John Gwynne is quickly becoming one of the biggest names in fantasy with his recent release of The Hunger of the Gods. Malice is where it all started – his debut fantasy novel of over 600 pages. It’s an epic in every sense and it is absolutely brilliant.
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Malice by John Gwynne, as I stated above, was Gwynne’s very first novel back in 2012. Since then he’s been smashing out a book almost every year since then creating quite the portfolio of some of the best reads you can read right now.
Malice focuses on a cast of characters from The Banished Lands with Corban being the main character we focus on and who interacts with nearly all of the other characters involved. The Banished Lands is a place where peace has been a luxury for a fair few years but war is coming as new powers come into play and new generations seek power. It’s your typical fantasy story – different kingdoms, warring kings and some young characters who get very involved.
Malice plot – 4.5/5
Malice’s plot focuses on a handful of characters in The Banished Lands. There are a lot of different plotlines going on, focusing on each of the characters’ different journeys. Each story generally involves characters growing up or growing in power. They’re all engaging, with Corban’s, Veradis’ and Celwyn’s likely being the best three journeys I enjoyed reading.
The world Gwynne has built here is so immersive and engaging with a great balance of politics and wars which make almost every engagement between different factions and kingdoms seem tense and potentially fatal. Gwynne clearly planned out the cultures, set out his ideas for how he wanted the book to progress and executed them brilliantly.
If you’re looking for a fantasy book which feels like you’re reading multiple fantasy books at once, this may work for you. They’re all set in the same world but they’re all experiencing different corners of The Banished Lands.
Malice characters – 4.5/5
Gwynne has a real talent for writing great characters in books. As I mentioned in my The Shadow of the Gods review, “Gwynne’s talent for world-building just by telling story is only matched by his ability to write genuinely engaging and interesting characters.“
Corban is essentially our main character – we start with him and we end with him. His story is that of a fairly typical young, innocent, weak boy who grows into a strong and incredibly talented warrior. He has some very cool moments throughout the book that make you enjoy him more, but his personality unfortunately never grows past the trait of “determined young man”.
Celwyn, however, is a far more interesting character. She’s brave and smart. But she’s also brash, reckless and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. Gwynne clearly doesn’t want to be writing female characters that simply support the male characters and I love this. I’m hoping Celwyn gets more of a role in the sequel and continues to grow.
Malice by John Gwynne overall rating – 5/5
Despite two 4.5/5 ratings, Malice is not a four-star read, it’s definitely better than that. Gwynne’s ability to create a world, fill it with likeable and deep characters and then tell a believable, engaging and immersive story is a real talent. Malice’s sprawling lands, building conflicts and epic final 100 pages made this another fantasy by John Gwynne that I would happily recommend to any fantasy fan.