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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.

High King Aquilus summons his fellow kings to council, seeking an alliance in this time of need. Some are skeptical, fighting their own border skirmishes against pirates and giants. But prophesy indicates darkness and light will demand two champions, the Black Sun and the Bright Star. They would be wise to seek out both, for if the Black Sun gains ascendancy, mankind’s hopes and dreams will fall to dust.

672 pages, Hardcover

First published December 1, 2012

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About the author

John Gwynne

25 books9,577 followers
I am the author of epic fantasy series The Faithful and the Fallen, Of Blood and Bone and The Bloodsworn Saga. I'm also a Viking re-enactor and enjoy nothing more than standing in the shield wall with my three sons, who are as passionate about swords and axes as I am (when I'm not stuck in my coat of mail; it's harder than it looks).
I live on the south coast of the UK with my beautiful wife, three sons and my daughter, and an assortment of animals (at the moment three dogs, a horse and a lamb who thinks she's a dog).
My dogs think I am their slave.

Malice, my debut novel, was published by Pan Macmillan in 2012 and went on to win the David Gemmell Morningstar Award for Best Fantasy Debut of 2012. That was a truly wonderful moment, as David Gemmell is a hero of mine and one of the reasons I write.

The following three books in the series - Valour, Ruin and Wrath, were all shortlisted for the David Gemmell Legend Award for Best Fantasy Novels of 2014, 2015 and 2016, with Wrath winning the 2017 BookNest Awards for Best Traditionally Published Novel.

My second series, of Blood and Bone, is set in the Banished Lands, the same world as the first series. Book 1, A Time of Dread, begins 130 years after the events of the first series. A Time of Courage, book 3 Of Blood and Bone, made the Spiegel Bestseller's List in Germany.

My latest book, The Shadow of the Gods, book 1 of the Bloodsworn Saga, will be published in May 2021. It is inspired by Norse mythology, Beowulf and Ragnarök.

I am represented by Julie Crisp.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,370 reviews
Profile Image for Petrik.
664 reviews41.2k followers
April 12, 2022
I have a Booktube channel now! Subscribe here: https://www.youtube.com/petrikleo

4.5/5 Stars

Do you ever have this feeling, just after you finished reading the first book of a series, you knew immediately there's a huge potential for the series to become one of your favorite series of all time? Malice, the first book in The Faithful and the Fallen quartet by John Gwynne is one of those rare cases for me.

What started out as a simple classic tale of Good vs Evil ended up being not as simple as I thought. As the story progressed, the story evolved darker gradually while keeping the theme ‘Good vs Evil’ at its heart. Has this theme been done before in the past? Yes, more than a million times already. Will I ever get bored with it? No, never. It’s my favorite kind of story; it’s the essence of the majority of epic fantasy books, video games, and movies. What this theme requires to reach greatness has always been a touch of creativity, to make the story unique, make it the author's own story to share and this, John Gwynne did phenomenally.

Taking place in The Banished Lands where the God War—which broke the world in the first place—happened in the far away past, a prophecy foretold that the ancient war is coming back; anyone with the knowledge of the prophecy must unite to prevent the destruction that the war will cause; the opposite side will unite to achieve the chaos. Don’t worry, this is not a spoiler, it’s told in the prologue. Malice, as the first book of the series, managed to create a huge amount of groundwork for the sequels. In fact, this installment is more like an introduction to its rich world, legends, and characters. It's not until the end of the book that we finally get to know who the real faces mentioned in the prophecy were; assuming I'm not proven wrong in the sequels. This is all I will tell you about the story. Look, I’m doing you a favor here, jump into this book as blindly as possible. If you want to know more of the basic premise of the plot, this is one of the really rare circumstances where it’s safe to read the blurb of the book. That’s really all you have to know.

Although this epic (darker tone) fantasy grew more complex, brutal and poignant with each page turned, at the same time it’s filled with familial love and friendship that will warm and break your heart. The novel never goes into the grimdark genre where the characters are morally ambiguous. Told from third-person narrative, Malice introduces you to a wide variety of lovable and great characters with fantastic developments spread throughout the book. Other than the obvious villains that were written to be loathed, every single POV in the book is highly engrossing. Containing the themes of coming of age, friendship, responsibility, bravery, pride, ego, deception, and malice, these characters were imbued with its own unique narrative; no POV ever felt as if they were told with the same voice. I must also mention there's a huge bonus of reading this book if you’re a lover of friendship between human and dogs like me; you’re in for a treat here.

Pacing-wise, Malice started really slowly because it’s a heavily character-driven book. This doesn’t mean that there weren’t any actions to be found though, you’ll be entertained with a lot of mini-action sequences spread sparsely which I must say, are all written with great details. Not to mention that the last quarter of the book was really high-paced with tons of intense actions in its climax sequences. This is honestly my favorite type of story structure in a book. It allows us to care about the characters first, know how they truly feel, their motivations, their purpose, and eventually their fate. Every favorite series of mine have these elements. Without any compelling characters, I seriously can’t be invested heavily towards a series. Luckily, John Gwynne is amazing at writing lovable characters, world-building, and his writing was really easy to get into; it's immersive, vivid and felt raw with emotions to provide a rich reading experience.

I absolutely loved almost everything about this book that in fact, I only have two really minor cons.

1. The huge amount of names can be quite overwhelming since they were all introduced right from the beginning consecutively. It took a quarter of the novel for me before I was able to memorize all the names of the characters and places; this was possible with the help of the beautifully drawn map at the beginning of the book.

2. The physical aspects of the characters were quite hard to envision because they lacked the necessary descriptions.

That’s it really, it’s more of tiny annoyances than cons but I got used to them really quick.

By the end of the last page, I found myself filled with the satisfaction of getting to read such a magnificent first book of a series, not to mention that this is also Gwynne's debut work. Other than the two minor cons in the first section of the book, I absolutely enjoyed reading Malice; it’s a classic story of Light vs Darkness at its best. Right from the beginning, the characters and the plot gripped me and never let go until the end. Among all the famous “If you loved Game of Thrones, you should try this.” blurbs and recommendations, this is probably as close as it gets in terms of quality, complexity, and its harsh world. I do believe that this series will be superior compared to A Song of Ice and Fire (and hey, the series is completed already) by the end of it but I’ll reserve my final judgment until I read the last book, Wrath. I don’t usually recommend any completed series until I finished the last installment but this deserves an exception. I’m an idiot if I don’t recommend this right from the start. I highly recommend Malice to anyone who loves epic fantasy with lovable casts of characters.

You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)

You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions
Profile Image for Mark Lawrence.
Author 76 books50.7k followers
July 27, 2022
I finished Malice by the excellent John Gwynne whilst at hospital with Celyn this week. It's taken me a very long time to read due to the many calls on my time, so I've read it in small chunks over many months - and that's exactly the opposite of how I would want anyone to read my own work. It's a particularly bad way to read complicated books, and with a GRRM-sized cast and many point-of-view characters this is a book that really needs your attention on it or you'll get lost in the whirl of names and places and politics.

Even so the story was still able to come to an exciting head for me in the closing stages with all manner of battles, betrayals and revelations.

I particularly enjoyed the battle scenes and duels. You get the feeling John knows a lot about swords and swordplay (no idea if he does or not).

I would call this an 'old style' book that reminds me of much of my reading as a teen but brought up to date in the same sort of way that Michael Sullivan has done with his work.

We see an on-coming 'god-war' / wide spread crisis as the first tremors of it reach into the lives of a collection of characters (mostly young men ranging from low-born to noble) scattered across the many nations of this world. There are intrigues and mysteries and we're often not sure who can be trusted. Various potential heroes grow over the period of (possibly a year?) and have their mettle tested.

The reviews on goodreads have been great and I can see a big readership for the book. Hopefully a US release will come along soon!

If it sounds like your thing... then it probably is :D

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Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,403 reviews9,536 followers
July 30, 2019

My thoughts . . .


I wanted to kill people seven ways til Sunday in this book! The damn bullies and the evil people. If you read this book you best not like anyone or anything because they are going to DIE! Well, not all of them, but still! You know how these epics go =)

Some of my favorite characters:
1. Corbin
2. Cywen (Corbin's sister)
3. Gar (stablemaster)
4. Thannon (the smith & Corbin/Cywen's father
5. Veradis

Okay, there are several more I loved but I can't list them all!

Corbin and his best friend Dath get bullied by this jerk named Rafe and oh I can't wait until the day he gets his. I hope he gets it bad! Watch, he will turn into a good person and I will have to like him!

