Book Review: Malice by John Gwynne

Goodreads: Malice (The Faithful and The Fallen #1)
Publisher: Pan
Published: 01 December 2012
Genre: Adult Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

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.

I read this chonkster with Leslie and I’m so glad that I did cos otherwise it might’ve taken me years to pick it up and I would’ve missed out on an epic fantasy read! I was constantly spamming her with frantic messages as I tried to figure out wtf was happening while simultaneously freaking out over what I was reading, especially at the end!

TL;DR: OMFGJFC. This was a debut? I’m shook cos just like it says on the cover: it’s a helluva debut! This was my first John Gwynne book and other than knowing how well-loved his books are, I didn’t know what to expect. It’s a bit of a slow-burn as the world’s vast history and the characters are developed but it’s 100% worth the journey. I thoroughly enjoyed Malice and it’s safe to say that I thought this was a fantastic debut and an exciting first book in an exciting series! Also, sorry (not sorry?) but I wrote an essay to convey my thoughts (lol).

CW/TW: graphic descriptions of violent human and animal deaths, gore, blood, war violence, parental death, bullying, physical abuse (off-page)

Malice isn’t an easy story to summarize or try to explain and I could never do it justice. Could anything I say compare to what other more prolific fantasy readers/reviewers have already said about it? Nope! I will say that if you don’t enjoy your fantasy slow then you probably won’t like this one but I would definitely encourage you to give it a try if you’re interested in it!

However, if you enjoy fantasies with multiple (3+) POVs, gradual world-building and slow but steady character development, a lot of politicking and strategizing, as well as quite a few long battle scenes, then you’re definitely in for a treat! There’s a lot that happens in this book as it spans over a longer period of time but I loved getting to know the characters, both main and secondary, and getting further enveloped in the brewing God-War and the tensions that build between the different rulers. Seriously, so much backstabbing, sabotaging, and all the sneaky bastards in this one! It’s a classic look at angels vs demons/good vs evil and it got off to a slightly confusing but intriguing start as we don’t know who’s good and who’s not. I do feel like we saw a lot more of the chaotic evil side at play in Malice but now I’m also thinking whether I’ve made a mistake in automatically assuming the Ben-Elim are good and the Kadoshim are evil. Am I just overthinking this? 🤔 Well, I guess I’ll find out when I continue the series!

What I particularly enjoyed about the writing was how easy it was to follow. Yes, there are a lot of details to take in and many characters to remember, but sometimes what I find most intimidating about epic fantasies is the fear that it’ll just go over my head; thankfully, that doesn’t happen here! Gwynne’s writing is pretty straightforward and absorbable while still being descriptive enough to easily picture the scenes and settings playing out. There were certain scenes leading up to battles that I felt were a little drawn out and sometimes I wanted more descriptions for characters but it wasn’t a deal-breaker for me. I highly appreciated the way Gwynne slowly wove together storylines—I delighted in noticing details that I didn’t think much of in previous chapters and seeing them tied together in smart and exciting ways!

For as much as I loved the world-building and tension-filled plot though, it was the characters that made this book so enjoyable for me. I knew not to get *super* attached at the start because there’s no way all of these characters would survive, and I mean, duh, the second half was wildly chaotic and hellishly violent and had me *weeping*. Even though I expected deaths to happen, it didn’t make it any easier to read because these characters really grew on me over the span of these 600+ pages. My favourite character was Corban and my favourite chapters involved the people from Arden. Not that the other chapters and the other side of the tale weren’t as fascinating but those chapters stirred to life a murderous little panda in me because of how badly I wanted karma to smite those nasty bitter arseholes. Like, it really woke the violence in me (and Leslie too)! 😂 BUT I DIGRESS.

It was such a delight to follow Corban from when he was a young lad to finally sitting through his Long Night and becoming a “man”, ready to fight alongside the other warriors of the clan. His character growth was fantastic and I loved to see him stand by his convictions, even from such a young age, and really stick to what he believes in: truth and courage. He’s young and so he doesn’t always make the best decisions but he was also so incredibly easy to root for as he’s an underdog that fights for the underdogs and his compassion and kindness made him such a likeable character. I also really loved the people he’s surrounded by such as his parents Gwenith and Thannon, his sister Cywen, his mentor Gar and his close friend Dath. But there are also the awesome characters from the surrounding keep, such as Princess Edana, Marrock, Halion, and Camlin. While the secondary characters don’t get a lot of development, I still became invested in their characters as they tied in with Ban’s arc—it’s not hard to want them to survive.

What I’ve mentioned here doesn’t cover half of what enthralled me in this book and I could go on but then I’ll just be rambling. Although I still had plenty of questions about certain things that happen in Malice, I know that this is only just the beginning and I have no doubt Gwynne is gonna continue to wow me with the rest of the books in this series. Bring it on, I say! 😍

Have you read Malice or is it on your TBR?

11 thoughts on “Book Review: Malice by John Gwynne

  1. This is such a great review, Dini. How on earth am I supposed to even come close to this epic-ness?! haha! I had no idea it was a debut and was shocked when I saw it on the back! I can’t wait to keep going.

    Liked by 1 person

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