Valour by John Gwynne (The Faithful and The Fallen #2)

"One thought circled in his head like the black birds swirling about the mountain peaks. They must be stopped." - Corban

Valour carries on literally minutes after the action when Malice presented us such an amazing breathless finale. We witness the so-called Bright Star Corban; and his bizarre accumulated band of all sorts that incorporates warriors, witches, Queens and outcast woodsmen - following on from the evacuation of Dun Carreg due to the unforeseeable monstrous actions that took place, with the effects still lingering amongst the groups' morale. It also picks up with readers favourite, Maquin awakening in the tombs underneath Haldis after the ultimate betrayal and follows him overcoming his tragic loss, knowing that his main ambition is now purely revenge.

All the point of view perspectives from Malice, if the characters are still alive that is; still continue here and Gwynne has united a bond between player and reader throughout the narrative. We really care about these guys as in one book we have already been through so much together. The Malice players perspectives would only cover about fifty-five percent of the world's happenings so many new and just as engrossing characters are introduced who let us prance around their minds and hear what is going on. These include hardened female Giant-fighter Coralen, Jehar warrior top-dog Tukul and Uthas, a giant who was featured in the first book of the saga but whose motives are unique and mysterious. The need for these new perspectives is so that when factions cross as either friends or foes, we have someone we can relate to on both sides which will help us understand the necessary camaraderie felt or potential hatred.

Corban is still the main perspective that we follow. At the start of this book, he doesn't accept or even really believe his foreseen destiny. He envisages that the people closest to him who believe these predictions are a little bit mad and focusing on fables and faery-stories, however much that he loves these comrades. He still trains with former stablemaster, Gar for reasons he doesn't understand but Corban will not yet even contemplate what the truth could be. We can see that he is growing up to be a very clever, respected and influential individual. People are still awestruck when they see him fight or train with Gar but he doesn't know why. Throughout the tale, more and more different factions become intertwined and infected with his destiny. This book really presents a lot regarding the unity, joy, and camaraderie of friendship. Once, a Camlin scene comes to mind, it was slightly unrealistic with his statements regarding his change from hard brutal forest warrior to Corban's kinsman and troop leader essentially. I like the positive sides of people so if a character could change this much and it is for a progressive story reason I will not see it as a negative. Corban also notices these weird things that keep staring and smiling at him. Ladies. Will a love story impact on our heroes destiny? It would not be the first book that such a dilemma had occurred.

Valour is highly focused around three amazing sieges and battles following High King Nathair and his alliance with Rhin in the West of the Banished Lands which is where the majority of this tale frequents. Nathair believes he is the heralded Seren Disglair and has been advised by his Lord that he needs to obtain the seven Giant treasures to save the world from darkness. It is obvious that Gwynne knows his swords, weapons and can create the most amazing battle sequences, arguably some of the best I have read in fantasy. The shield-wall reminds me of the Battle of Red Cliff in China. The warfare is full of unpredictable awesomeness, betrayals, tricks and not forgetting the side who decide to trick the side who just tricked them.

The tale in the East follows the 'Old-Wolf' Maquin, an honourable hero who has somehow failed in keeping all his vows in life thus far. I will not say too much but this side includes brainwashing, fighting pits, degradation and extreme inhumanity.

We analyse the point of views from both sides of the armies, so we know exactly what their opinions represent even when it happens. Such as analysis and proof that enemies have shapeshifting demons amongst the flanks, an undefeatable shield-wall and not forgetting a talking crow, raven and a brutally loyal extreme skin piercing howling Wolven are in the mix.

The ending was unique and as a critic, I have nothing critical to say about it. Instead of the one aforementioned (see my Malice review) scene to finish off Malice, we have three to "enjoy". I will say that word lightly as like me, you will have no idea what will happen before this novel's conclusion. All three scenes end up with enticing cliff hangers. I have to wait two days until I can afford Ruin and that really annoys me. I was debating on whether I was going to give this book a good or a great rating. After much deliberation, I decided that the only reason I would rate this as being only good is that I think the next book will be better. Valour itself is a stunning novel so I will not be distracted by how great the extremities are that this saga could reach. It earns the score I have given it.

In my mind, and I know Gwynne has a lot of respect for the gentleman, and I do not blame him, but I think this series is superior in consistency, the amount of amazing characters and superb point of views to ASOIAF. I know that is a huge statement. Let me hope my sweeping statement is not premature with two books left to go. From what all my Goodreads and book blogging friends say, there is no way I will be disappointed. I hate to admit, a couple of errors came through in the novel, I saw two spelling mistakes and a few randomly missed speech-marks. I have a critical eye and these small, very minute issues did not detract from my enjoyment at all.

9/10 Valour itself is a stunning novel

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from England

Valour is a very good book. Not just fantasy wise, but in general. The battles (in which 90% of the book is people fighting, making it exciting adrenaline fuelled throughout) are breath taking and brutal in equal measure. However, there is one flaw which plagues a lot of books and tv shows, with he first 4 seasons of Game of thrones being the only thing I can think of which did not suffer this; it's the fact that Main Character do not die. What I mean by this is that writers tend to not want to kill off main or developed characters unless it's in a particularly dramatic (and sometimes predictable) way. Although Valours predecessor, Malice, managed to pull the rug out from under the reader towards the end of the book, Valour did not seem to have that same rug pull moment. There is an emotional loss that affects the reader and the characters right at the very end of the book, but mostly everyone else worthy of mention was able to dodge Deaths scythe. Saying that, I don't want all the characters to die, so maybe I'm being a hypocrite. This book is absolutely jam packed, you will be exhausted by the end by the sheer amount that happens throughout, however it's fast pace means that you're never bored. You'll never get bored of the characters too. Each has their own motivations for doing what they do and each feel fleshed out and deep, with everyone in the book going through a satisfying arc or multiple mini arcs which leave you rooting for everyone, whether they are good or evil or a mixture of both. I implore everyone to read the Faithful and the Fallen. It's rich narrative and fast exciting pace keep you glued throughout. It's a vast epic series, and John Gwynne is one of the best around. This is worthy of all the praise.
9/10 ()

9/10 from 2 reviews

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