Book Review: Malice by John Gwynne

Title: Malice

Author: John Gwynne

Series: Faithful and the Fallen #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: The world is broken…. Corban wants nothing more than to be a warrior under King Brenin’s rule – to protect and serve. But that day will come all too soon. And the price he pays will be in blood. Evnis has sacrificed – too much it seems. But what he wants – the power to rule – will soon be in his grasp. And nothing will stop him once he has started on his path. Veradis is the newest member of the warband for the High Prince, Nathair. He is one of the most skilled swordsman to come out of his homeland, yet he is always under the shadow of his older brother. Nathair has ideas – and a lot of plans. Many of them don’t involve his father, the High King Aquilus. Nor does he agree with his father’s idea to summon his fellow kings to council. 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. -Amazon

The Review:

I loved every single thing about this book.

It strikes me that I need to be careful what I say I don’t like in books. Because before diving in I would’ve told you I don’t have patience for books with a classic fantasy feel. That I’m “so over” familiar tropes like a-boy-with-his-sword and the-chosen-one. But everything about Malice was executed on such a high level that despite the inclusion of all familiar elements it’s still one of my favorite reads in ages. Everything about it was superb.

The writing style is sophisticated, bringing a classic tale into the modern era of storytelling. Gwynne has this masterful way of pacing things within each chapter, where even though the overall plot is ticking by very slowly, characters experience significant change per chapter in a way that makes you feel like the story is flying. It’s totally engaging and never feels like a single page is wasted.

Other than the adept writing style, my favorite thing about the book were the characters. So many great profiles. Usually when an author tackles so many, they run the risk of watering down each persona, but that wasn’t the case here. You’re following more than a dozen POVs (I didn’t actually count, but it feels close to that), all of which are rich characters. And I tell you, there was only one minor one I didn’t enjoy reading about. Those are great stats.

I also loved how high-stakes the story was. Other authors will try to sell you that their worlds are perilous!! But no one actually dies. In Gwynne’s worlds, things are every bit as brutal as promised, and that put me constantly on the edge of my seat, wondering who was going to make it and who wasn’t. Talk about an engaging read! It set a brilliant atmosphere, delivered on all the promises, and had me completely hooked from start to finish.

I will say the book took a lot more concentration than I thought it would. With so many people to follow, and being a perfectionist to boot, I wanted to make sure I knew who he was talking about with every reference. It took me forever to read, but was well worth the effort. I’ve discovered that if I lose track of characters to any degree when reading a book, I become less and less engaged and a snowball effect of dissatisfaction happens. Luckily that didn’t happen here.

Recommendations: Pick up this series for a classic fantasy story written in a modern, sophisticated writing style. There aren’t too many fantasy fans I would hesitate to recommend this to – it’s superb! With all of the characters to keep track of, it might be prudent to skip the audio on this one.

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by Niki Hawkes


Top Twenty Classic Fantasy Series!

top ten tuesday

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

I’m going a bit above and beyond this week, covering not only the top ten classic fantasy books I’ve read, but also the top ten I’d like to read. I just want to emphasize that I consider anything a “classic” that was published before I became a bookseller eleven years ago. Actually, some of them were written before I was even born. They are all a part of what I call the “essential fantasy list.” I realized that even though I consider these to be classics, I’m sure fantasy lovers from an older generation would have a very different looking list. What can I say? I picked titles that heavily influenced my reading journey and will always be nostalgic and “classics” in my eyes.

Top Ten Classic Fantasy Series I’ve Read:

 Top Ten Classic Fantasy Series I Want to Read:

 I know, Lord of the Rings isn’t on my list. I will probably lose a lot of street-cred, but I read it and, although I appreciate the heck out of it for what it did for the genre, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. Same goes for Wheel of Time… On the flip side, I also didn’t include more recent works such as Way of Kings and Name of the Wind because they haven’t been around long enough to be considered “classics” even though they’ll be near the top of my list ten years from now (in my opinion, they are perfect examples of modern fantasy and are revolutionizing how the genre is done).

 Anyway, this list represents my favorites and the ones I am most looking forward to reading. Would any of these fantasy books make your list?

 by Niki Hawkes