Cywen is bad to the bone and takes up for Corbin beating the crap out of Rafe :-D But of course, Corbin doesn't want his sister fighting his battles. And it's going to be a little bit before he can start training to be a warrior.

Gar, the stable master actually starts training him early. Cywen also works for Gar helping with the horses. Gar is a wonderful person.

I love Corbin and Cywen's parents too! They are good people. And they have some secrets about Corbin which I hope will come out in the next book. Their father is a smith but he is bad to the bone too, well, so is Gar.

One day Corbin goes off because of (reasons) and he runs into some wolven. Then some stuff happens that endears Corbin to the wolves. But later on some bad stuff happens by some @ssholes and Corbin ends up with a wolven pup. He named her Storm. He also gets a little colt given to him by Gar who he names Shield and I was loving the part when Shield actually saved his life.


There are a lot of things going on in this book. The author built up this world pretty good in this debut novel!

We also have giants, wyrms, elementals and other stuff. There is to be a God-War. You can read the book and find out what all that entails!

Veradis is too cool. He is sent over to another King to fight in his son, Prince Nathair's warband. He does a pretty freaking good job protecting the prince, but some things happen there and off Veridis goes fighting stuff because of stuff. And I'm not sure what is going on with Nathair at this point. I'm thinking all kinds of people in this book are being possessed by stuff. <--I love saying stuff!

Brina is a healer and she's cool. I love her crow, Craf too.

Like I said there are many characters in this book I liked and loathed. I haven't named them all. There is just too much and you should just read the book if you love epic fantasy books! I am anxious to read the next books because I don't know who else is going to die! God, it's like reading Game of Thrones or watching The Walking Dead! I'm going to start hating everything and everyone because if you like them even a little bit they will die. I think I mentioned that before but still. lol

Anyway, read it, enjoy it, rage with it and move on . . . .

MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for John Gwynne.
Author 25 books9,577 followers
April 18, 2021
Really looking forward to joining a chat with Alan, Petrik, Abby, Alex and Philip about Wrath in a few days. If you want to catch up on their BookTube chat on Malice first, the link is here

Two of my boys have made a video talking about their Top 10 Moments of Malice. If you want to relive some moments that may have faded from the memory, you can find it here

Malice has hit 15,000 ratings! Thank you to all the wonderful Banished Lands readers who have rated or reviewed any book of mine. They really help authors. TRUTH AND COURAGE!
Profile Image for Mayim de Vries.
577 reviews801 followers
September 14, 2017
Have you ever heard me saying: The movie was better? I don’t think so, as such statement is an epitome of blasphemy for every self-respecting reader. But here comes Malice with each of its 672 pages like a severe toothache, and I promise: if they ever turn this book into a movie/series, it is going to be better than the original.

It took me (let me check) over a month to read Malice. I put it down twice and read two other books in between. And the only thing that kept me going was the sheer malicious intent of writing this review. All my friends (save Anirudh, whose very somber views when it comes to Malice, lift up my spirits) are salivating with stars at the slightest mention of the Faithful and the Fallen, and GR offers TWO sensible 2-star reviews (Anirudh’s included, go give him a like!) so excuse me if I go a little over the board in my explaining you the book’s many flaws.

I started reading the series because of the good excellent ratings it received from virtually everyone in my trusted Fantasy Buddy Reads group (yes Petrik! you are to blame with your enthusiastic reviews) believing to embark upon an epic fantasy journey. Let me repeat, epic from Latin and Greek épos (speech, tale, song). You know the genre (it has heroes, it has magic, it has good resisting the evil and it is long) and I know the genre. What is more, I LOVE the genre and I do not live by bread alone but by the many words that proceed from the pens (keyboards) of epic fantasy writers. But what makes the fantasy epic? Not the settings, not the props I listed earlier, but the deeds of the main protagonists, their struggles and journeys that the tale recounts, their choices that reshape the face of the world. It is not so much about pitched battles and flashing swords, constant action and cliffhangers of the many-layered and multi-stranded plot - these are merely derivatives of worlds and ages dying and being born.

Now, having said this. What is the genre that is the easiest to confuse with epic fantasy? A YA coming-to-age story. I know some authors who thought they are writing YA when in fact they produced a grimdark tale, Mr Gwynne, to the contrary, is convinced that what he proposes is a high fantasy when we get a bloated YA.

What is the worst emanation of YA? That is an easy question to answer: You will have a Special Snowflake on a personal journey/quest paved with destiny and facilitated by a Magic Thing/Ability of utmost importance. What did Mr Gwynne do? Multiplied this to the extreme: in Malice we have TWO Special Snowflakes (aka. the Chosen Ones) and SEVEN Magic Things! I would love to tell you that at least we are spared another YA nightmare, i.e. the love triangle, but there are three more instalments in the series and I wouldn’t put it past the author to throw one into the bargain as a bonus.

I would possibly reconcile with this issue (still feeling cheated!) if not for the narration. I started reading just after finishing the Gentleman Bastards and after the magniloquent prose of Mr Lynch, Malice reads like an undergrad exercise in creative writing. The woodenness of this language reminded me of the Falling Kingdoms series. Crude strokes, like toddler's drawing, give you the idea of the world, and the characters, and the plot development but they do not manage to convey the world’s verisimilitude, make the characters lovable or plot credible.

That the characters are archetypical doesn’t bother me - I like fantasy because it offers me the idols I crave for; but Malice gives you not living, breathing people but carefully produced puppets stinking with conveniences. There are so many examples of this theatrics of convenience that it becomes a rule for the book. I have to say that the sheer volume of things happening just out of convenience places this book next to Sarah J. Maas. Or somewhere quite close. True, luck is part of life, but it is both good and bad luck, therefore a book where protagonists are constantly in the right place and the right time, discovering right things and making the right choices, have the desired skills and knowledge, puts the soap operas to shame.

Verisimilitude is lacking also because of the back-and-whiteness of protagonists. There are so many sub-plots and personal stories that the author probably needed a decent excel file to manage them, and yet, it is difficult to get attached to any of the heroes because they are built on the either/or premise. Human beings are not monochromatic; we are mixtures of salt and pepper, good and bad and the many things in between, and how they war within us it what makes a great story. In Malice the best we get is doubts whether the chosen course of action is the right one (Veradis), there is no middle ground between the angelic and the diabolical.

Descriptions are dull, character portrayals crude and lacing sophistication, in the dialogues lines fall like trees during storm because in this world medieval is somehow coterminous with primitive (Brina being the only one exception), humour is a rare concept, narrative leads the reader with emotions and precision of a woodpecker. Plots are complex and multi-layered that I grant you but predictable and filed with every possible trope and arc that somehow fail to bring anything new to the fable. All the above is coupled with a slow pace hindered by loads of unnecessary scenes that would be great in a movie but are killing the book with the slow poison of meaninglessness.

And the last thing. As a female I root for females in all things fantasy. Bring them on, give them voice, give them agency, show how indispensable they are. At the same time, please do not turn them into a grotesque things that happen to have biological traits of a woman but be men in disguise when it comes to the rest. Malice does not have a decent female protagonist. Brina, yes, perhaps but the is an old crone. The rest is simply despicable: Rhin sexually voracious evil queen bee, very similar to this pathetic villain from The Queen of Tearling. Cywen with her murderous to the point of being laughable berersk rages and Edana that has nothing to offer except for being a princess.

Overall, one star for the concept, and one for the mischievous idea of the Black Sun ascent. The rest is pure malice.

Other reviews:

Some Valour
Cape Wrath
Profile Image for James Tivendale.
307 reviews1,313 followers
December 17, 2016
"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 and 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 www.youandibooks.wordpress.com
Profile Image for Choko.
1,178 reviews2,569 followers
March 7, 2022
*** 4.55 ***

A second buddy read with the Fantasy Buddy Reads Group, because this book is awesome!!!
A buddy read with my Fantasy addicted friends at BB&B!!!! We are on a quest to read all worthwhile Fantasy ever written:-)

I loved it just as much the second time around! Everything anyone could want from a Fantasy Novel!

I loved it!!! A bit of a slow start, but needed to introduce all the main players and for us to get used to the world. I loved the Classic Fantasy feel to the writing and storytelling. It is a bit on the Grim side, but has plenty of characters you can root for, unlike many other darker reads.

...“I shall stay and tell my tale, hope that it may serve some purpose, that eyes shall see it and learn, that the future will not repeat the mistakes of the past. That is my prayer, but what use is prayer to a god that has abandoned all things . . .”..."

