ARC provided by the publisher—Pan Macmillan—in exchange for an honest review.
A Time of Courage by John Gwynne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: Of Blood and Bone (Book #3 of 3)
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Published: 2nd April 2020 by Pan Macmillan (UK) & 7th April 2020 by Orbit (US)
A Time of Courage is a stunning masterpiece that proved yet again that John Gwynne is a force to be reckoned with; primed and poised to joined the ranks of the greatest fantasy authors.
By now, you would’ve already seen my co-bloggers’ raving reviews for A Time of Courage. Believe me, every single word and praise heaped upon this book was warranted and well-deserved. We pretty much read the e-ARC together the moment it was made available and spent a lot of time screaming at each other over our Whatsapp group chat whenever we encountered an ‘OMG’ moment – which was plenty. I challenge anyone to make sense of our chat transcript because it was a whole lot of incoherent ramblings and outpouring of emotions.
“We are just people, all of us the same. Flawed, fragile, stubborn, angry, happy. And life treats no one differently. We are born, and we live, and then we die. It’s what we do while we are here that counts. And if we can be called friend, then we are lucky indeed.”
As I’ve mentioned in my review for A Time of Blood, I felt that my enjoyment of this sophomore trilogy had so far been primarily attributed to nostalgia; emotions triggered by the commemoration of the main characters from The Faithful and The Fallen. I’m glad to say that I felt differently in this concluding volume. Not because I lost the nostalgic sentiment – far from it, it was heightened and enhanced to even greater levels in this book. What happened was that I finally started to be utterly invested in the protagonist characters and the outcome of the almost insurmountable battle against the Kadoshim and their allies. Gwynne has an uncanny ability to write the most captivating characters, of any race or species. Some of the best ones are indeed the animals, and believe me when I say that I often dread their probable death more than the human characters. The emotional resonance arising from the love and loyalty, friendship and camaraderie between the characters affected me deeply. There were so many moments where I was either struggling to read through hot tears or dreading to know what’s coming next. But there were equally as many moments where my heart would soar and sing, or when my fists would pump in cathartic celebration.
“Death comes for us all. But we’ll take some of you with us.”
Having read his debut series, I knew that Gwynne never pulls his punches and I approached this finale with the expectation that I would inevitably suffer heartache. I was not wrong, but this is what makes his stories so special for Gwynne never cheapens a character’s death. They all come to mean something, simply because of what they stood for. Truth and courage. Love, loyalty and friendship. As such, the emotional payoff was tremendous. And when the final battle comes to a head, we were gifted with one of the most visually spectacular and emotionally powerful climaxes I’ve ever read. Gwynne utilised his extraordinary skill in writing close combat scenes to great effect. Balancing that with sweeping and wider perspectives, the battle scene was rendered into cinematic brilliance. After dedicating a total of seven (amazing) books to tell the tale of The Banished Lands, this utterly epic climactic battle felt well-earned. It was rewarding and a well-deserved gratification. A brutal yet fond farewell.
“With Truth as my shield, and Courage as my sword, I shall stand against the darkness. From this day on, until the time of my death. This is my oath, sealed with my blood”
A magnificent finale to a phenomenal series of books which started from Malice, I’m certain that A Time of Courage would earn itself a spot in many “Best Reads of The Year” lists (as it would be on mine). It is time to say goodbye to The Banished Lands, but I will look forward eagerly to anything that John Gwynne writes in the future.
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.