Every man in that camp felt the same fear you did… Both the brave man and the coward feel the same. The only difference between them is that the brave man faces his fear, does not run.
— John Gwynne, Malice
As this blog’s tagline says: watch me try to write a book review. This is especially relevant to today’s post because for the first time in this blog, I will attempt to share my thoughts about a high fantasy book (which is probably my favorite book genre as of the moment — I am a mood reader). In my opinion, it’s always more difficult to put into words what I liked and didn’t like from a book of this genre compared to just writing a direct and simple one for a contemporary novel.
So here it goes…
I have only seen 3 episodes of season 1 of Game of Thrones and read the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin and I can already tell you from all that: this book has similarities to both.
It’s not a direct copy of Game of Thrones so fans, please don’t get salty.
(Side note: remember that Martin is not the inventor of all things high fantasy so you can’t always say that he did things first. Look at the publishing dates, people).
I am merely pointing out that since the TV show is about to end and book 6 in the series is nowhere coming in the near future, maybe you’re all looking for a little buffer for your loss and fraying patience.
Malice also has similarities with Robin Hobb‘s Farseer Trilogy and I can tell you now that I absolutely love that series. So it is no wonder that I enjoyed this first book of The Faithful and the Fallen series.
Let’s face it, in every epic high fantasy series that we all love and enjoy, there will always be similarities because authors can only have so many ways to write a world where the rulers of the kingdoms are greedy; the hero will rise from hardships; and mythical creatures always consist of dragons (no matter what other alternative way you decide to call it) and companion wolves.
So please don’t mistake my comparing this book to a couple of well-known books as a negative thing. In my humble opinion, the fact that it consists some the most beautiful aspects of the other books, adds to its greatness.
I absolutely LOVED that the characters in this book made a lot of sense, even when you know it’s a bad decision. They are interesting and very well though out. At times, their dialogues are funny too. Humor is absolutely necessary, especially in long fantasy books such as this one where there’s much gore and death around.
HOWEVER, there is something I didn’t like about this book. So much so that I had to stop reading and think about whether I was willing to go through it and finish the book. It bothered me even when I wasn’t reading. In today’s youths’ vocabulary: I was shook and quite possibly also triggered.
Continue reading on to find out why… *wink wink*
Corban, son of Ardan’s blacksmith, is being bullied. He fears he is a coward because he doesn’t want to nor know how to fight back. But he also doesn’t want his sister Cywen to defend him all the time. So when the stablemaster, Gar, offers to secretly teach him how to fight, he accepts.
Nathair, prince of Tenebral, is desperate to prove himself to his father. He is given a warband with Veradis as his first sword. Veradis, also desperate for his father’s approval, developed blinding loyalty to the prince.
With the Banished Lands being attacked by giants and brigands, each of the kings of every kingdom thought they had their hands full. Until mythical creatures such as giant serpents; ants that swarm and eat a whole person in a matter of seconds; bats that suck the blood out of you until you’re bone dry; and draigs being used as a mount in battle start appearing.
King Aquilus calls on all the other kings in their unified nation in a council where a prophecy is revealed:
A Bright Star to represent Elyon, the god of brightness who have been absent for thousands of years.
A Black Sun to free Asroth, the god of darkness who is imprisoned in the Otherworld.
A God-war is coming.
But nobody is willing to believe, much more be prepared because they are busy scheming and fighting one another as humans are wont to do.
I have quite a lot to say! If you haven’t noticed, this post is relatively longer than the past 2 book reviews I have put out. Well, get used to it because this is probably how everything will go from this point on.
Let’s start with the positives:
- It has similarities with Robin Hobb‘s Farseer Trilogy. Especially with the characters. And I absolutely adore that series! Corban and Fitz are very similar in a lot of ways. For one, they grew up being practically a nobody until someone decided to teach them how to fight. Both were taught by their kingdom’s stablemasters, who in turn, are also similar. Gar and Burich both have limps and are good with animals.
- Characters are morally gray. We know they are trying their best to choose the right, but sometimes circumstances arise and force your hand. If there’s anything I hate in characters, it’s the righteous and self-proclaimed hero (And boy, do we have that in this book).
- We get to read the point of view of the antagonists. There is definitely a thin line dividing who is the antagonist and the protagonist in this book. Sometimes they seem good, sometimes they are bad. But even if their malice is starting to come out, I’m still glad that we get to read their perspective on things and why they do what they do.
- The rulers of the kingdom make decisions that make sense. I’ve noticed how most of the people in power in high fantasy books justify their deeds by simply saying that they are the king/queen, therefore, what they do and say is how it’s going to be in this lifetime. And it angers me. Thankfully, in this novel, the kings actually make sense.
Now on to the negatives:
- The detailed telling of an animal’s pain and death. THIS is the reason I almost stopped reading the book. The author took pains in making each animal’s pain very vivid and detailed, I felt like it was ingrained in my head. I almost cried one time. It gave me anxiety. There were far too many events that involved a dog, horse, and wolf’s pain and death. I applaud Gwynne for effectively writing those scenes but I was not amused and it soured my view of his book.
- Very much a foundational book. For a high fantasy book, this was very much a character introductions book. Yes there were sprinkles of action here and there (most likely the death of an animal), but only 80% into the book did the actual plot take place and all hell broke loose. The first parts were mainly character introductions, foreshadowing, and sometimes even just the daily routines of the characters.
- It contained 2 tropes I absolutely hate (but was only able to pinpoint through this book). Like I said before, there is only so much twist and turns of an epic high fantasy book can take. However, it doesn’t take away the fact that some are so overused and personally offend me whenever I read them. And there were two in this novel! (1)The privileged royal who think the world owes him everything he wants. You’re already a royalty, what more do you want?! It’s no longer greed. It’s just the type of character that is ever present in every fantasy novel. It’s tiring to read about him. Name one fantasy novel where no character of this kind exists! I challenge you. (2)The once great men who fall into uselessness and start making bad decisions once they lose their wife. I get it, you’re in love. Congratulations! But to ignore or abandon your child after? To let go of yourself completely even when all your people look up to you for guidance? You are a selfish jerk. You ask people to die for you but when you lose your wife, you have no qualms on abandoning everybody. There is very much a Chosen One trope in this book too. But that doesn’t really bother me as much as the two I’ve mentioned. Just thought that I’d point it out because I know most people are sick of this trope. I hope that in the long run, the solid lines of this trope will fade as the series progresses.
So yeah, that’s my verdict and thoughts on Malice by John Gwynne. I will definitely continue on with the series. So far there’re four books. I am not sure whether it’s a completed series or there are more books to come out.
I recommend this book to any who read high fantasy. Characters are great (except for those who fit like a glove in the tropes I hate). I like where the plot is going. And I’m excited to see where the story will go!
Book Rating: 4 stars