The book is the classic battle of good and evil, G-ds and Demons, but unlike many of the typical Fantasy books we were raised on, it shows the internal battle of good people who find themselves fighting for the bad side, and those with dubious character, who have to stand on the side of the Light. Those are the characters who are best invested in throughout the whole book and the inevitable questions of what makes a person chose one way or another, what are the motivations which form the people we become....

I loved the legends and mythology behind the plot, the many references to the out of cannon tales of the time when Angeles mingled with humans and G-d was involved daily in Earthly affairs... It is fascinating and very engaging. But most of all, I fell in love with the two pups - a hound and a wolffen animals who can teach us all about loyalty and love.... ( While reading about the pups I couldn't help but think about Alcatraz Smedry by Brandon Sanderson, who has a theory that authors must really hate mothers and dogs, since they always tend to kill them in their books... Hahaha!!! I hope JG is not one of those authors).

And, there is a Prophecy! How cool is that?!?!?!

"War eternal between the Faithful and the Fallen,
infinite wrath come to the world of men.
Lightbearer seeking flesh from the cauldron,
to break his chains and wage the war again.
Two born of blood, dust and ashes shall champion the Choices,
the Darkness and Light.

Black Sun will drown the earth in bloodshed,
Bright Star with the Treasures must unite.
By their names you shall know them –
Kin-Slayer, Kin-Avenger, Giant-Friend, Draig-Rider,
Dark Power ’gainst Lightbringer.
One shall be the Tide, one the Rock in the swirling sea.

Before one, storm and shield shall stand,
before the other, True-Heart and Black-Heart.
Beside one rides the Beloved, beside the other, the Avenging Hand.
Behind one, the Sons of the Mighty, the fair Ben-Elim, gathered ’neath the Great Tree.
Behind the other, the Unholy, dread Kadoshim who seek to cross the bridge,
force the world to bended knee.

Look for them when the high king calls, when the shadow warriors ride forth,
when white-walled Telassar is emptied, when the book is found in the north.
When the white wyrms spread from their nest,
when the Firstborn take back what was lost, and the Treasures stir from their rest.
Both earth and sky shall cry warning, shall herald this War of Sorrows.
Tears of blood spilt from the earth’s bones, and at Midwinter’s height,
bright day shall become full night."

So, I think this is a perfect fit for those who love Classic Epic Fantasy with some Grim-Dark overtones. The story is told from multiple Points of View and spans across multiple kingdoms. I enjoyed it very much and hope you guys give it a chance!

Now I wish you all Happy Reading and may you always find joy between the pages of a good book!!!
Profile Image for Luna. ✨.
92 reviews1,212 followers
April 24, 2017
Another buddy read with my fantasy addicted pals at BB&B


'even the brave will fall'

Warning this book is not for the lighthearted I can't even count the amount of times I was shocked and saddened in this book.


I heard this is the authors first book... Umm wow what a great start to no doubt a wonderful career for John Gywnne!

This is another great fantasy read that I throughly enjoyed. I did however find the story extremely dark with little relief but it was a good read that keeps you on the edge of your seat. I really enjoyed the plot the beginning was very slow (all us fantasy readers know that a good book always starts slow) but halfway through it picked up and I have to say I was not bored once in the last half. There is nothing better then reading about a god war, I love John Gywnne's idea and cannot wait to see what the other books revel. I love the mythology used in this book it has made this an extremely interesting read for me.
I must add that the battle scenes were so good and so fucking EPIC!!


I love the characters and found them all really well developed. There is a few characters who I ABSOLUTELY LOVE.. Cywen was amazing and such a badass (I love strong female characters), Corban who is a cinnamon roll (and a badass too, I felt so proud of him during this book) and then there was VERADIS omg he is so amazing & honourable *heart eyes*(but he is blinded atm) I also loved storm, shield, Gar & Brina <3

There were a lot of bad guys too (fuck you guys suck)

Who would I recommend this to: I think this book would only be suited to adults who have a heart of steel. There are a few parts in this story that are brutal and I literally cried my eyes out. This is also not for the faint hearted a lot of killing, blood, guts and grim shit lol.

I'm so keen to read the other books and find out what the prophecy means & then there was that mind blowing ending.. Wow I still am not sure if I want to celebrate or hide and ugly cry lol

Profile Image for Celeste.
887 reviews2,334 followers
March 11, 2017
4.5 stars, rounded up. (Half-star taken off for a slow start. But man, did that ever change.)

Move over, Martin, because Gwynne is here to steal yo’ girl.

The A Game of Thrones comparisons here are completely understandable. As in Martin’s series, there is a varied cast of characters from whose perspectives we witness this story unfold. There is no time travel here, no resurrection for those who die. Death is final, and it is an equal opportunity reaper, not caring how good or bad a person is, how likable, or how important. As with Martin’s work, no one is truly safe here.

However, Gwynne has already surpassed Martin in my mind, even though I’ve thus far only read this, Gwynne’s first novel. (Side note: I do really like A Song of Ice and Fire. This is in no way me dissing Martin. So don’t yell at me.) Martin is a king of backstory and plot twists, but Gywnne was far more successful in crafting characters that I care about. They aren’t just well polished pieces on a chess board; they breathe. The love and are loved and fight and mourn and laugh and rage. These people are as real as ink and page can produce. Their physical appearances aren’t touched on much, but I was actually okay with that. The characters took on the features of people in my life who shared their personality traits, causing me to care even more about their well being.

I also really appreciated Gywnne’s choice of setting. The Banished Lands weren’t overwhelmingly large, and I enjoyed the smaller scope of the story because of decision. The effects of disagreements between kingdoms was more immediately felt than in a larger fictional land like Westeros. And the Scottish feel of the setting, of the society, of the names, was wonderful. It gave a weight to the story that some fantasy series that focus more on unique setting and societal norms tends to lack, in my opinion. The many kings of small neighboring kingdoms, the importance of and methods of warring, the names of both places and people, all whispered of Scotland as I read, but with enough differences to plant this solidly in the fantasy genre. As far as I know, there aren’t actually giants or wyrms or saber-toothed wolves in Scotland.

Something else than made an impression on me was the mythos of the Banished Lands. The creation myth, beginning with the God-War. Asroth, Elyon’s beloved first-created and captain of the Ben-Elim, sowed seeds of discord and split the heavenly host. When Asroth was defeated, he turned his hatred on Elyon’s new creation: man. He wreaked havoc and Elyon, in his rage, almost destroyed the world. The He realized what He had done and almost done, He grieved. In the aftermath, Elyon vanished, turning His back on all creation to mourn. The Ben-Elim still seek to protect it, out of love for their Creator, while their fallen brethren still work toward destruction. The Judeo-Christian influence here is overwhelming, and I loved contemplating the theology here. The parallels are fantastic; Elyon is even a Hebrew name for God, meaning “Most High.” I don’t believe that He has abandoned us, as I’ve felt His presence in my life, but I understand how His disappearance works better for the story Gwynne is telling here. The Bright Star/Black Sun prophecy was also a big draw for me, the Bright Star as savior and the Black Sun as antichrist. The idea of a Chosen One is a trope as old as storytelling itself, but it was deftly handled here, and gave me all kinds of theological and philosophical goodies to chew on as I read.

One other thing Gywnne did incredibly well was present a wide variety of relationships. We were given fantastic friendships, mortal enemies, beautifully close families, and their dysfunctional counterparts. We see kings interact with subjects, warriors interact with their leaders and each other, and mentors training younger generations. And best of all, we see some incredible kinship between man and beast. The animals in this book had so much personality, and their relationships with their humans was beautiful to behold. Family was so important in this story, whether that family was formed by blood or bond, and some of these animals were truly part of an amazing family.

I’ve read some truly stunning debut novels in the past, but the best of them are standalones, and sometimes it’s many years before the author puts out another book. If ever. And often that next book is a letdown after the masterpiece that was their first book. But rarely have I read a debut as fantastic as this one that was the first in a series. A series that I have it on good authority only improves with each successive book. I am undeniably impressed. Congratulations, Mr. Gwynne; you’ve earned yourself another fan.

For more of my reviews, as well as my own fiction and thoughts on life, check out my blog, Celestial Musings.

