Mark my words, if this series ever gets adapted into a television series with the same production value given to Game of Thrones, it will create a myriad of fan bases all over the world. Watch out George R. R. Martin, while you’re waiting for the breeze from the Winds of Winter to come, John Gwynne has appeared out of nowhere and he has conquered the genre; the apprentice has become the master.
Wrath is, in my opinion, the best out of the four books in the series, which means the series always got better with each installment and with its completion I’ve decided to include John in my list of favorite authors of all time. That makes him one of my very few auto-buy authors; along with Brandon Sanderson and Joe Abercrombie, I’ll be content with buying every book they write.
“It will be a dark day, a bloody day, a proud day, for this is the day of our wrath.”
I’ll start off my review with two simple questions.
1. Does this series provide something new to the genre?
No, almost every single plot device here has been done before.
2. Is it good?
No, good is a really huge understatement. It’s damn near perfection for its genre. The series is written in a way that will hit home for most every epic fantasy lover of the Good vs Evil theme; it triggered a strong sense of nostalgia and reminded me why I love the theme in the first place, but with a slight changes that this time: the undertone is darker in a sense that it’s quite similar to GRRM’s A Song of Ice And Fire series.
I won’t go into any details on what the plot is about; so don’t worry, you’re safe to read this review if you haven’t started the series. I’ll let you know some basic outline of the series, such as the entire series revolves around the concept of ‘Good vs Evil’, which grows in complexity as the series progresses. The entire story spans around five years and during this period of time, a lot of characters development and monumental events transpire. After the bloody cliffhanger of Ruin, Wrath starts off right where the story left off and manages to conclude everything that was initiated in Malice with a satisfying and emotional ending. It’s a fantastically written culmination of the entire series and if that still doesn’t convince you to read it, please continue reading this review.
Although throughout the series the story only gets darker as it progresses, I must remind you that this epic fantasy never goes into the ‘grimdark’ territory. The main reasons for this are because all the main characters are really compelling and lovable, other than one or two characters, and none of them has a gray moral code. Once you reach the second book, it’s really clear who belongs to which side of the coin in the story.
The entire series is really massive in its scope with Ruin & Wrath being the biggest. It’s the only series I read so far that uses the entire map; literally ALL locales are visited throughout the series, and it’s also filled with a uniquely huge cast of characters. I’m not exaggerating, there are literally more than one hundred characters to remember. This may intimidate some readers but don’t be afraid, John’s writing makes it really easy to remember all of them once you managed to get through the first book. Plus, starting from the second book and so on, there’s a glossary of characters right at the beginning of each book with a brief summary of what happened to each of them in the previous installment. Although we follow more than fifteen perspectives throughout the entire series, it’s amazing that none of the narratives ever sounds the same, but are all unique and intriguing. ALL of these characters will evoke all kinds of emotions in the readers; you’ll love the protagonists, you’ll care about them and fear for them. And as for the villains, you’ll hate them and you’ll look forward to seeing vengeance poured upon them. They are all so well written that it’s almost impossible to be unconcerned about their fates.
“To my thinking, though, it’s what happens before death that’s important. All of us die. How many really live?”
The Faithful and the Fallen contains tons of action spread throughout the series and all of them are superbly written. Now, sometimes when there are too many action scenes in a series, it gets harder to connect with the characters. This is what the first book is for: it’s a foundation, it provides nourishment for the rest of the series. Malice is a really slow-paced and character-driven book, exploring every important characters’ backgrounds and personalities and everything else that makes us truly care about them. We see the growth of the surviving characters, and there are plenty of amazing developments lying in store for them. Valor, Ruin, and Wrath are really plot and action-oriented with the characters’ development on the secondary pedestal. This means that the pacing becomes faster and faster as the series goes by; not only did chapters end with cliffhangers most of the time, it’s practically war after war from the second book until the conclusion of Wrath, making for an addictive read.
The greatest praise I could give towards Wrath will have to be regarding its climax sequences. The final war in Wrath literally involved all of the armies in the entire world of the Banished Lands in one single location. Humans, animals, giants, and mythical creatures all clashed, and the rapid POV shifts between both opposing sides resulted in a phenomenal manifestation of chaos and destruction. As I said before, the whole series has always been full of action sequences with a great climax in each installment, but Wrath managed to take it up to a whole new level within its mind-blowing 160 pages of climax sequences. A myriad of coup de grace was delivered to both good and evil sides. It’s relentless, brutal, poignant, savage, and epic in the true meaning of the word. It’s one of the best actions sequences I’ve ever read in my whole life. It’s pretty obvious that John’s knowledge of close quarter combat is really vast, because the battle details are superb, intricate, highly imaginative and exhilarating, providing a rich and immersive experience.
John’s writing has always been impeccable since the first book and it always improves with each installment. During multiple circumstances, the words actually transformed into literal scenes in my head. It’s like I wasn’t even reading anymore; I was actually living inside the letters. I watched all the scenes play out from the characters’ POV vividly. I was actually inside the story and that is one of the best senses of immersion I could ever receive as a reader. It’s the kind of experience I’m looking for in a book.
For the past nineteen days, I spent most of my life in the Banished Lands. Other than working for my basic needs of consumption, I literally spent all of my time reading this series and it was totally worth it. It’s bittersweet, really. Wrath wrapped up everything with a really satisfying and emotional conclusion. I’m filled with gratitude for getting the chance to read this series, and even discuss it with the author himself as I progressed through it. However, I’m left with sorrow that my time in the Banished Lands is at its end (for now), and it’s really depressing to know that a lot of other underwhelming series are famous as hell, while here we have a work of excellence which is highly overlooked.
It’s time for me to say goodbye to the Banished Lands, at least for now, until John’s next series Of Blood and Bone get published next January. A Time of Dread, the first book in the new series, will take place around 130 years after the events of Wrath and I can’t wait to read it already. The nostalgia factor that this new series will hold will be huge and judging from the time gap, I envision we will get to see all our beloved characters as legendary figures.
For those of you who haven’t read this series, do yourself a favor; it’s time to catch up and enjoy this emotional roller-coaster. The Faithful and the Fallen provides one hell of an experience and there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t read this series if you love the epic fantasy genre. I’m going to recommend the shit out of this series to every fantasy reader I know as right now, in my opinion, John Gwynne is one of the kings and the most underrated author of all time in the genre. The Faithful And The Fallen managed to go down not only as one of the best epic fantasy series I’ve ever read but also as one of my top three best series of all time. Welcome to the big leagues, John. You deserve it, completely. Truth and Courage!
The Faithful and the Fallen: 19.5/20 Stars
Review originally written on March 9th, 2017 and posted on Booknest.eu
You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)