Mayim de Vries's Reviews > Malice

Malice by John Gwynne
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it was ok

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. (view spoiler) 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
Ruin-ation
Cape Wrath
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Reading Progress

October 1, 2016 – Shelved
October 1, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
June 2, 2017 – Started Reading
June 2, 2017 –
page 113
16.82% "Is it only me or is it so very YA?"
June 5, 2017 –
page 200
29.76% "Malice vexes me to this point that I can think only about Failing Kingdoms when reading it. Yes, NOT a good sign. I consider putting it on hold for a moment and resume when BR starts."
June 18, 2017 –
page 300
44.64% "Meh. After the magniloquent prose of Scott Lynch this reads like an undergrad exercise in creative writing."
July 5, 2017 –
page 500
74.4% "So. I'm back to reading this and 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."
July 9, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 75 (75 new)


message 1: by Philip (new)

Philip I love those kinds of opinions. :)


Anirudh Looking forward to it!


Mayim de Vries Here it comes in its whole maliciousness.


message 4: by Anirudh (last edited Jul 11, 2017 05:03AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Anirudh I thoroughly enjoyed the review :D Nicely written :)

Severe toothache! :D:D


Mayim de Vries But you need to admit I restrained myself. I didn't even touch the subjects of wolves, this absolute totem since Martin made it sexy.


message 6: by Angus (new) - added it

Angus Great review :) It's weird, but this actually makes me want to pick this book up more xD


Mayim de Vries Angus wrote: "Great review :) It's weird, but this actually makes me want to pick this book up more xD"

Thank you Angus. I think you should as I am clearly on the minority side and you might end up loving the book. :)


message 8: by Anirudh (last edited Jul 11, 2017 06:39AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Anirudh Mayim wrote: "But you need to admit I restrained myself. I didn't even touch the subjects of wolves, this absolute totem since Martin made it sexy."

Yes I felt so too. My favourite scene in the book though is when he decides a name for his horse. That scene was "epic" ;)


Mayim de Vries The things we do to fulfil a prophecy!


Anirudh Mayim wrote: "The things we do to fulfil a prophecy!"

What did you think about the magic system? Items possessing powers rather than people?


Mayim de Vries Craig wrote: "Great review Mayim and seeing a different opinion is refreshing😃sorry it didn't work out for you😃"

Thank you Craig. Somebody needs to be the dissenting voice to keep the writers on their toes. :)


Mayim de Vries Anirudh wrote: "Mayim wrote: "The things we do to fulfil a prophecy!"

What did you think about the magic system? Items possessing powers rather than people?"


It is not really a system is it? It's like paying lip service to magic because it is customary to have it in fantasy. It also does not really make sense. There is also the giants language commanding the elements. As you remember, everybody an do it but some are better than others for whatever reason. All very sketchy.


message 13: by Dawn (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dawn Awesome review. I agree with all you have said.


Mayim de Vries †Ðawn† wrote: "Awesome review. I agree with all you have said."

I am glad you liked it. Thank you Dawn. :)


Mayim de Vries Craig wrote: "Mayim wrote: "Craig wrote: "Great review Mayim and seeing a different opinion is refreshing😃sorry it didn't work out for you😃"

Thank you Craig. Somebody needs to be the dissenting voice to keep th..."


I grant you that, either Valour IS better or I lowered my expectations too. :D


Anirudh Mayim wrote: "Anirudh wrote: "Mayim wrote: "The things we do to fulfil a prophecy!"

What did you think about the magic system? Items possessing powers rather than people?"

It is not really a system is it? It's..."


It's actually one of the very few things I did not mind that much. I was fed up with characters having really generic magical powers. This is not all that better but it was different


Tamar i agree with some of it, still love the book.
and btw who made wolf sexy for me is Robbin Hobb- "night eyes" best wolf ever.


message 18: by Mayim (last edited Jul 12, 2017 12:31AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Mayim de Vries Tamar wrote: "i agree with some of it, still love the book.
and btw who made wolf sexy for me is Robbin Hobb- "night eyes" best wolf ever."


Fair point Tamar, I totally forgot! I just thought the hype and the fashion started when ASOIAF hit the market.


message 19: by Kainat (new)

Kainat 《HUFFLEPUFF & PROUD》 Holy cow, Mayim, this is a great review! Do you think I should still give it a try? Currently I'm in the middle of Mistborn, Stormlight Archive and Magician but once I'm done I'm gonna need more fantastic fantasies.