A buddy read with my cyber darlings, Petrik, Haïfa, and Mary, with Sarah lurking in the wings. :)
Profile Image for Bookwraiths.
698 reviews1,029 followers
March 24, 2014
Originally reviewed at Bookwraiths Reviews

Malice by John Gwynne is the first book in The Faithful and the Fallen series, and it is an epic fantasy that has flown under the radar of a lot of fantasy aficionados. After reading it, I can understand that to some extent, because – in this time when grimdark and its close cousins are all the rage – Malice is more of a classic fantasy story with many of the tropes that go along with that term. However, where some novels might flounder under those classic themes, Malice embraces them, turning them into a very engaging and entertaining story; one that any fantasy lover will find themselves enjoying.

The story begins in the familiar vein of a disgruntled young man turning to evil entities for power. In this case, it is one Evnis, who, as the second son of a noble house, feels himself mocked and overshadowed by his older brother. Thus, he turns to an ancient demon for succor, and so finds himself standing before a magical fire, watching as a man is sacrificed to call forth his chosen benefactor. This ancient enemy of the world promises untold power to Evnis in return for Evnis himself. With some doubts, the youth agrees to the trade.

From here the tale skips forward in time several decades. (A plot devise that I generally hate, but here it fits nicely.) Now, we see Evnis as a man, married with a child and grown in power, as the chief counselor to the King of Ardan. Perhaps he is not the ultimate power in his land, but Evnis is still an important figure at court, and he is happy with his life. His love for his wife having overshadowed his hunger for power and cast back the darkness within himself for a time. However, Evnis’ wife is deathly ill, and with her death, there looms a chasm of darkness, not only for Evnis but for all the lands.

For in The Banished Lands, there is an ancient prophecy of a coming war between the gods. A time when the great demon himself, Asroth, will seek to destroy the world. But before this calamity takes place, there will be by dire signs of its eminence: bleeding stones, war between man and giant, and a day when the noon day sun turns black. At this time, there will arise in the land the champions of the gods: The Bright Star (champion of good) and The Black Sun (champion of evil), and all people will choose sides with one or the other, as the whole world is swept up in war and darkness and death.

From this point, Mr. Gwynne uses multiple characters to develop the story, and even if many are standard fantasy fare, they are well written, fully developed, and uniquely entertaining.

On one side of the land, we have the Kingdom of Ardan, where the young boy, Corban, is growing up in a small fishing village outside the walls of Dun Carreg, fortress-city of King Brenin of Ardan. Young Corban’s life is an idyllic mixture of friendship, family, and faith. He deals with childlike concerns even as he learns the fighting skills to become a man. And beside him much of the time is his sister Cywen, a dagger throwing, tough talking, and ferocious young woman, who is always in the center of the action. Plus let us not forget that the villainous Evnis lurks nearby; the darkness twisting within his soul only waiting for a time to erupt and consume all his enemies.

Seemingly a world away from Ardan is the Kingdoms of Tenebral and Isiltir. Here we are allowed to experience the complex pattern of human nature by Veradis and Kastell. Two young nobles from different kingdoms, who find themselves coming together as friends before being swept apart by their choices and fate itself.

Veradis is a warrior born and bred, sent to the capital city of Tenebral to earn both respect and experience in service to his king. Soon, however, our young swordsman finds himself the fast friend of Prince Nathair of Tenebral; a brilliant youth who is the epitome of all a king should be: handsome, strong, eloquent, brave, and enlightened. And Veradis finds himself rising to heights of authority and power he had never dreamt of attaining, but he soon finds that the web of friendship, respect, and adoration that ties him to Nathair also has a dark side, for the Prince of Tenebral dreams of more than following in his father’s footsteps as king but of becoming something even more legendary: The Bright One himself.

Kastell, on the other hand, is a man bereft of his home and family, having been raised by his uncle, the King of Isiltir, and embroiled in a life long rivalry with his cousin, Jael. A rivalry that has evolved to the point that it has become a life or death contest; one that cannot be quenched even by order of the king. Thus, Kastell and his ever loyal friend Maquin find themselves attempting to find their own way in the world away from the shadow of the throne of Isiltir. However, no matter how far they run from Kastell’s cousin fate seems to draw them back; the inevitable confrontation of Kastell and Jael surely to result in the death of one or both of them.

When you add these entertaining characters with great lore, some nice battles, ferocious giants sinuous wyrms, mighty draigs, and fearsome wolven, you have a really enjoyable classic fantasy tale. Sure, many might say the story starts off a little sluggish, as Mr. Gwynne gets the set up put in the place and introduces all these characters, but once the tale starts moving forward it is quite the enjoyable ride.

Does Malice reinvent the fantasy genre?


Is it worth a read?

Absolutely. It is a solid start to an intriguing epic fantasy series. I enjoyed it immensely by the end and look forward to reading further about this world. Hopefully, you will give it a try and join me in this journey through the God-War.

Netgalley and the publisher provided this book to me for free in return for an honest review. The review above was not paid for or influenced in any way by any person, entity or organization, but is my own personal opinions.
Profile Image for Samir.
111 reviews173 followers
April 24, 2017
This was a buddy read with my dear friend Orient and I thank her for encouraging me to start this series sooner than I planned.

Before I started Malice I was warned that the first half of the book is a slow burn but as soon as I was about fifty pages in I understood why. This book hosts a large cast of characters and we follow some of them through POV chapters so the slower pace was needed to get us acquainted with them and to lay the foundation of the story through them.

The premise of this story is an ancient prophecy of a war between Light and Darkness and there are many signs throughout the Banished Lands indicating the prophecy will soon be fulfilled. Every war needs its champions and such is the matter with this one; the champion of Light, Bright Star, and the champion of Darkness, Black Sun. As we follow the story we begin to get the vibe of who might those champions be and by the end of the book we are almost certain of their identities.

I already mentioned the large cast of characters and the thing I liked about them was that they were all memorable which means they’re very well written and their progression was very well done because each of them evolves in an unique, and for some, an unpredictable way. They are the main focus of this story and their motivation and inner thoughts are moving it forward. There were a couple of main ones that stood out for me; Corban, a young boy training to become a warrior, who we follow the most in this novel. His POV is a coming-of-age tale and through this tale we’re introduced to his friends and foes and I would like to mention one certain friend that appealed to me, a wolf named Storm. Their relationship reminded me of the one between Fitz and Nighteyes from the Farseer Trilogy and it was a joy to read. The second one is Veradis. I can’t say more of his role without spoilers so I’ll just say that he is a master swordsman, in service of Nathair, who fights to earn his father’s respect (and that is a hard task because his father is a king), and I have high hopes for him. As you probably concluded yourself, Gwynne succeeded in one thing that is very important to me, he made me care for them so I can’t really ask for more.

The world of the Banished Lands is set in the medieval surroundings influenced by Celtic folklore and mythology so you have the names like Cywen, Mordwyr, and creatures such as giants, wyrms and draigs. This helps to create the atmosphere of this novel and gives a particular feel to it.

As we’ve already established, the Banished Lands is a place with a rich lore but there is much more to this novel to keep you entertained; great set of characters, plenty of battles and sword fighting duels, scheming, betrayals, which will set in motion a chain of events affecting all of the kingdoms in the Banished Lands and this is just the beginning of this compelling tale.

I can’t say Malice brought something new to the genre, it felt more like a convergence of tropes but a convergence done right. Gwynne has shown a promising talent with this great debut and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

I was reading this on my Kindle and when I was done I realized that this the beginning of something special so I ordered the paperback versions of the entire series because I have a feeling that this series will deserve to be proudly displayed on my bookshelf.
Profile Image for Icey.
146 reviews110 followers
November 24, 2021
- -Have you ever read a book that you cannot put down, but at the same time desperately trying to slow your reading pace, wishing the book will never end?

- -Have you ever got a feeling when just starting a book, almost like an intuition of a fortuneteller, that the book you are reading is going to become one of your all-time favorite books?

Well, Malice proved itself to be a self-fulfilled prophecy, and I’m that triumphant Seer who has successfully found my beloved treasure.

You heard the song of the forest.
Almost like a spell, the temptation of the glory entangled with the viciousness of the scheme, lurking behind the winter woods. The smell of the mountain, earthy, damp, and a bit rotten. The shadows of the ruined fortress, ancient and silent, shimmering under the silver moonlight. The howling of the wolvens, deep and throaty, disappeared with the western wind.
A most enchanting dream.

I didn’t realize that a high fantasy book can be both character-driven and action-packed, especially considering the story is told from multiple POVs.
I am not a big fan of multiple POVs when reading fantasy books, but it seems that John Gwynne proved to me that anything unimaginable could be done excellently as long as you have the skill and talents.
Damn my reading taste, I LOVE this book.

