’t able to rate it higher. Though, that is my only issue really, everything else about this book is brilliant.