Mayim de Vries Kainat wrote: "Holy cow, Mayim, this is a great review! Do you think I should still give it a try? Currently I'm in the middle of Mistborn, Stormlight Archive and Magician but once I'm done I'm gonna need more fa..."

If I were you I'd go for The Lies of Locke Lamora (especially that I've heard Sanderson is a demigod of fantasy and has his own sect of worshippers so choosing next book after something pitched so high is particularly tricky) either way - give it a try one day, I am definitely in a minority corner here.


message 21: by Kainat (last edited Jul 16, 2017 11:52PM) (new)

Kainat 《HUFFLEPUFF & PROUD》 I actually have The Lies of Locke Lamora. I tried listening to the audiobook which wasn't good at all. The narrator wasn't very captivating, I kept zoning out. It's still on my list though right next to "Name of the Wind" and "Song of Ice and Fire".


Mayim de Vries Aw, damn. I thought it was one of the best reads this year but I see your point. In that case, since the Song of Ice and Fire in comparison to Malice reads like Homer to nursery rhyme, I'd opt for Martin. :)


Aravind Pradhyumnan Enjoyed this review. Passionate reviews trashing a book are fun to read. But I can't help but find this criticism similar to the Inheritance series *barfing*. So do you recommend this book? This was the next series on my to-read list.


Mayim de Vries I would definitely not recommend it. Poorly written, far too long and doesn't bring anything new to the genre; doesn't even regurgitate the old tropes in an innovative way. There are many far better books and series and this is a waste of time.


Twerking To Beethoven "And the only thing that kept me going was the sheer malicious intent of writing this review."

I approve of that.


Mayim de Vries Not the most noble of motivations, I know!

But really, somebody on GR had to write this review. So humble, and in a spirit of self-sacrifice, I took this burden upon my frail shoulders, and did it for the community.

;)


message 27: by Zaara (new) - added it

Zaara Great review Mayim. I just signed up for a BR of this...but I have only bought Book 1...I'll be keeping a very open mind.
I wonder how you managed the whole series after disliking this one so much.
*clicks to open all related reviews*
And yeah Lynch rocks.


message 28: by Zaara (new) - added it

Zaara I started reading just after finishing the Gentleman Bastards and after the magniloquent prose of Mr Lynch

I think it's very fair that you mention this. Books do tend to suffer in comparison. I just read Book 1 of the Riyria Chronicles. The last thing in fantasy I had read before that was the whopping Storm of Swords. So I found Riyria absurdly simple, and full of "modernistic" malapropisms. It's why I haven't rated or reviewed it yet. I'm waiting for my own internal biases to settle.
On it's own it isn't a half bad story.


Mayim de Vries Zaara wrote: "
I started reading just after finishing the Gentleman Bastards and after the magniloquent prose of Mr Lynch


I think it's very fair that you mention this. Books do tend to suffer in comparison..."


Hello Zaara, while I hope you'll enjoy the series, I am not a fan. Malice was bad, the whole series ranks at the bottom of the bottom of my worst reads this year. Maybe it was because of the predecessor, maybe not - I took my time, but I finished all the books - the writing, design, plot development improves not at all. Frankly, I cannot see myself coming back to Gwynne in say 5 years and re-dicoveringhim anew.


Shaitarn Way to go Mayim; I thought I was the only person not loving this!


Mayim de Vries Shaitarn wrote: "Way to go Mayim; I thought I was the only person not loving this!"

No! I am your girl! I absolutely loathe the whole series! :D


Terence Malice gives you not living, breathing people but carefully produced puppets stinking with conveniences.

I can't say I thought of that while I was reading the book, but that definitely strikes me as being true. I had the hardest time caring for any of the main characters. I didn't even dislike them, I just didn't feel anything when it came to them for the majority of the novel.


Mayim de Vries Some of them started to grow on me in Valour and Ruin (view spoiler) but in the end I felt cheated because there was no doubt that when the author needed something, be it a scene, a fighting sequence, a plot twist, he just wrote it, as if his protagonists were obedient robots instead of living people (view spoiler).