John Gwynne introduced a large group of memorable characters without making you feel overwhelmed, and I became attached to all of them (except Jael and Evnis, I suppose).
The story constantly kept me on the edge of my seat, it’s a book that is both heart-warming and heart-breaking, and I cannot believe this is his DEBUT???????

P.S The last 10% of this book was cruelly and realistically heart-breaking. I had to remind myself to BREATHE constantly.

Keywords: Dark Fantasy | Epic World Building | Amazing Character Development | IT MADE YOU CRY LIKE IDIOT
Profile Image for Mike's Book Reviews.
134 reviews5,515 followers
May 28, 2020
Full Video Review Here: https://youtu.be/qBKf6Qfw12c

One thing I believe we see way too much after the success of HBO's Game of Thrones is every fantasy series labeled as "The NEXT Game of Thrones!" or "It's Game of Thrones meets the Arthur Legend!" etc. Denying the cultural impact of the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin would be pretty stupid. So I understand why marketers are doing this, but the problem is that it rarely turns out to be true. It's either nothing like Martin's series or it's a bad rip off. So where would The Faithful and The Fallen fit in there?

The way I have described it is ASOIAF fans would eat this book up. Not because the story is similar; far from it. This story is pretty fresh. But in that it's a similar structure and character/world building theme that made many of us fall in love with Westeros long before HBO had even considered purchasing the adaptation rights.

Malice has a few of those familiar traditional fantasy themes (light vs dark, farm boy goes questing, etc) among a boatload of new ideas. There are a TON of characters here. And locations. At first it may seem overwhelming, but no more so than A Game of Thrones did 25 years ago. Recognizing which family tree applies to which region is the first step to grasping this world, much like any epic fantasy is at this point. But something this has over the ASOIAF series is that I love ALL of these characters almost instantly (remember those early Sansa chapters? Woof). The dialogue between POV and secondary/tertiary characters is fantastic. So much so that some unexpected character deaths hit me in the feels...


Many have asked if this is Grimdark, since they know I love that subgenre. I'd say no. There is a grit and a darkness to it and your favorite characters are never safe. But there is no feeling of hopelessness or nihilism here. You'll find those comfortable pair of jeans in the familiarity of the themes that made us fall in love with Fantasy in the first place, but then Gwynne will turn you on your head and subvert your expectation in a completely satisfying way.

Many have said this series builds as it goes and each book is better than the last. If that is the case, I am in for one hell of a ride because Malice is one of the best book #1's of a fantasy series I have read. The amount of characters and locations Gwynne has set up in this first offering without it ever feeling like an info dump is incredible. I cannot wait to continue this journey with these fantastic characters.
Profile Image for Eon ♒Windrunner♒  .
418 reviews459 followers
March 26, 2019
4.5 Stars

Another great debut book which surpassed my expectations!

‘For whence But from the author of all ill could spring So deep a malice.’ John Milton, Paradise Lost

A classic fantasy story with the familiar end of the world, prophecy, chosen one arc that we see regularly (because we are suckers for epics obviously), but still a book every fantasy lover will enjoy. It is told from multiple POV's and as with such books you start favoring one or two characters above others, but I did not find one that I disliked.

Thoroughly engaging and very hard to put down with great world building, well written characters and a gripping story line. I will be picking the next book up shortly.

Definitely recommended.
Profile Image for Bentley ★ Bookbastion.net.
242 reviews550 followers
April 18, 2017
Second Read-Through Completed 4/17/17 - Review Updated to Reflect Current Thoughts

This book was just as awesome as I remembered it. It still amazes me that this is a debut novel. The character growth alone over the course of the story is enough to really set this one apart. I love watching all my little favorites grow and mature as they get pulled into the rapidly unfolding events of the plot. You can tell this was a story crafted with love and a lot of planning.

This is epic fantasy done right, and fans of the genre are sure to love this. For those unfamiliar, epic fantasy requires a bit of a commitment on the reader's part. There are a lot of locations to familiarize yourself with, and even more characters, as well as a shifting POV narrative style - but trust me when I say that it is worth the effort here! John Gwynne has created an intricately crafted tapestry of character, setting and plot, and it becomes immensely satisfying when you start seeing those threads drawing together.

This book is filled with two types of characters: those you love, and those you love to hate. But regardless of what side your favorite character falls on - or what blade they fall upon - it's impossible not to appreciate the level of care that went into their characterization. There is a considerable amount of time spent at the start of this novel slowly introducing plot elements in the midst of otherwise ordinary moments in characters lives. It's such a lovely way of getting to know the central figures of the story, and it makes you appreciate the people they become so much more.

Regardless of what character we're seeing events through, their views of events feel fresh and colored by their unique perspective, giving each character a considerably different - and understandable - view of the world from one another.

The world-building and history of the Banished Lands within the pages of this book are top notch. As with any fantasy novel, there's a grace period at the start where you have to familiarize yourself with the basic rules of the world, but once you've made sense of it Gwynne changes tack to focus on the characters. The setting becomes a gorgeous backdrop for character growth. The world feels lush and lived in, and full of magic but it's never overwhelming and difficult to understand.

Another thing I really appreciated here was that Gwynne chooses to skip over all of the traveling scenes, getting characters from Point A to Point B extraordinarily quickly. So instead of this:

We get more of this:

Especially in the last the last few hundred pages when it becomes difficult to even consider putting to book down. I was busy with Easter and going into final exams at school, but you can bet I was carrying this tome around with me and reading it during every single spare moment I had!

Overall, I can't say enough good things about it. I loved this book the first time I read it, and I still love it today. I'm so excited to be moving into fresh territory and finishing out these characters journeys now that I'm nearing the end of school and will have the time to commit to it!

See this review and more like it on my blog: Bookbastion.net
Profile Image for Markus.
470 reviews1,519 followers
August 20, 2019
"War eternal between the Faithful and the Fallen, infinite wrath come to the world of men. Lightbearer seeking flesh from the cauldron, to break his chains and wage the war again. Two born of blood, dust and ashes shall champion the Choices, the Darkness and Light."

See, this is quite a fun premise. A good god and a bad god will start a war, and each will have their mortal champion. Who are they, you wonder? Well, their identities are carefully hidden and you will have to work it out for yourself...

...so it’s a good thing that’s all fucking obvious from page one. In fact, so is everything else. Not only does this book follow a completely standard fantasy recipe (not always a bad thing), but it makes sure to spray paint the solution to every future secret revelation with huge red letters on all the walls around you (always a bad thing). Malice is perhaps the most predictable book I have read in the fantasy genre. There are no surprises, and every detail about how everything is going to go down, is impossible to miss.

Except in the eyes of the characters, that is. The protagonists in this book are so pathetically, monumentally, unreasonably, unrealistically moronic and naive that everything gets past them. And so you’re left sitting waiting for the painfully obvious to catch them unawares. Yes, they’re young and stupid. Yes, they don’t have all the information. There are many excuses one could make, and none of them even come close to mitigating these examples of cataclysmic idiocy (there is one scene in particular I will always remember from this book, which is unfortunately an example of just this). But alas, when the whole world is too obvious for comfort, the characters in it have to be kept in the dark even when it makes no sense, so that the storyline can go where it clearly must go.

It is also striking that all the young male main protagonists are so similar they might as well have been called Bob 1, Bob 2 and Bob 3. Maybe even Bob 4, depending on who and how you count.

There are quite a few interesting supporting characters to begin with. And in impressive ways, they almost without exception all manage to lose their appeal. Mostly that is because you start realising that they are all cardboard cutouts only functioning as plot devices placed somewhere for the furtherance of the author’s plan. Just like the protagonists, that is. And then one of the two that remain somewhat interesting at the end turns out to be a secret bastard prince, taking his trope-ridden archetype factor to level 437.

The writing and the worldbuilding are the best parts of the book, as they are somewhat adequate if you’re being very generous. In fact, there are quite a few decent aspects here. But literally everything Malice attempts to do, has been done so much better elsewhere.

How on earth did it come to this conclusion? Based on the number of positive reviews, I started reading the book expecting at least a fantastically fun reading experience, if not a masterpiece, and for the first third of the book I thought that was what I was getting. Sure, the writing was not particularly impressive, but it was genuinely enjoyable and a real page-turner, and I thought the rather uninteresting protagonists were just uninteresting because it was early on and they were going to develop. I thought the prologue was spectacular because I thought it was going to actually be important. I thought there would be great twists, great fights, and great fun.

