Now THIS is the way you end a series. Readers and writers beware, a new standard has been set.
A Time of Courage closes the story arc first begun in Malice, a tale of good and evil recounted by the many loved and hated voices of the Banished Lands. It culminates in a battle so visually and emotionally impactful that I had to put the book down several times just to process what I’d seen and heard and felt. Throughout the epic final section my heart beat too hard and my hands were clenched round my kindle. I reread sections over and over, desperate to know if something really happened, if a character was truly, definitely gone. Cheering their departure if they deserved it, crying when they didn’t. This is John Gwynne, after all, and nobody is safe. So much happened that I’m awed by it even now. And it was impossible not to talk about it. My fellow readers (Petrik/TS/Eon) and I all had multiple Whatsapp discussions going, repeatedly checking in on who was where in the book, so we could share our experiences of the major moments we’d just read. Then finally when we’d all finished, our chat was wild with back and forth commentary, a catharsis that lasted two days. None of us could even consider reading anything else.
It seems strange now but while I enjoyed the first two books in Of Blood and Bone, I struggled to find an emotional connection to the characters. Save Drem, who was immediately engaging, and Byrne, who is easily one of the best written female characters in fantasy. It was partly that my heart was still with Corban, Storm, and the others from the Faithful and the Fallen, but there seemed a comparable lightness to this series that was exacerbated by the ever present reflection on what came before. All the references to the past seemed nothing more than reminders of what had been lost, a trauma suffered by both the Banished Lands and by the reader. There was none of that here. Whereas the previous books felt to me like they relied on the past for meaning, this built on those foundations and grew into something more, something that was both a melding of the two stories and something unquestionably its own. Those people I found it so hard to let go were here in spirit, their acts of heroism serving to inspire this new generation. But more than that, it became clear how much the quieter moments of friendship and loyalty and love linked both groups together, those bonds giving them power to be heroes, to fight for each other and for the future. There was no distance, not even the possibility of it. Right from the first page, this book, and all the characters within it, demand your time, your attention, your every feeling. And it is paid back to you tenfold.
That’s all I’m going to write for now, the rest is for you to discover. But if you find yourself alone on this journey, just remember that those of us who have come to the end are here if you need a virtual shoulder to cry on….
ARC via NetGalley
Review by Emma Davis
At Fantasy Book Review we really enjoyed John Gwynne's epic fantasy series The Faithful and the Fallen, which was concluded with the release of Wrath in November 2016. Our friends at TOR are releasing Wrath in paperback o [...]
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