Terence Mayim wrote: "Some of them started to grow on me in Valour and Ruin [spoilers removed] but in the end I felt cheated because there was no doubt that when the author needed something, be it a scene, a fighting se..."

Good to know. It's just makes for a frustrating read when the death of important characters just invokes a shoulder shrug.


Mayim de Vries I did enjoy some of the deaths, Terence (I know how it sounds... I'm not a psycho, promise). Hopefully, you will find something worth reading here too. Although I have to admit that in many respects this series has been a huuuuge waste of time.


Terence Mayim wrote: "I did enjoy some of the deaths, Terence (I know how it sounds... I'm not a psycho, promise). Hopefully, you will find something worth reading here too. Although I have to admit that in many respect..."

Haha fair enough on enjoying some of the deaths. I certainly can think of one that was pleasant at the end of Malice. I'm in no rush to pick up the next book. Too much of Malice didn't move me in any way. I feel like he made too many things obvious and outright told the reader things that shouldn't have been told in the first book of a series. I may continue the series at some point, but I'm in no rush.


message 37: by Sha (new) - rated it 1 star

Sha Hello. May I say that it's incredibly heartening to see a review that echoes my own feelings about the book? I keep scrolling through all the other reviews and wondering if I read some sort of alternate-world version of Malice. :/


Mayim de Vries Hi Sha, welcome to the minority corner! I just think there is so much hype around this series that the excitement and praise become contagious. I think that in time we will see more moderate reviews.


Terence Sha wrote: "Hello. May I say that it's incredibly heartening to see a review that echoes my own feelings about the book? I keep scrolling through all the other reviews and wondering if I read some sort of alte..."

Hi Sha welcome to the team. I have often wondered if I'm reading the same book as others and Malice is no exception.


Terence Mayim wrote: "Hi Sha, welcome to the minority corner! I just think there is so much hype around this series that the excitement and praise become contagious. I think that in time we will see more moderate reviews."

There already are reviews of people who dislike it. It just happens that more people like it than dislike it.


Mayim de Vries These things change, ebb with the tide of what comes in and out of fashion. Maas writing is a great example, there are hardcore worshippers, but with time, the general mood calmed down considerably.


message 42: by Sha (new) - rated it 1 star

Sha Mhm, I guess that makes sense. I have come back to books years later and wondered why I liked them so much when I first read them.

I think I'm feeling particularly disoriented because most of the books I read tend to have balanced reviews- both positives and negatives in the first page. @_@ And because this was not even a mediocre read for me. The combination is unnerving.


message 43: by Terence (last edited Nov 19, 2017 05:00AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Terence Sha wrote: "I think I'm feeling particularly disoriented because most of the books I read tend to have balanced reviews- both positives and negatives in the first page. @_@ And because this was not even a mediocre read for me. The combination is unnerving."

I've been on that end a lot. I find a bunch of popular books mediocre or worse. It happens.


Mayim de Vries The power of marketing mixed with the power of social media. :)


Alex ✰ Comets and Comments ✰ What a powerful review, Mayim!! Gonna stay the hell away from this - does not seem like I would enjoy it at all!


Mayim de Vries Alex ★ Comets and Comments ★ wrote: "What a powerful review, Mayim!! Gonna stay the hell away from this - does not seem like I would enjoy it at all!"

You do that Alex, there are so many wonderful books waiting for you. :D


Kelley Ceccato Even though some of my favorite fantasy reads over the last five years (e.g. Django Wexler’s Shadow Campaigns series, Curtis Craddock’s An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors) have been written by men, I know all too well that male fantasy writers who write truly HEROIC heroines are the exception, not the rule.


Mayim de Vries Kelley, I absolutely agree! do you have your favourites? Recently a friend of mine recommended me Sullivan's First Empire series in this regard (I read the Revelations but these were not revelational women-wise).


Kelley Ceccato I did like the first two "Legends of the First Empire" books and need to get my hands on Book 3. If you like comic fantasy, Terry Pratchett generally does a good job with his female characters; Max Gladstone is another good one. A couple of books I loved that don't get enough attention are M.H. Boroson's "The Girl with Ghost Eyes" and Todd Lockwood's "The Summer Dragon." Both have female leads I took to my heart.


Mayim de Vries Thank you for these recommendations! PS Terry Pratchett is one of my favourites. :)


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