Then the glaring flaws kicked in so fast and hard that I felt mistreated as a reader.

Look, there is potential in this thing. It could have been so much better. And all this said, I am still somewhat intrigued by what happens next, so I might read the second book. At least some of the characters now know who the bad guys are, I think. Mostly because the bad guys have killed their friends and loved ones in front of them. Maybe that will have made them see it?
Profile Image for Hamad.
990 reviews1,304 followers
August 11, 2020
This Review ✍️ Blog 📖 Twitter 🐦 Instagram 📷

“Come, boy, it is time for a lesson. Let me teach you the power of words,”

I have heard tons of great things about this series and I have been putting reading it off for a long time because I am intimidated by huge books and this is a series of huge books. I also thought it would have more rigid writing and it would be hard to follow but I am glad I was wrong. This book was a great introduction to what I would expect to be an amazing series. I broke the fear of facing this series so I should be making my way through the rest of the series soon.

John’s prose really took me by surprise, I finished the whole book in less than 4 days and I enjoyed what I was reading. It was hard to grab everything from the start, so I was making slow but steady progress and taking notes at the beginning but after like 20-25% of the book, it was much more easier to read and it made more sense. John’s writing is lush and I like the way he described things.

“The mountains were gone, replaced by a lush green vale. A river flowed out of the mountains, twisting in great curves through the vale until it”

The Characters are well written too and although I am someone who enjoys multiple POVs, I think it is a tricky thing to write and read; write because you have to make every character distinct and interesting and read because you have to follow up with more than one character. I think the author managed to hit a good balance here, and although there was a lot to take at first, whether it is world-building, characters, magic..etc, It got better the more I progressed. Corban was definitely a character I rooted for and his animal companions were the best!

The world-building is good too, the map definitely helps too. Regarding the magic system, it is not extensive in book 1 yet but I think it has much potential. I didn’t expect the book to have magical creatures to be honest, I thought it would be more like a historical fantasy focusing on politics but I was once again wrong.

The plot is not very original in terms of classic epic fantasy plots. But John proved that you can still play with the classical tropes and make a great thing out of them. The plot we are exposed to seems like a drop of water in a sea that is the rest of the series. I think all the elements were done well with the potential to be even more epic.

“Both the brave man and the coward feel the same. The only difference between them is that the brave man faces his fear, does not run.”

Summary: I believe Malice is a book that sets things for something wider in scope and something more epic. Many elements of the story took me by surprise and were better than I expected. I already bought the rest of the series and I will be continuing the series soon!

You can get more books from Book Depository

Awesome recommendation from my friend Nils for my 10 readers, 10 recommendations challenge!
Profile Image for Marie.
900 reviews221 followers
December 24, 2021
Epic Debut!

I am not giving my normal backstory so just laying out my thoughts as this debut book for this series is huge and has lots of moving parts within that it would be hard to even attempt a backstory.


This is my second reread of the first book but I plan on reading the rest of the series within the next few months as I want to see how it all turns out and how it all ends. This world within this story centers around the Banished Lands which has been known for death and strife in the past with many wars of spilled blood.

This first book is detailed and follows a few characters. Each character has his own chapter and it rotates back and forth throughout the book.

Certain characters found within which the story follows closely are:

Corban - who is young and impressionable but wants to learn how to fight and stand up for himself. He would like to be a warrior.

Veradis - wants to be a warrior and he ends up joining with Prince Nathair in his warband

Cywen - Corbin's sister who looks out for Corbin as Corbin seems to get bullied quite a bit and Cywen is always there to take care of the bullies.

Nathair - the son of High King Aquilus - seems to do everything his father wants done.

There are other characters that come into play as well like supporting characters throughout the storyline that all have important roles to play within this story. They are so numerous that it would take forever to list them all, so the best thing to do would be to read the book to experience it for yourself.

The story is loaded with detailed descriptions of this world along with the characters that are folded within the storyline. There are different villains as well roaming throughout the book which includes: giants, dragons, elementals, etc. The Banished Lands are about to enter a God-War which will bring all races together in a fight for survival.

This first book was amazing with how the author went into deep detail of everything that happens with not only the characters, but the world of the Banished Lands. The author goes into explicit detail with the characters bringing you in close to the characters and how they feel and what they think as they play a part in this story.

Looking forward to reading the second book, Valor for the continuing saga of the Banished Lands and its people. Giving this one five Fearless Fighting stars!

Highly Recommend!

Profile Image for Emma.
2,393 reviews823 followers
June 21, 2017
4.5 stars.
Normally I like to leave some space between books in a series, but with this one, I feel I need to continue quite quickly. Let me explain: this was one hard book to get into- so many names, I kept losing track. I was also listening on audio and the narrator was using everything from a Liverpudlian, Irish, scouser, Australian and Bavarian accents and they were distracting! I wouldn't recommend starting this book on audio until you have all the characters clear in your head.
Having said that, this was a slow boiler and once the main characters were established, the story came together. Giants and wyrms, draigs, the obligatory megalomaniac baddy. There was nothing terribly original here- a coming of age story but I liked many of the characters particularly Corban and Cerwyn and Thannon, Gar, Shield, Storm and Craff, Brinn. It was a story well told and left almost in the midst of the action where sides have more or less been declared, where all the betrayers and double crossers have made their plays and where the rest of the series has been set up.
A thumping good read but give it til about 25% to get going!
121 reviews57 followers
October 24, 2017
"There is a hole in your heart, an empty space. You must fill it with meaning. You need a cause to live for, to fight for, perhaps to die for... Choose me."

4.5 Stars:✰✰✰✰½

Just a warning, this is less of a review and more of me explaining why this book was so personally meaningful to me. If you hate that stuff, please move on ;] haha. I almost feel like this book could have been written just for me, and very, VERY few books have ever done that. Simply fantastic opening to what I'm predicting will wind up being listed among my all time favorite series.

I don't even know where to begin, if I'm being completely honest. I can't figure out exactly how to put what I want to get across into words. So many different elements about the characters and the story in this book just resonated with me on a very deep level. I could see glimpses of myself in each of these characters, and not because of their strengths. I see myself in them because of their struggles.

Gonna get a little bit real here for a second. I don't like doing this in my reviews, but I can't really talk about why I loved this book without talking a little bit about my own life. A lot like Corban, I feel like most of my life when I was younger was spent living under anger and fear. Or else, living under fear disguised as anger. Unlike Corban though, I wasn't this naturally likeable or well-intentioned kid. I was more like the Rafe of this story, and if that makes me sound awful, it's because I actually was pretty awful. I was bitter, and spiteful, and angry at everybody - all the time - and I didn't even know why. I was insecure, and I hated myself, and I took it out on other people. This turned into self-pity. Which turned into a deep-rooted selfishness. Which eventually turned into shame. I lost the few friends that I had because I pushed them away. I pushed away my siblings and my parents and never let anybody in.

In short, my life was ruled by my feelings of anger and fear and insecurity, and I never, ever fought back. For me, becoming the person that I am today looked like me learning to fight and conquer my own feelings. Bravery didn't look like me picking up a sword and fighting giants. Courage was not me standing up to the bullies that were picking on me. It looked like me learning how to fight the giants that existed in my own mind, to the death. It looked like me learning how to actually receive the love of my family and friends, and learning to give that same love in return. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. And even though it took several years, it started with me saying these simple words to myself - this is a direct quote from the book:
"Fear will not rule me."

I read these words in chapter 3 of this book, and instantly knew that this book was for me:
"We all fear, Ban. Even Tull. It's what we do about it-that's the important thing. That's what'll make you the man you grow into. You must learn to control your emotions, boy. Those that don't do that often end up dead: anger, fear, pride, whatever. If your emotions control you, sooner or later you're a dead man... Learn to control them and they can be a tool that makes you stronger."

I wish somebody told me this when I was younger, and I can't tell you how happy it makes me that people are writing stories that deal with themes like this. Stories that don't just deal with battles and action and war, but also deal with the wars that so often occur in the heart of every human being. People tell me that I look like a completely different person compared to who I used to be, and it's because I learned these truths. Most of the battles we fight as people take place within ourselves.

You'll hear people talk about the number of POVs in this book, and yes, there are an almost overwhelming number of POVs in this book. But I can tell you for certain that what John Gwynne accomplished with each member of this cast of characters, most authors can never accomplish with even a single POV. The level of wisdom, leadership understanding, and even basic conception of human nature that Gwynne displays in this book blew my mind. I felt like he understood me, just from reading about these characters. Seriously amazing character development, for both the good guys and the bad guys.

