John Gwynne is quickly gaining the fame and attention he deserves with his Faithful and the Fallen series. When Malice was first published in 2012, I remember reading a Facebook post by Mark Lawrence stating that Malice would be the next big thing in the epic fantasy genre. After finishing Malice for the first time I shouted to my parents chagrin “OMG I just found my new favorite author”! It has taken some time for booktubers and reviewers to learn about this hidden gem of the fantasy genre, but better late than never and buckle up because all new readers are in for a wild ride!
John Gwynne’s series combines the writing style and themes of a classic fantasy novel and incorporates his own modern spin to the story for todays readers. Mr. Gwynne has stated in interviews that his inspirational authors growing up were: Tolkien, David Gemmell, and Bernard Cornwell. After reading just the first few chapters, you can instantly tell that Malice is in part an homage to these authors combined with the intense, gritty, and all around epic battles and conflicts this book pushes you into. The world we find ourselves in is the Banished Lands where Giants and humans have been fighting for hundreds of years. In present day, the Giants have been pushed to the edges of the world and the humans reside in their fortresses in their separate kingdoms. The threat of war is resurging as the Giants begin to stir when a prophecy long foretold is set in motion between good and evil. Two champions will be chosen, one from each side: The Black Sun and the Bright Star. Nations must unite behind these champions before the war destroys them all.
We follow several POV characters in this book as well as dozens of side characters each bringing something important to the plot. First we have Corban – son of a blacksmith looking to become a warrior for King Brenin but first he must be trained and face the trial of the long night. Next we have Cywen – Corban’s sister who refuses to be confined to the role set for her in a male driven community. She is deadly with her knives and will not let anyone push her or Corban around. Next we have Veradis – third son of the King of Ripa and a brilliant warrior and strategist. Veradis’ only desire is the approval of his father and he eventually becomes the right hand of Prince Nathair and his warband as they move east. Finally we have Kastell – nephew to the king of Romar and member of the Isiltir warriors with his shieldman Maquin as they patrol the Forn Forest for outlaws and rogue Giants.
The characters in the Faithful and the Fallen series are quite simple amazing. Every single one is written extremely well and you will not want to skim a single page of this 600+ pager. That being said, proceed with caution! John Gwynne takes after George RR Martin when it comes to his characters and he will emotionally crush you on several occasions. John Gwynne is the only fantasy author who has brought me to tears after reading his Faithful and the Fallen series, both tears of joy and remorse. John Gwynne’s writing is that good and is very digestible for readers of any level.
To quote the late Steve Jobs, “But wait, there’s more!” John Gwynne has written some of the most intense combat and battle scenes I have ever read! From the positioning of the solders, to the movements of the swords, the grit and pain of being pushed by a shieldwall shows that John Gwynne is a master of his craft. This story also contains the best animal companions I have come across since A Game of Thrones. I won’t go into details due to potential spoilers, but you will love them.
Malice won the David Gemmell Morning Star award given to best debut novels in the fantasy genre and John Gwynne hasn’t looked back since. Finishing two full series in this universe with a new series in a different universe, The Bloodsworn Saga, set to be released in 2021, anything he puts out is a must read for me. Readers who have enjoyed: A Song of Ice and Fire, First Law, Riyria Revelations, David Gemmell, and the Five Warrior Angels will absolutely welcome this series with open arms. I will be reviewing the whole Faithful and the Fallen series and I hope you will join me and my Warband.
Cheers to you John Gwynne!
Truth and Courage!!! (If you don’t know what this means, you will soon)