“Two born of blood, dust and ashes shall champion the Choices, the Darkness and Light.”
Wow. First, I wanna thank Petrik for recommending this book to me. Malice by John Gwynne lives up to the recommendation. On goodreads, I rated it a 5/5 stars without a second thought. This first book revolves around a prophecy that the world will be divide into two sides, basically your classic fight between good and evil.
“Black Sun will drown the earth in bloodshed, Bright Star with the Treasures must unite.’ Again he stopped, carefully turned more pages, eventually continued his halting reading: ‘By their names you shall know them – Kin-Slayer, Kin-Avenger, Giant-Friend, Draig-Rider, Dark Power ’gainst Lightbringer.’ And so he went on: read, pause, search. Read again. ‘One shall be the Tide, one the Rock in the swirling sea. Before one, storm and shield shall stand; before the other, True-Heart and Black-Heart. Beside one rides the Beloved, beside the other, the Avenging Hand. Behind one, the Sons of the Mighty, the fair Ben-Elim, gathered ’neath the Great Tree. Behind the other, the Unholy, dread Kadoshim, who seek to cross the bridge, force the world to bended knee.”
What I found interesting about this book, is that while the characters are pretty easily distinguishable between good and bad, the concept of good and evil itself rides the grey line. I can only assume that this line will keep getting thinner. We have characters that we see committing heinous acts while truly believing they are doing things for the greater good. There’s supposed to be certain races of people/creatures that are servants of the sides of good and evil, but these aren’t always as they seem. There’s a lot of politicking going on in Malice and truly nobody is safe. I love that we get multiple POVs and most of the chapters are short because it keeps the story really fresh and fast moving. The way this book is written, it TRULY reminds me of A Song of Ice and Fire. What sets it apart is that John Gwynne is MUCH more straightforward in his writing. We don’t see long-winded passages filled with descriptions that don’t serve to advance the plot. It is much more palatable to the average fantasy reader, and this is coming from someone that loves ASOIAF with a passion. That being said, EVERY moment of this book served the greater objective. I raced through each chapter to get to the next POV because they were all interesting, though I will claim Corban’s as a favorite.
Speaking of, here’s a brief introduction to our POV characters:
•Corban: a wolven-raising, colt-loving boy with immense talent in the training field. He deals with bullying from another boy with kindness and grace. Okay, if you know me, you know I’m a sucker for a wolf-human bond in a story. This satisfies that craving for me. Corban loves animals and they love him.
“Your colt, Ban. He just raced past us, from nowhere, threw himself into the hound. He killed it, Ban, defending you. I’ve never seen the like before.”
•Cywen: a smart and hardworking girl, sister to Corban. She’s often found embarrassing him by protecting him (aka beating up) the bullies. Strong and capable, her mother taught her knife throwing at a young age.
“Cywen remembered her knives suddenly, fumbling one from her belt and hurled it at a face in a red cloak — saw him fall backwards, clutching at his throat.”
•Evnis: I don’t know much about this guy yet. From his first chapter, it makes it clear that he’s a two-faced, self-serving weasel. I’m not sure his motives yet for acting the way he does, but he’s one of the few that are easily put in the EVIL pile. He’s a mentor to King Brenin.
“You hide your greed behind a cloak of revenge, Evnis. Power is what you seek, and will grasp it where you can.”
•Nathair: the son of High King Aquilis. A warrior with a penchant for battle strategy. Fiercely ambitious and capable of charming leagues, he believes he is destined for greatness that even his father can not comprehend.
“I know who you are, what you will become. That is why I serve you.”
•Veradis: eager to prove himself as capable as his older brother, Veradis quickly becomes Nathair’s first-sword and best friend. Veradis believes that Nathair is the key to saving their realm and protects him at all costs.
“Then stand, brother, for that is what you are to me now, and let us seal this oath with our blood.”
•Kastell: orphaned from his immediate family, and caught in feud with his jealous cousin, Kastell is torn between serving his uncle or joining the Gadair, a group of prestigious sword-brothers. He is mentored and protected by his family friend, Maquin. Kastell is pure of heart and motive.
“You are like a son to me and I fear for you. Let me make one thing clear. The only thing that will part me from you is death.”
•Camlin: a brigand with morals, he refuses to harm women or children. He will play a major part on both sides of the war at certain points.
“No more innocent blood…
I am thankful for your coming, more than I can ever show, but I’d rather walk right back into my cell and face the headsman on the morrow than see their blood spilt.”
And that’s it for POVs. We truly have a wonderful cast of characters, good and bad. no one character‘s chapters are so lingering that you get bored of them. Before you know it, you’re reading the next character’s chapter and wanting to get back to the previous… IN A NEVER-ENDING, GLORIOUS CYCLE. I can say that the last 25 percent of the book gave me heart palpitations and probably more than a few gray hairs. Nobody is safe here. John Gwynne is good at making your heart tender towards his characters and then stabbing you in your perfectly primed, tender heart. If you like getting stabbed in the heart repeatedly because you’re a book masochist, like me, this is for you. I can only see the series getting better –and more heartbreaking– from here. Dare I say, this book/series is already primed to be in my top ten favorite fantasy books ever. By the end of this series, I won’t be surprised if John Gwynne joins the ranks of Rothfuss, Hobb, Martin, Sanderson, Abercrombie, and Lawrence in my favorite authors.
“Both the brave man and the coward feel the same. The only difference between them is the brave man faces his fear, does not run.”