Book Review: Malice by John Gwynne

A friend of mine gave me this whole series (four books in total) and recommended that I read them because he was sure I would love them. So far I’ve only gotten through this first one, but he’s not entirely wrong.

The plot is one you probably feel like you’ve heard before. In a fantasy world full of warring kingdoms and magical creatures (giants among some), weird things are starting to happen. There’s talk of prophecy, of a change coming. A war.

Of course there is some young protagonist – Corban – who finds himself in the middle of all of this, while he at the same time keeps busy with growing up and becoming a soldier. You know, the usual stuff fantasy protagonists do.

I liked Gwynne’s book. Enough that I want to carry on with the series. The next book is ready and waiting. At the same time, I agree with what a lot of reviews are saying: it’s very slow. At least the first half. It picks up after that, but the first half is almost boring. Not only is it slow of pace, but it just doesn’t seem to be driven by much. It starts off with a prologue (that I didn’t like it and wrote about over here) and then it just kind of dilly-dallies around the place, with some talk of prophecies that no one seems to care about. I feel like he laid all of these things on the table and then just forgot about them for the first half of the book.

But then the plot picks up, and I really loved the second half. I’m also very excited to start book 2.

One thing I struggled with (which maybe led to my dislike of the first half) was Gwynne’s awkward writing style. (Or lack of editing, call it what you will). Below are four examples (of many more) where I struggled with the way he phrased himself. These are taken directly out of the book as they are, except that I’ve put the ‘He‘ into sentence 2, 3 & 4 (in place of character names).

1 – “The huntsman crashed to the ground, slowly began to rise.”

2 – “He lurched to one knee, reaching awkwardly to pluck the arrow from his shoulder. With a grunt it pulled free and he dropped it clattering on the stones, grasped his sword hilt.”

3 – “He had staggered, was clutching at the black stone of the battlement.”

4 – “He surged into the room, stood frozen for a moment.”

This is completely off to me. It feels like he’s edited these sentences after the initial draft, and then forgot to fix them completely. At first I thought that it was just that, a case of poor editing, but there’s so many. More than those I’ve listed here.

But once I got past that, the book was good, and I’m intrigued by the series. It’s the kind of series I hope can measure up to George R. R. Martin’s ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ (because we’re all waiting for the next book in that series, aren’t we?) At least these books are all written.

Recommended for fantasy lovers!



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