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Malice by John Gwynne

Malice by John Gwynne
Book Name: Malice
Author: John Gwynne
Publisher(s): Tor (UK)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / eBook
Genre(s): Fantasy
Release Date: December 6, 2012 (UK)

“A black sun is rising…

Young Corban watches enviously as boys become warriors under King Brenin’s rule, learning the art of war. He yearns to wield his sword and spear to protect his king’s realm. But that day will come all too soon. Only when he loses those he loves will he learn the true price of courage.

The Banished Lands has a violent past where armies of men and giants clashed shields in battle, the earth running dark with their heartsblood. Although the giant-clans were broken in ages past, their ruined fortresses still scar the land. But now giants stir anew, the very stones weep blood and there are sightings of giant wyrms. Those who can still read the signs see a threat far greater than the ancient wars. Sorrow will darken the world, as angels and demons make it their battlefield. Then there will be a war to end all wars.”

John Gwynne’s book, Malice, the first in a two part series called The Faithfull and The Fallen, has been hyped up by his publishers, as they are want to do, as the next big thing in high fantasy. It’s been responsible for a bidding war on the other side of the Atlantic and big things are expected of it. He’s even been called the next George R. R. Martin.

It must be a bittersweet experience, as a debut author, to be compared to George. One hand, there must that feeling of, “Bloody hell, I always knew I was talented” – which must be nice after working on a book for so long. On the other hand, there must also be a feeling of, “Bloody hell, now they’ll be expecting another Game of Thrones.” And to be honest, as GRRM himself often fails to live up to that very thing, it’s a comparison that often leads to disappointment. And unfortunately that’s what happened in this case.

In many ways it’s not Gwynne’s fault. Malice is well written and enjoyable but it’s never going to change the genre. In fact, I don’t think it ever intended to. It’s so firmly set in a world most fantasy readers know all too well, with characters not far removed from the stereotypes we have come to expect – The Boy With A Hidden Destiny, The Ambitious Prince, The Tomboy Girl Who Wants to Fight, The Wicked Queen, etc. – that it almost reads as a love letter to the classic tales of Gemmell and Fiest. There is no reinvention here, no ripping up the rulebook and turning fantasy on its head. Instead it’s like slipping on a pair of comfy slippers and watching the latest Jason Stratham film – the names of the characters and places may have changed since the last one but not much else. You know what you are getting going in and that is part of the attraction. Sometimes you just want a bit of mindless entertainment and have some fun. Read Malice with that intention and it doesn’t let you down.

The book has multiple POVs, resulting in a hefty book where, to be honest, not a lot of progress happens plot-wise, but we get to explore Gwynne’s world in detail and he’s a master at worldbuilding. Lots of information comes at you in a natural way that doesn’t bog-down the experience. There’s plenty of battles, vividly described, against both monsters and men, back-stabbing politics and the seduction of the innocent by the dark side that keeps the pages turning. Gwynne manages to juggle all his balls well so things never get confusing. But this is very much a part 1 of 2 and a case of setting the stage, maneuvering all the players into position, ready for the next book’s big smack down.

If Malice was a TV show, it wouldn’t be on HBO despite the giant swords and the tough men but, instead, it’s just right for that early-evening Dr Who spot. Suitable for all ages to watch just before dinner, taking you away to another world for a short while, to be greatly enjoyed while not taxing the brain or shocking the in-laws.

John Gwynne isn’t the next GRRM but if you like a good old-fashioned tale of good vs. evil, where the good guys wear white and the bad guys are really, really bad then Malice is perfect. So sit back, slip on those slippers and enjoy.


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