- A Time of Courage (Of Blood and Bone #3).
- John Gwynne.
- 672 pages.
- Epic Fantasy.
- My Rating: Hellyeah Book Review.
Battle the dark
Reclaim the world
The King of the Otherworld is finally free. Armed with fearsome new starstone weapons, Asroth prepares to lead his demonic war-host south. And with the help of his bride, Fritha, he plans to crush the warrior-angels and their allies for good.
In the shadows of Forn Forest, Riv and the surviving Ben-Elim hold a war council – desperate to unite those who would stand against Asroth and his army. They decide to fly west, to join the Order of the Bright Star. But Drem and the Order are already under siege by a demon horde and their fragile defenses may soon shatter.
Across the Banished Lands, armies are gathering to settle ancient grudges and decide the fate of humanity. Drem, Riv and the Bright Star’s warriors will need to call on all their courage as they face the final battle. But will it be enough, as their darkest hour draws near?
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I make no qualms that I’m a huge John Gwynne fan and that his The Faithful and the Fallen series is my all-time favourite fantasy series. I still remember the cold November night of 2013. Six and a half long years ago when I was sat with my dog by my side reading Malice (the first book in the series) and I reached a part of the story where an unbreakable bond was in its infancy and a life was at stake. Where Gwynne held fate in the palm of his hands, in his words and ultimately, in the choice that he had made. I had to know which way the cards would fall and so, I read long and late into the night. From that moment and etched in time as a reading memory, I knew that I was in for something special and I was hooked.
A Time of Courage is also a reading memory for me as it has the rather dubious honour of being the book that accompanied me on my first ever stay in a hospital (what a time to have to stay in a hospital with COVID-19 and the Coronavirus running rampant). Sat by the window of my bay on the ward, immersed and totally lost in Gwynne’s work I flew through 450 pages in a day and then devoured the final 200 battle-filled and breathtaking pages the following day.
Taking place nearly one-hundred-and-fifty years after the end of Wrath and The Faithful and the Fallen series the Of Blood and Bone trilogy is a standalone, self-contained and it firmly stands on its own as an outstanding trilogy. If you will, the Of Blood and Bone trilogy is a companion piece to The Faithful and the Fallen with the two mixing together like blood on a battlefield and telling a complete story. For me, I highly recommend reading The Faithful and the Fallen series first for the knowledge, added depth, shading to the world and the emotional impact that the names and events mentioned will have on you heightening your reading experience and elevating it to another richer level.
A Time of Courage starts directly after the conclusion of the previous book, A Time of Blood and is once again told through multiple perspectives. There are five in total from both sides of the divide, those on the side of good and those black souls on the side of evil. Things never really let up in A Time of Courage with the story continually moving forwards and building, ever pushing towards the final confrontation and the huge showdown between the forces of good vs evil that will leave the landscape littered with mountains of dead from both sides.
The fight scenes are first-class, plentiful and written by Gwynne in stellar fashion. Some are smaller scale, more personal with old scores to be settled whilst others are huge in scope with blockbuster sequences, cinematic and consist of thousands of combatants upon the field. You easily picture yourself in the thick of the action, feel the bone-crunching blows, the ground shaking with the impact and the wounds inflicted. You are there, not reading but, fighting alongside, living and breathing the battle. It’s the characters lives on the line but, it might as well be your own with how invested you are. I swear, that on occasion when reading battle scenes that the book (which is huge and a weapon itself) actually moved under the power of the blows being dealt.
Throughout your time spent reading A Time of Courage, you will laugh, you will cry and you will care. You will go through a range of emotions from soaring highs to sorrowful lows. There will be moments where you fist-pump the air in joy and in relief. There are moments where you simply cannot put the book down, where real-life and reality fade into the forgettable background and where even if the world were ending around you, you are compelled to carry on reading. There are plentiful moments of dread and of fear for the fate of the characters where you curse Gwynne for the seemingly unending torment, torture and hell that he puts the characters through as they struggle to endure and survive against the odds and the overwhelming forces of evil. As they barely hang on against Asroth, the Kadoshim and the tides of darkness.
Gwynne isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, bloody his axe, cleave bone, tear flesh and characters will die. During A Time of Courage they are put through the wringer as is the reader, will your favourites fall? Will they make it to the end? It’s not for me to say but, you are invested and eyes will water. You will mourn for the fallen and you will cheer for the living.
There’s a strength to Gwynne’s writing and a conviction that flows through his words as he concludes his powerfully told tale of good vs evil. The writing is descriptive, meaningful, emotive and often profound with weighted words and passages that are heavy with meaning. The characters continue to develop and grow and Gwynne gives you real people to root for, to cheer and the reverse, to hate and to vilify. There are many big loud and bombastic moments along with the intense action and ferocious fighting that takes place but, there is also plenty of room left for contemplation, for the quiet, retrospective and thoughtful moments too. There is also light to be found in the darkness with the banter and camaraderie that occurs between the characters. One thing with Gwynne, he writes animals so well, they aren’t companions to the characters, they are characters in their own right and in the story, they are more, they are friend and warrior too.
A Time of Courage is an apt name for the book as it is a time of courage for the heroes. Things often look grim for them as they face seemingly insurmountable odds. Look deeper and you see love and loyalty, friendship, family, the ties that bind and unbreakable bonds that have been formed. You see courage, truth and hope, the things that drive the heroes who look to the future and care about what will come after for the future generations. They don’t fight for themselves, they don’t fight for glory or to make a name for themselves, they fight for each other and they fight not only to survive but for tomorrow, for future generations and for the future of the Banished Lands.
There are the past and the present in A Time of Courage with bygone names and events mentioned in revered tones. Legends that echo, that are laced with meaning and that, if you have read The Faithful and the Fallen series will have you nodding, smiling away at yourself and whispering the immortal battle cry of ‘Truth and Courage‘. When you come to the end of A Time of Courage new names will have been made, new legends will have been forged, risen to stand beside those of the past and who now have their own legend carved, etched and forever immortalised in the history of the Banished Lands.
I have turned the final page of A Time of Courage, the third and final book in the Of Blood and Bone trilogy and after seven books, four in The Faithful and the Fallen series and three in the Of Blood and Bone trilogy I have now come to the end of my time spent in the Banished Lands. John Gwynne, you are a master of the craft. As a reader, thank you for allowing me the chance to live and breathe your creation, to follow in the footsteps of and to walk beside your characters on the unforgettable journey that they have taken. A Time of Courage is a bittersweet and brilliant experience, everything that I want in a fantasy book and a fitting ending to both the Of Blood and Bone trilogy and to the saga of The Banished Lands. A masterpiece and simply incredible. If you are a fantasy fan then John Gwynne is a must-read author.
Purchase A Time of Courage (Of Blood and Bone #3) by John Gwynne.
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