The simplistic worldbuilding is still excellently done. While this is not Sanderson-level originality, Gwynne sticks to where his strengths lie, and this works in his favor. This world has a very medieval vibe to it, and the writing had a certain feel to it that very obviously shows that Gwynne has deep knowledge of the things he writes about. Seriously, he knows his stuff. You know how a lot of authors, rather than fully describing a sword fight or battle scene, will just vaguely write about it and leave you to fill in the gaps in your imagination? (This was an issue I had with Michael Sullivan's books). That won't happen in this book. Clearly, Gwynne understands swordplay and battle tactics on a very detailed level, and this truly immerses you in the action of the story, when you aren't focused on the great characters.

Lastly, the story. The presentation of the story is a very slow burn, but still really, really good. It took me awhile to figure out exactly what the drive of the plot was for the book as a whole, as Gwynne spends a lot of time acquainting you with the individual struggles of the characters before you figure out the world as a whole. For some, this will be a turn off, but for me it worked really well. I have a feeling we are going to have a much faster paced story in book two, but regardless, this book was truly excellent all on it's own. I much prefer a character-driven story over the various alternatives.

My only complaint is that there is a definite learning curve required, in reference to the writing. Lots of "huh" and "eh" grunts that seemed weirdly placed to me, and some of the sentences were structured rather oddly. I got used to it very quickly, but it did turn me off a little bit at the beginning. If you pick it up just keep that in mind when you're reading that it might take a little getting used to =].
"Both the brave man and the coward feel the same. The only difference between them is that the brave man faces his fear, does not run."

In Conclusion:

Seriously - no, seriously. Read this book. Depending on who you are, it might require more patience than another book would, as the beginning moves very slowly at the start. It is worth the time you spend on it though. For me, this book went beyond just being a "good book", because it touched on several themes that I've had to learn and wrestle with in my own life. That doesn't happen often. Beyond that though, this book has an amazing cast of characters, brilliantly presented action with plenty of brutal realism, and a great story. I cannot recommend it enough.

Happy reading =].

"Corban knew, beyond all measure of doubt, that from this moment things would never be the same again. His life had just changed irrevocably and forever."
Profile Image for Orient.
255 reviews207 followers
April 24, 2017
A great BR with three swordsmen, who where with me in warrior trial and sat the Long Night: Samir, Terry and Jokoloyo.

When I first read a couple of reviews for “Malice”, I wasn’t sure if I want to try it. Mostly there were good reviews, but also I spotted some DNFs. So when Craig recommended this book and series to me, I thought I needed backup! Thank you guys for being there for me ❤

"Malice” is an interesting story, about how good fights evil. I found values that make “Malice” a great read: life-changing battles, heroes, heroines, a bit of magic, heart-breaking betrayals and over-whelming love. Not forgetting the characters, some of whom I fell in love with, or hate a lot. It’s all there, you just need to open the book ;)

Characters. I remember I had difficulty with a big cast when I read Malazan. At first I had this problem with “Malice”, too. This book really needs a cast list! It was difficult sometimes to catch who’s who as the story “happened” in several places/kingdoms and there were multiple characters. It was a great help that each chapter was named by the name of the character, who played the main role in it.

The story is told using several POVs, but from the very start I could single out a couple of them who were the core of the story. One of them was Ban. Ban is quite an ordinary guy, not so successful, but having great wishes :) I loved following him through the start of his life journey. His bond with Storm, oh my goodness, I was in awe ❤

Also I loved Kastell and Maquin, they had a really great bromance! At first I liked Veradis, his honorable and faithful personality charmed me

I loved Cywen as she’s a character I look for in all books with kickass heroines ❤

Oh and thank you, Mr Gwynne for a special unit of kickass women! Hope to see them more! :)

Fighting was a peculiar matter in “Malice” for me. I missed detailed fights, like it was in Greatcoats, Fights with the loss of some good characters were done better. I liked the fact that people, who weren’t very skilled in fights, could change the course of a battle. That and the imprints of chivalry which thrived in the story :)

I‘m a bit disappointed as the „secret“ of Nate being was thin, I had suspicion from the first third of the book. On the other hand, the secrecy of Meical, Gar and some baddies was really well done. Oh and cheers for as they were the villains I enjoyed having to pester Malice :)

The moral drama of the characters was peculiar and I was interested at first to see what’s behind the prophecy of the great good and the evil bad. But as I said before, it can be guessed quite early and well, it ripped quite a big chunk of joy out of me. Jealousy is the great motivator there, which gave me such an intriguing chance to see how simple childhood peer pressure can grow into dangerous life threats, despite the roots of honor and justice!

Narrative. I had struggle to get into the story for the half of the book. The pace often felt slow and to tell the truth I go distracted from reading. Putting this aside, I felt that the world in “Malice” was interestingly written, I could imagine the places and most of the characters felt real. The themes of betrayal, political scheming were quite well developed in the story. Though, I wanted a bit more of cool magic. Especially from the baddies! What really did the deed for me and gave joy and of course a bit of sadness, is the ending. OMG, it really blew my mind!

Despite all my ranting, “Malice” is a good book: I liked the Viking alike environment, scheming, most of the fighting, most of the character were well written and interesting to follow. I know that it’s the first book for Mr. Gwynne and I already heard that other books in this series are really more gripping, so I’ll continue my playdate with The Faithful and The Fallen for sure.
Profile Image for Haïfa.
185 reviews178 followers
January 30, 2023
4.5 Scottish stars!

Buddy read with my favorite warriors :
Petrik, Celeste, Mary and my Evil Twin lurking in the shadows !

Actual review

With his debut (!!!) novel, John Gwynne has just joined my list of authors who reaaally know how to write an ending (along with Brandon Sanderson and Mark Lawrence among others)!! The man knows how to grip his readers and wrap things up at the end to give a really satisfying conclusion and yet letting all the doors open to numerous unpredictable possibilities. The second half of the book was absolutely brilliant ! I was so enthralled and so anxious, sleep eluded me and I couldn't drop the book during the last quarter!


The world created by Gwynne was quite detailed, with various kingdoms introduced. While the book lacked ethnic diversity, which I grew to like in Fantasy (the Stormlight Archive or Lightbringer series for example), the mythology and lore are quite rich and well explained throughout the narrative. Something I loved about the worldbuilding, is that most of the kingdoms shared the warrior customs and I really enjoyed reading about the training and the trials. John Gwynne introduced a fair number of Fantasy elements in this debut: giants, great beasts and monsters, magic, warring gods, epic battles, prophecies, chosen ones and coming of age storyline. But this book is also a tale of betrayal, of revenge, of loyalty, of deception and of courage. 

I shall stay and tell my tale, hope that it may serve some purpose, that eyes shall see it and learn, that the future will not repeat the mistakes of the past. That is my prayer, but what use is prayer to a god that has abandoned all things . . .

I won't lie and say that I loved the book from the beginning! Far from it actually! True, I enjoyed the read since the early pages but I couldn't understand all the praise the book got. The first quarter was terribly slow. Countless names and places were thrown at you and it was really hard to grasp all this information at once. It seemed that nothing really happened for the first 20% or 30% and some of the POVs felt so similar that I couldn't remember who was who (this was the case with Veradis and Kastell's early POVs that had the same feel to them and kinda blended into the same in my mind). But then as I reached the second half, I was totally sold! This read reminded me of a trek up a hill : the climb through the various obstacles is laborious and long but then you reach the top and see the beautiful and intriguing landscape spread before your eyes and before you know it, you speed the pace and find yourself running during the last miles and totally excited to reach the end of the journey ! 

But it was part of a cause. A necessary evil. Many such evils were undertaken in war, for the greater good. But it still did not sound right, hearing it said so straight and clear.

During the last chapters, I totally understood how the slow beginning was absolutely needed to build the conclusion. It masterfully allowed the characters to have a natural and meticulous development. Nothing felt rushed or forced, the last chapters flowed naturally. On the other hand, something that balanced the slowness of the beginning, was the way the different POVs were arranged. Most of the chapters were pretty short and many took place months after the previous ones which allowed the plot to move forward while giving short flashbacks that provided insight into what had happened in between. The last 50 pages definitely moved my rating from 4 to 5 stars (I'm taking 0.5 for the slow beginning though!).

