- Wrath (The Faithful and The Fallen Book 4).
- John Gwynne.
- 672 pages.
- Fantasy / Epic Fantasy / High Fantasy / Heroic Fantasy / Dark Fantasy.
- My Rating: 5 stars out of 5.
Events are coming to a climax in the Banished Lands, as the war reaches new heights. King Nathair has taken control of the fortress at Drassil and three of the Seven Treasures are in his possession. And together with Calidus and his ally Queen Rhin, Nathair will do anything to obtain the remaining Treasures. With all seven under his command, he can open a portal to the Otherworld. Then Asroth and his demon-horde will finally break into the Banished Lands and become flesh.
Meanwhile Corban has been taken prisoner by the Jotun, warrior giants who ride their enormous bears into battle. His warband scattered, Corban must make new allies if he hopes to survive. But can he bond with competing factions of warlike giants? Somehow he must, if he’s to counter the threat Nathair represents.
His life hangs in the balance – and with it, the fate of the Banished Lands.
I received a free copy of the book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Wrath is the final book in John Gwynne’s The Faithful and the Fallen series following on from the previous three books Malice, Valour and Ruin. Quick praise to the cover designer as all four books have truly stunning looking covers. Taking place directly after the events that transpired at the conclusion of Ruin, Wrath sees us thrust straight back into the story and battle for the Banished Lands.
Everyone no matter their favoured and preferred genre of book has a favourite series and The Faithful and the Fallen is mine. Now, I fully admit to shedding a manly tear over Nighteyes in Robin Hobb’s The Tawny Man trilogy and this is the only other series that has brought pangs of emotion out of me. I can still remember reading Malice (book 1 in the series) on the cold and dark wintry nights of November three years ago, sitting on the sofa besides my own equivalent of Storm (Corban’s trusty and faithful wolven companion) and being pulled into the fate of the banished lands as Gwynne wove his epic and magical tale of good vs evil. One moment in particular from Malice has always stayed with me. I remember thinking I’d read a few more pages before bed only for one of the characters fates to come under threat and as a result I just couldn’t put the book down, reading late into the night to find out what happened and threatening to curse Gwynne, on the off-chance you read this I’m sorry John but you do put us through the emotional wringer during the series and throw my Kindle if something bad occurred! Suffice to say, the characters fate was resolved, I didn’t throw my Kindle and I was thoroughly hooked on the series from that moment on.
Any how, I’ve digressed enough, apologies, back to my review.
The overarching story of The Faithful and the Fallen is the battle of good vs evil. Corban The Bright Star, Elyon and the Ben-Elim fighting against the evil that is Nathair The Dark Sun, Calidus, Asroth and the Kadoshim. Calidus is intent on seeing his plan come to fruition, finally obtaining the seven star stone treasures and opening a portal to the Otherworld allowing Asroth and the Kadoshim to become flesh, entering the Banished Lands. After the battle at the end of Ruin, Calidus and Nathair are now in control of the Giant fortress at Drassil within the fabled Forn forest. Three of the seven treasures in their grip, Calidus and his allies needing to find the remaining four whilst also dealing with the remnants of The Bright Star’s scattered warband and his other allies spread throughout the Banished Lands.
Meanwhile, Rhin aligned with and Edana an ally and childhood friend of Corban The Bright Star are still fighting for control of Arden and its surrounding areas whilst Rhin searches for the whereabouts of the treasures rumoured to be there. And, Corban himself, injured, is a prisoner amongst the Jotun clan of giants.
This is only a very rudimentary description of the story involved in Wrath. There is far more going on with Gwynne adding extra layers to his story with plot twists, betrayals and additional little nuances strewn throughout with various other characters, rivalries, disputes and stories also taking place. But, I found that I really can’t go into detail without spoiling what happens in the previous three books. I try my best not to include spoilers in my reviews as I’m a firm believer, especially where fantasy is concerned that part of the pleasure in reading is learning about the created world and taking that journey along with the characters, getting to know them and following their stories as they unravel through the pages ingraining themselves in your mind as you find yourself becoming part of the tale that the author is telling.
Wrath like the rest of the series is written in the style of multiple point of view character’s. Each chapter is short and to the point moving the story forwards as Gwynne keeps flitting between his main cast of character’s propelling the book along at a fast pace, keeping you both abreast of what’s happening and in the heart of the action. Some chapters are only a couple of pages long before we swap back to another character and a different PoV. While it’s always nice to spend an extended amount of time with your favourite characters, the opposite also occurs and you often lament the chapter length when your stuck reading about your least favourite story arc and character. With Gwynne’s short chapters this doesn’t happen and works really well as you’re never more than a few pages away from a different PoV and as such you find the pages flying by.
Gwynne’s writing is top quality, fast paced, descriptive and with an eye for detail. From the first page to the last Wrath is a thrill ride as we build to the inevitable showdown between Corban and his friends and followers against Nathair, Calidus and the Kadoshim. Gwynne also writes humour and emotion well, with both moments that will make you smile and poignant passages and moments found within Wrath that will make you reflect on the losses that the characters have endured. One of the best passages for me came late in the book when Veradis was musing on the differences between Corban and Nathair, Gwynne wrote it perfectly and it summed up those two characters and their voyage flawlessly throughout the entire series with the characterisation spot on.
