Saturday, 24 May 2014

Review: 'Valour' by John Gwynne

The Banished Lands are torn by war as the army of High King Nathair sweeps the realm challenging all who oppose his holy crusade. Allied with the manipulative Queen Rhin of Cambren, there are few who can stand against him. But Rhin is playing her own games and has her eyes on a far greater prize . . .

Left for dead - her kin have fled and her country is overrun with enemies - Cywen fights to survive. But any chance of escape is futile once Nathair and his disquieting advisor Calidus realize who she is. They have no intention of letting such a prize slip from their grasp. For she may be their one chance at killing the biggest threat to their power.

Meanwhile, the young warrior Corban flees from his conquered homeland with his exiled companions, heading for the only place that may offer them sanctuary. But to get there they must travel through Cambren, avoiding warbands, giants and the vicious wolven of the mountains. And all the while Corban struggles to become the man that everyone believes him to be - the Bright Star and saviour of the Banished Lands.

Embroiled in struggles for power and survival, the mortal world is unaware of the greatest threat of all. In the Otherworld, dark forces scheme to bring a host of the Fallen into the world of flesh to end the war with the Faithful, once and for all.

Book two of The Faithful and the Fallen picks up almost exactly where book one left off, which was a little bit disorienting for me as it’s been a few months since I read Malice. However, everything started to come back to me after a few pages, and I was surprised at how much I remembered. Valour begins in the aftermath of huge events, and this instantly gives the book a slightly different atmosphere.

As with Malice, I really enjoyed the parts of the story that were set in the Celtic-influenced areas. The settings are beautiful and vivid, and the forests and mountains and castles distinctly brought to my mind the time I’ve spent in Wales and Scotland. However,  a large part of the story also takes place in a Spartacus-like setting, which provides a nice sense of variation between chapters.

One of my main criticisms of the first book was the use of named POV chapters as popularised by GRRM. While the author does still use this format, he keeps it interesting by introducing several new and varied POV characters, and also by varying the length of the chapters, some of which are only a few pages long. The new POV character additions also help to address the imbalance of male and female characters, which is always a good thing.

It was nice to see the characters from Malice grow and develop, particularly the younger ones, who were essentially children in the previous book; and the growing focus on characters who were barely even mentioned in the first book of The Faithful and the Fallen really begins to hint at the grand scale the series is intending to achieve.


Click here to view Valour on Amazon UK

Click here to read my review of Malice (The Faithful and the Fallen #1)


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