I absolutely loved the Scottish influences and the Robin Hood vibes as most of the action took place in the woods or in old fortresses and villages. The characterization was brilliant and truly realistic. And yes, the set is medieval, if not earlier, so yeah men were dirty and cruddy and far from glamorous! LOL. John Gwynne also created a great cast of characters !! My absolute favorite is Corban for now and I loved how Gwynne surrounded him with an absolutely awesome bunch of loyal friends, family members and grumpy and snarky mentors ! Corban's development and his ability to get into trouble had some Harry Potter vibes to them. It was absolutely delightful to read about him and witness the spectacular growth he gradually underwent !!!

"You seem to be developing a distinct talent for being in the wrong place at the wrong time."


Please be patient and carry on to at least the second half of the book before deciding to DNF! You will be rewarded by lots of epic action scenes and emotional and heart-wrenching situations!! 

Immediate reaction

I'm in shock awe trouble because it's 3am and I have to wake up early !

But it was totally worth it !!

Let me gather my thoughts and get some sleep and I shall come back with a review "on the morrow!"
Profile Image for Deborah Obida.
673 reviews595 followers
January 31, 2018
You know you’ve read a great book when you can’t stop thinking about it and imagining all the different scenarios for the next book. This book turned out way better than I thought it would, it reminds me why I love fantasy. What I love most in fantasy(epic adult fantasy to be precise) is its originality and the way the authors play at words. And this is no exception, the author use a very rare story telling style in this book. Some fantasy books starts with a bang then backstory of the main character, others say a little about the Mcs backstory in the middle of the book etc, but John Gwynne started the book with the MCs as teens, how their life, family, environment is going to contribute to their future, don’t worry is not YAish, they are other MCs that are adults and lots of adults are present in the book, So that makes the beginning of the book quite slow, but since its the first book in the series its understandable. There is religion, which is a major factor in fantasy, myths, prophecies, friendship, family, politics you name them, all in this book, even with all those the action is still present with very perfectly depicted battle scenes.

World building and Writing
To say the world building is great is an understatement, the depiction is nicely done and this is a debut novel of the author. The world is really big with lots of kingdoms. I really love the writing, the book is written in third person multiple POVs of the MCs which I admit are a lot, but not up to that of Malazan, the author made it easy to understand by starting each chapter with the name of the character whose POVs is about to be read as chapter title.

When a fantasy book has lots of characters its scary, cause that means not all of them will make it, even at that I can’t help loving them and hope the author don’t kill off all my favourites. Here is a list of my most loved and hated characters in the book.

Corban, even if all the other characters die and only him survives I’ll be happy because I love him. The book started with him at 13 and ended when he turned 16. Corban acts way older than his age, he is loyal AF, his relationship with his family especially with his elder sister Cywen is so admirable. He is kind to everyone even animals, he has a pet Wolven called Storm, wolven is like a wolf but bigger and deadlier and he has one, how cool is that. Corban is also respectful and honourable.

Cywen the badass knife throwing sister of Corban, she is my fav female character in the book, not because of just her love for her brother but her love and loyalty to her friends as well. Their parents really raised them well. In a world where girls are not allowed to fight her parents and brother thought her and she is putting the skill to good use.

Kastell suffered more than all the characters in this book, his life has been hell growing up, even at 16 things are just getting worse for him. He is such a good person but is surrounded by pure evil. The book ended when he was 18, with him in a very bad situation, am so scared for him.

Veradis, I actually liked this guy, I was rooting for him like mad but that changed when he exchanged his brain for anything Narthair says. I bet if Narthair tells him the sky is purple he will believe without arguing, he is so foolish and has stopped using his brain, I don’t hate him but if the author or anyone asks for the characters I want dead his name will be the first on the list, at list the villains have the decency to accept they are indeed evil.

Evnis, to say I hate this man is an understatement, no word can do justice to how I feel about him, he is pure evil, I wish Nightblood will make an appearance and destroy him, the book started with him making a very terrible selfish decision.

Others I love include Halion, I want more of him, Dath, Farrell, Edana and Brina.

Millennia’s ago, Elyon created a world where Humans, giants and other creatures live in peace, but that changed when Astroth another god seek to destroy the world. There was a great war, things happen and people died. Presently giants and human are enemies but manage to live in a mini harmony but now that also is changing because a prophecy is coming through and all those ancient mythical creatures are coming back. The god war between Elyon and Astroth is about to start again with humans in the middle. Both gods has picked a champion that will determine who will win the war, so everyone is preparing their army and picking a side, but politics and power drunk people are just thinking of how to get more power.
Profile Image for William Gwynne.
344 reviews1,322 followers
July 24, 2021
For some incredibly exciting news regarding Malice and The Faithful and the Fallen, check out this video announcement from The Broken Binding - ANNOUNCEMENT

Made a video discussing my Top 10 Moments of Malice, with my brother. Check it out here if you're interested. Truth and Courage!

“Both the brave man and the coward feel the same. The only difference between them is that the brave man faces his fear, does not run.”

Malice is the first book in the epic fantasy series of The Faithful and the Fallen. I may be considered slightly bias as I am the authors son, but I truly find this to be one of the greatest stories of all time.

This is a book I have read numerous times, and the enjoyment does not decrease upon revisiting it! The plot is so intricate that there are always new things to revel at when the story is revealed and all the little pieces of information slot together perfectly.

" The power of words"

Corban, Storm, Kastell, Maquin, Veradis. Just a few of my favourite characters of the book, it would take far too long to recite them all and the reasons why they are in this list. Each character is unique with their own set of characteristics that are consistent throughout the story, with their every action explained by their personality.

Read it!
Profile Image for Em Lost In Books.
857 reviews1,730 followers
May 1, 2019
Took me a lot of time to get hang of things in this story but I really enjoyed last 25% of this book. A lot was going on from the start but author wrapped up things beautifully here. Definitely an introductory book to the great things that awaits in remaining three books.
Profile Image for Ginger.
738 reviews340 followers
August 6, 2018
What a way to start a fantasy series!!

Malice is the first book that I've read of John Gwynne and it won't be the last. I'm already looking forward to reading Valor!
I'm hoping I will get a bit more information on the Elementals with the upcoming books. I really enjoyed that aspect in Malice and I'm looking forward to finding out how they work and who can tap into earth energy.

The beginning of the book is slow with world building and introducing all the main characters. Each chapter is a different POV.
It was good to take my time in the beginning and understand who all the players were in this epic fantasy series. By the end of Malice, I was spellbound and just rapidly flipping pages!
What an ending!!

I'm so excited to finish this journey of the God-War between Asroth & Elyon.
There are lots of people to love in this series, including Corban, Gar, Brina and more. I hoping to get some new POVs from the remaining characters moving forward in Valor, especially Gar.

And there's even more characters to HATE in this series. I loved the conflicting emotions and rage that consumed me at the end with all the characters and circumstances of back stabbing. I really don't want to say more due to spoilers.

If you love epic fantasy, dragons, sea serpents, giants to warriors defending their king, look no further then this series!
Recommended to fantasy fans and anyone that loves a good series of Good vs Evil!
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56k followers
September 6, 2020
Malice (The Faithful and the Fallen, #1), John Gwynne

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.

High King Aquilus summons his fellow kings to council, seeking an alliance in this time of need. Some are skeptical, fighting their own border skirmishes against pirates and giants. But prophesy indicates darkness and light will demand two champions, the Black Sun and the Bright Star. They would be wise to seek out both, for if the Black Sun gains ascendancy, mankind’s hopes and dreams will fall to dust.

تاریخ خوانش روز هشتم ماه فوریه سال 2017میلادی

عنوان: کینه توزی: کتاب نخست از سری ایمان و فروافتاده؛ نویسنده: جان گوین؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 15/06/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Kevin.
15 reviews3 followers
May 10, 2022
This book is outstanding!

There is enough going on to keep epic fantasy fans, like myself, happy with complexity and the short chapters keep things easy to follow. I also liked that the chapters were by a specific characters point of view. Some consecutive chapters were about the same scene but from different point of views. Very clever!

Action and fighting sequences were very well written. Edge of your seat type melee rumbles!

All the characters were well written and memorable.

Warning: John Gwynne is not afraid to kill off characters! I commend him for that too. Status quo is boring. But sometimes nice I suppose

I am aware that my reviews aren't that great. I'm a primitive man, but hats off to John Gwynne on this one. Fantastic work sir.
Profile Image for Fuzaila.
251 reviews360 followers
Want to read
July 16, 2018
Every single review of this book by my friends is five-starred. Who am I to defy the high-end knowledge of my faithful friends?

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