Also incorporated into Gwynne’s writing is his skill at depicting battle scenes, be they shield walls, giants, draigs and wolven to vicious effect – at times Storm still acts like a puppy around Corban, but is anything but in battle being a ferocious death dealer, duels, small-scale sorties, ambushes and epic large-scale assaults. Gwynne is a master at fight scenes and there is a lot of fighting in Wrath!
Unlike with so many other fantasy authors and series out there ranging from the classic through to the modern who incorporate dragons into their created world – some to great effect and others where the dragons just seem to have been added because “they’re cool and everyone likes dragons.” Now, I can’t disagree with that but it’s nice to see a fantasy series that doesn’t include or rely on them as plot devices. Gwynne completely forgoes the usage of dragons in his The Faithful and the Fallen series, making for a refreshing change and instead gives us giants, giant bears, white wyrms, draigs and wolven as the creatures inhabiting his world.
The Banished Lands have always felt like a fully realised creation in Gwynne’s deft hands, full of various different creatures, giant clans, regions, scenery and people’s. Filled with history and lore and blended with a Celtic infused feel, it’s a world that as Gwynne describes it you can really picture it in your mind as you read about it. A large part of the book takes place in Drassil and the surrounding Forn forest, Forn is a deadly place, dark, malignant and massive in both size and scale. Gwynne really brings out the oppressiveness of the area with unknown danger and dread lurking around every corner.
The Otherworld adds another layer to the Banished Lands to. It is the realm where the Ben-Elim, Kadoshim and Asroth dwell and while we only sporadically visit there it is an interesting concept executed well. Elyon and his Ben-Elim are the “faithful” and Asroth and his Kadoshim are the “fallen” of the series title. Though that is also true for the characters, Corban, etc inspire faith in each other, fighting to save their lands because it’s the right thing to do (faithful) whilst Calidus, Nathair, etc fight to bring destruction by any means necessary for personal gain causing death and grief (fallen).
I’m a big fan of becoming attached to the characters I’m reading about and seeing them grow and develop throughout the course of the series. I want to cheer for the good guys and hate the bad guys, caring about the fates of the people I’m reading about. Willing the hero to survive and hoping that the bad guys get what’s coming to them. I don’t want to feel ambivalent about the people on the pages, questioning to myself do I or don’t I care about the outcome, I want to feel that pull that draws me back to the story just to see what happens next.
Gwynne gives you that with his myriad cast of characters bringing them to life with various personalities and reasons for why they are who they are. You care about the plight and fates of Corban, Storm, Brina, Craf, Cywen, Gar and Camlin amongst others. We’ve followed Corban from a young boy sneaking into Brina’s house at the beginning of Malice through all his trials and tribulations, ups and downs, highs, lows and losses to become the man he is in Wrath, we want to see him gain retribution on Calidus and succeed in thwarting Asroth’s plan. You eagerly await the next snide and acerbic comment to come from Brina. You want to see if Calidus, Nathair, Rhin and Morcant face the consequences of their dark deeds. You want to see if Maquin will finally get his vengeance on Lykos for all the hell he’s put him through. And, this is why you keep turning the pages, because you are invested in the characters and their stories, you care what happens next.
I have to admit to some trepidation before I started Wrath, finding my anticipation and excitement at the books release somewhat tempered by a slight apprehension that the book itself, being the last book in the series wouldn’t live up to my exacting expectations that Gwynne had created with the previous three installments and that like with some other series out there, it wouldn’t be a satisfying ending to the journey and would in-fact be a lacklustre finish that left me deflated, impassive and apathetic towards it.
Because of that trepidation, before I started reading I decided that come the end of the book, when I’d turned that final page and had time to reflect that there would be two questions I’d need to ask myself. Firstly, did Wrath and more importantly its ending fit in with the tone of the series and secondly, was it worth it, was it a fitting end to the journey started pages and pages ago at the very start with Malice…..and the answer to both was a resounding YES! I sat there, no need for reflection, smile on my face thinking wow, what a fine ending to the series and if I’d had a drink to hand I would have raised my glass at John Gwynne, nodded my head and said well-played Sir, well played.
As Wrath, well, Wrath is my book of the year, it is the perfect storm, poignant, emotional, humorous, perfectly paced and a gripping climax to what has been an epic battle of good vs evil. Gwynne takes you through a range of emotions as you find yourself feeling sad, happy, laughing and even shedding a manly tear along the way towards that final page. A masterpiece in modern fantasy and a breathtaking finale to what is my all-time favourite fantasy series.
And, with its conclusion, I can say that in my humble opinion John Gwynne’s The Faithful and the Fallen fully deserves to be read by all fantasy fans, standing alongside other finished fantasy series as an outstanding achievement in the genre and recognised as a modern classic.
If you haven’t started this series yet or say that fantasy isn’t your genre and “isn’t for you” then do yourself a favour and give this series a go, highly recommended!
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