“That is my prayer, what use is prayer to a God that has abandoned all things…” – Halvor
Gwynne’s debut is the foundation of what will arguably be a perplexing but ultimately breathtaking fantasy saga. One that is flowing with age-old and perhaps cliched elements preparing for the ultimate battle. Good vs. Evil. It features a whole range of species such as humans, giants, wolven, draigs and also incorporates a friendly intellectual talking crow.
A few wise people have envisaged through their extramental powers and knowledge that the ever-present threat of a God war; one that was fabled over 2000 years ago may be very close to fruition.
The mythical race the Ben-Elim revered two Gods. Asroth and Elyon. One of these ascendants has turned his back on humanity and all who dwell within The Banished Lands. It is foretold that both sides will have a champion. One entitled the Black Sun and one known as the Bright Star.
The narrative follows about 7-8 points of view all in third person perspective. What is interesting and I respect Gwynne for this is that, barring one obviously evil character all the main focus characters are good people in this disturbing, dark and deceptive world. Whichever side of the Good vs. Evil foundations they are frequenting we hear it from good hearted people. To the extent where – although both characters are involved throughout the whole book – until the ultimation, we have no idea who is the Black Sun and who is the Bright Star – and I guess even then we can’t be 100% sure. From this tactic of the author with writing pleasant point of views, the story starts off quite upbeat and charming with a royal wedding – known in this realm as a “handbounding”. The reality is that with the ever present war this vibe does not continue too long.
I would say 50% of this book follows young Corban. A youth from Ardan who is dealing with bullies, family issues and the ever present knowledge that he needs to work hard before his looming manhood challenge; sitting the Long Night where he can prove he is a warrior which is his main ambition. He wants to make everyone proud if possible. It doesn’t always appear easy for young Corban with the challenges he faces on this road to ever looming manhood. Well, if he makes it that far. Not a spoiler. Just may end up being a fact in this rotten world.
In this novel – so many of the presented personae are complicated, some are likable are others are intensely mysterious. Characters that stood out most to me, and there are a few which speaks volumes in itself – were Tull, Storm, Nathair, Envis, Cywen, Maquin, Camlin amongst about 47 others. You will get attached and yes; it will hurt.
The world is intricately created incorporating nationalities, races, religions, family ties etc… I mentioned before that some cliches worm their way throughout this book, however; fantasy is my favourite genre so if it isn’t broke then why fix it. A cliche of my own!
I do not wish to discuss too much of the actual plot, characterisation or outcomes and trust me- you will thank me because this is a book you don’t want to have ruined. If you haven’t read this then – stop reading reviews!!! (After this one of course) Spoilers do lurk so be careful. I was aware of one or two before the conclusion.
Apart from it being a typical fantasy – which isn’t really a problem, I do have one criticism. For a published novel by TOR, I noticed a handful of errors. Main character names spelled wrong, missing “-marks from sentences, repeating exactly the same statement a paragraph later when that point; for the progression of the book did not need to be repeated. In the introduction, Gwynne thanks 9 people; excluding an editor for proof-reading his manuscript. It is a shame that errors sneaked through. (I know I make spelling mistakes – probably even in this review yet I don’t sell these at Waterstones). Spelling errors alas, but still a spellbinding story and I can’t wait to start Valour well, probably in about 7 minutes.
The ending was a great culmination of all the threads (or should that be threats?) and it does finish with most events being nicely tied up. No major cliffhangers. A few of my friends said that this books finale brought tears to their eyes. I will not argue – it is brutal and utterly devastating and unpredictable at some points. It didn’t upset me too much following on from reading the heartless deaths in Malazan and also the fact I am a cold hearted psychopath. Unless, it involves animals. I saw a dead cat once and cried. If a characters’ pet animal (who you will love) got injured I threatened to throw this and the remaining three books into my fire. And I will. You best think that over Gwynne before you release Wrath in 7 days or you with honestly feel my Wrath. Grr.
Oh shit, I reviewed this and didn’t mention Games of Thrones. Damn. I just did.
Your friend. James http://www.youandibooks.wordpress.com