Anirudh's Reviews > Malice

Malice by John Gwynne
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it was ok
bookshelves: fantasy

It has been pointed out to me often in the past that I am unreasonably harsh towards epic fantasy books. I would argue that my skepticism is well founded but since it is an argument that goes nowhere, I have decided to be a little generous with this book and the extra star you see in my rating is because I have ignored many things in the book which otherwise would have irked me to no end. That and because the author has a picture of himself sitting with a Dane Axe.

Malice, the first of the faithful and the fallen can be said to be a safe book. Safe in the sense that it rarely ventures out of the path set by previous travelers of fantasy. It prefers to step where others have set foot already, lest it loose its footing and fall off the path. Unfortunately, the problem with walking such a well-worn path is that you know exactly where you are going and how you will get there.

It is unfair, I do admit, to compare one book to another. No two apples taste the same. However, one does it anyway. One of the many faults man possesses. A lot of people seem to think that in order to write an epic fantasy the author must tick a set of boxes so to speak. A large cast, a good side, an evil side, a boy who will become the hero, a faceless evil that is evil for the sake of it, great adventures and epic deeds. Even though authors like Brandon Sanderson have proven it wrong, the checklist still continues in many books for some reason.

Plot The book firmly establishes itself as an epic fantasy from the scale it sets. Ancient evils, epic battles of the past, vast kingdoms and a horde of characters. The story takes its time to set up despite being a fairly straightforward one. An ancient evil is set to return and the divided lands must be united once more to fight against it. There are little twists in the story here and there which separate the book from other fantasy books of the 80s and the early 90s. The chosen one is a blacksmith’s boy and not a farmer’s boy. He acquires a wolf as a pet. But wait, it is a female wolf (Ah the twist) The boy learns to fight in one of the strangest training sequences I have come across. He is of course naturally better than everyone. He makes friends and of course enemies. Then there is the plot of Nathair. The heir to the throne who is convinced that he is the chosen one and his father is holding him back. He must unite the lands and become the champion he is destined to be. There are other POVs in the series of supporting characters who are struggling with their own problems.

World building Malice introduces us to the world of the banished realms. The creation of Elyon where giants and men once lived in peace. It is made very clear that the book is no imitation of LOTR. There are only men and giants. You will find no dwarves or elves here. Which is something I can appreciate. However it did indeed remind me of Magician by Raymond Feist or some of the other fantasy books of that era though I cannot say why exactly.

We land in the world of Ayes, Das and Lads. I cannot for the life of me understand why authors insists on using these terms to indicate that the story is medieval or even before that. Especially considering these are pretty much the only words which change. Surely the English language has had more than three words changed in its vocabulary in the past thousand years. It is really quite okay if a warband chief simply says yes instead of aye you know, we won’t file a petition.

The Giants are not given much exposure in the book. Perhaps revelations will be made in the next ones. There is also the good and bad angelic creatures. Nothing about them so far. But they are indeed quite curious.

Magic Magic is in the form of items in the world of Malice. 7 items to be more precise. At this point it is unclear how it works or what the items do but it is a refreshing change from your generic spell casting. There are some other minor magic usages in the book but they are left unexplained.

Characters Here lies the biggest problem of the book. (Aside from having a generic plot) There are simply no good characters you can come to like. Every character felt like a cliché. There is Corban the farm..sorry blacksmith boy. His weak friend, his da, his generic rival, his mysterious trainer and of course his female wolf. There are a number of warriors with their code and talk of loyalty. And of course every one of them is an amazing warrior. There is a princess (how can there not be) and as always an old hag who is wise/cranky/mysterious/herb master/lore expert/guide to our hero. Let us not even talk about Nathair.

I dislike it when side characters are given minor traits to justify their existence. Take for example Cy, Corban’s sister. For no good reason she is a knife thrower. Because her mother taught her. So occasionally she justifies her existence by throwing a knife. Which eventually really serves no purpose.

Corban himself embodies so many clichés in his characteristics and storylines that it makes it impossible to take this book seriously.

Narration Here lies the second biggest problem of the book. The narration feels like a hundred “epic” scenes sewn together in a hurry to make a story. There are so many situations and scenes which should have been edited out but are still there. Take for example Corban’s horse. He does not give it a name at first. Then in a completely unbelievable scene that comes out of nowhere, it protects him and he names it shield! (I can hear someone whispering Epic!) Then he names his female wolf ‘Storm’ why? I don’t really know. Perhaps because it sounds epic.

There is a scene in the book where Corban decides to take a one and a half hand sword for his long night. The logic being, he trained with his mysterious teacher with a two handed sword all this time. But that means he will have no protection. A regular sword will not help him with his technique. So if he uses a one and half hand sword he can have best of both worlds. I am no sword expert, but…ugh never mind. Generosity.

I am pretty sure he will soon give his sword some epic name. Glad I won’t be reading about it.

To me this books feels like it was written for a much younger audience who have not read any other fantasy books. However, as always I am surprised that so many in GR have given it a 5 star rating (Including some of my friends) Perhaps they see something in the book which I do not. Well, to each his own.
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Reading Progress

July 5, 2014 – Shelved
July 5, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
January 13, 2017 – Started Reading
January 13, 2017 – Shelved as: fantasy
January 13, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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Utkarsh it's cliche, i admit and narration lacks subtlety of adult epic fantasy but it's fast paced and better than some highly rated fantasy books. i believe in supporting new fantasy authors who shows some promises, otherwise there would be no good fantasy to read in future.


Anirudh Utkarsh wrote: "it's cliche, i admit and narration lacks subtlety of adult epic fantasy but it's fast paced and better than some highly rated fantasy books. i believe in supporting new fantasy authors who shows so..."

True true all true hence the extra star ;)

But I do wish they would make something of their own rather than be a formula based book. It's not impossible. Sanderson does it so well.

I don't expect narration and characters to be literature but he could have avoided so many things..

Which fantasy books did you have in mind when you said highly rated fantasy books?


message 3: by Utkarsh (last edited Jan 13, 2017 12:13PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Utkarsh the book has its fault, still i found it enjoyable. i guess i have stopped comparing everything to ASOIAF. :P

i was thinking about the Red Knight and NOTW. i still can't forget how many pages were wasted on how smartly he bought a horse, which turned out to be fake/wrong breed, still the horse traveled that much distance. how lucky for kovthe. everything kvothe touches turns to gold. okay, now i am ranting xD


Anirudh Well I didn't compare it to asoiaf I compared it to stormlight :P

Don't you know Kvothe is secretly superman? :D That's why he is good at everything under the sun :D

Red knight had lot of issues. Malice at least had fast pace. Red knight bored me to death


Mayim de Vries This has a blinding milky way of reviews among all my friends and so far I am inclined to agree with your rating. I have similar issues: writing style being the main one, and the the characters the second. Such a wide cast and literally NOBODY to root for!


Anirudh Mayim wrote: "This has a blinding milky way of reviews among all my friends and so far I am inclined to agree with your rating. I have similar issues: writing style being the main one, and the the characters the..."

I know. I tried my best to ignore the bad things and focus on the good. But I finally realised there is nothing all that good to focus on :D


Shaitarn I had the same basic problem with this book - there is nothing original (or even an old idea presented in a new way) in it. I kept being reminded of other (and better) books while reading it.


Anirudh Shaitarn wrote: "I had the same basic problem with this book - there is nothing original (or even an old idea presented in a new way) in it. I kept being reminded of other (and better) books while reading it."

That's true. He didn't really experiment a lot with his plot or characters


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