Not impressed with Malice by John Gwynne (The Faithful and the Fallen #1)

MaliceMalice by John Gwynne
Series: The Faithful and the Fallen #1
Published by: Tor Books on December 6, 2012
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 634
Source: Purchased
Book Details
Rating: ★★

Young Corban watches enviously as boys become warriors, learning the art of war. He yearns to wield his sword and spear to protect his king's realm. But that day will come all too soon. Only when he loses those he loves will he learn the true price of courage.

The Banished Lands has a violent past where armies of men and giants clashed in battle, the earth running dark with their heartsblood. Although the giant-clans were broken in ages past, their ruined fortresses still scar the land. But now giants stir anew, the very stones weep blood and there are sightings of giant wyrms. Those who can still read the signs see a threat far greater than the ancient wars. Sorrow will darken the world, as angels and demons make it their battlefield. Then there will be a war to end all wars.

High King Aquilus summons his fellow kings to council, seeking an alliance in this time of need. Prophesy indicates darkness and light will demand two champions, the Black Sun and the Bright Star. They would be wise to seek out both, for if the Black Sun gains ascendancy, mankind's hopes and dreams will fall to dust.

All I’ve been hearing about lately is The Faithful and the Fallen. Everyone says this series is amazing, one of the best, etc. Well I guess I’m the odd one out because wow that was boring!

Malice is 634 pages, and yet nothing of note happened. The book read like “a day in the life”. For example, take the main character, Corban.

  • He gets bullied.
  • He takes a dare.
  • He gets bullied again.
  • He cleans a lady’s house.
  • He starts his warrior training.
  • He hangs out with friends.
  • He stands up to bullies.
  • He does some blacksmith work for his dad.
  • He looks after a new horse.
  • He hangs out with his sister.
  • He saves another kid from being bullied.

I just described about 300 pages.

And on top of the lack of action, I didn’t particularly care about any of the characters. That was the #1 downfall. If I cared about the characters then I could have tolerated a non-existent plot. But despite having multiple points of view, every character — except perhaps Corban towards the end — was a piece of cardboard. I don’t have trouble with multiple points of view, but in this case I did just because all the warriors in particular felt like the same person. Their voices were the same, and I was never given a reason to care about them. They were all very black and white… good or evil.

There was one character who turned out pretty interesting, but we only saw him very briefly. I don’t even remember his name — I think it started with a “C” — but I’m talking about the guy who lives in the forest, View Spoiler »

The whole story felt very juvenile and cookie cutter. It was a bad mixture of young adult and adult. Both of those are fine on their own, but this odd mixture of the two just worked against Malice. It had the “coming of age” of a young adult book, mixed with the easy prose and typical YA tropes (chosen one, prophecy, etc.), and very black and white characters. On the other hand, it had the length and multiple points of view of an adult book, but without the extra detail and intricacy. In other words: it was really long, but there was no reason for it to be so long because very little of import actually happened. The main thing that makes young adult books shine is the fast paced nature of them, but Malice was ridiculously slow.

The synopsis promises an epic war, but we barely even got that. We saw little of the giants, unless it was a quick battle killing them. There was one giant character we did interact with, but other than the random reminder that he was a giant (oh yeah, he’s tall!), he seemed like a perfectly normal man. We just got a few skirmishes, rather than a serious sense of epic scale/scope, and the why behind those skirmishes never even felt important. We barely got to know any of the kingdoms/cultures that were being fought. I understand the war was just beginning, so there was a reason for it not being epic straight away, but we could have at least had more detail and gotten to know these different cultures a bit better.

And as for Malice being cookie cutter — that normally doesn’t bother me; I love tropes! When there’s a trope I love, I don’t mind seeing it over and over again. But I think the problem with Malice was that it was so obvious. There’s a prophecy, and it’s obvious who that’s about. There’s a bad guy, and it’s obvious who that is. There was no epic twist or reveal at the end, it was just everything slowly coming together in the way that you always expected to happen all along, and even that barely felt “epic”. In fact, I expected to actually learn a bit more about the angel and demon war, but I left the book with only exactly what’s mentioned in the synopsis, and no more.

In all fairness, the book did improve by the ~75% mark, but it never became “amazing”. It went from barely tolerable to mildly interesting. The best part of the book was View Spoiler »

Under normal circumstances I would have not finished this book very quickly. If I don’t love a book, I stop reading. But in this case I forced myself to keep going because of a few similarly negative reviews that then mentioned the rest of the series completely changes for the better, and that Malice was the only weak link. So because of my intense desire to love this series that everyone else seems to love, I pushed on. My one hope was that I’d make it to Valour and find something to love about it.

I’m disappointed that I didn’t adore the last 200 pages like so many people seem to. I’m disappointed that I’m not floored and wowed by this book. This is one of those times where I look at the sea of 5 star reviews around me and wonder how we read such different books.

I am going to at least read the first few chapters of Valour to see if it can woo me. But if not, then it looks like I’m done with The Faithful and the Fallen.

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  1. Giiiirrrrl, I had the SAME problem!! I even listened on audio and it wasn’t any better. Usually with boring books, audio helps. I think audio made this one even worse, because I couldn’t see the names spelled, and there were at least 3 sets of characters who had VERY similar names and I kept getting them mixed up. I, too, was sucked in by the sea of 5 star reviews; and I, too, pushed myself to finish because I kept hoping it would get better like everyone promised. It definitely didn’t.

    1. I’m both sorry you felt the same way and also kind of relieved! It’s slightly comforting to know that someone else struggled with this… there don’t seem to be many of us LOL! I just don’t see what makes people love his books so much. I just finished his latest book too—The Shadow of the Gods—and while it was better than Malice I still didn’t think it was the OMG AMAZING EPIC book that everyone seems to say it is. *shrug*

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