Review: Ruin by John Gwynne

Posted by DarkChaplain at 5/10/2016
The Banished Lands are engulfed in war and chaos. The cunning Queen Rhin has conquered the west and High King Nathair has the cauldron, most powerful of the seven treasures. At his back stands the scheming Calidus and a warband of the Kadoshim, dread demons of the Otherworld. They plan to bring Asroth and his host of the Fallen into the world of flesh, but to do so they need the seven treasures. Nathair has been deceived but now he knows the truth. He has choices to make, choices that will determine the fate of the Banished Lands.

Elsewhere the flame of resistance is growing - Queen Edana finds allies in the swamps of Ardan. Maquin is loose in Tenebral, hunted by Lykos and his corsairs. Here he will witness the birth of a rebellion in Nathair's own realm.

Corban has been swept along by the tide of war. He has suffered, lost loved ones, sought only safety from the darkness. But he will run no more. He has seen the face of evil and he has set his will to fight it. The question is, how? With a disparate band gathered about him - his family, friends, giants, fanatical warriors, an angel and a talking crow he begins the journey to Drassil, the fabled fortress hidden deep in the heart of Forn Forest. For in Drassil lies the spear of Skald, one of the seven treasures, and here it is prophesied that the Bright Star will stand against the Black Sun.
With Ruin devoured, I am up to date on The Faithful and the Fallen until fall 2016, when the final book in the series releases. I am eager to dig into Wrath as soon as I can get my hands on it - and review it too!

The Story:
"The Banished Lands are engulfed in war and chaos. The cunning Queen Rhin has conquered the west and High King Nathair has the cauldron, most powerful of the seven treasures. At his back stands the scheming Calidus and a warband of the Kadoshim, dread demons of the Otherworld. They plan to bring Asroth and his host of the Fallen into the world of flesh, but to do so they need the seven treasures. Nathair has been deceived but now he knows the truth. He has choices to make, choices that will determine the fate of the Banished Lands.

Elsewhere the flame of resistance is growing - Queen Edana finds allies in the swamps of Ardan. Maquin is loose in Tenebral, hunted by Lykos and his corsairs. Here he will witness the birth of a rebellion in Nathair's own realm.

Corban has been swept along by the tide of war. He has suffered, lost loved ones, sought only safety from the darkness. But he will run no more. He has seen the face of evil and he has set his will to fight it. The question is, how? With a disparate band gathered about him - his family, friends, giants, fanatical warriors, an angel and a talking crow he begins the journey to Drassil, the fabled fortress hidden deep in the heart of Forn Forest. For in Drassil lies the spear of Skald, one of the seven treasures, and here it is prophesied that the Bright Star will stand against the Black Sun."

The Review
TRUTH AND COURAGE!
This was an incredible follow-up. Most of my points from the previous reviews of Malice and Valour still apply for this installment, like the praise of the grounded magic system and nostalgic feel, or the clever use of tropes.

However, on top of all that I have already said, Ruin brings about various turning points for the series, which I thought excellently executed. Separate plotlines converge at last, split again for a time to join yet others, and everything is tying ever closer together. There were many occassions where I cheered for situations that have been built up throughout the last two books finally coming to fruition.

Even though some of these payoffs were predictable to me, I can just reiterate what I said before: Being predictable is not a bad thing. Things become predictable here due to how well character arcs play out and rather than throwing needless deus ex machinae into the workings of them at the last moment, things just naturally evolve into what I would have expected them to. This makes the story and character arcs feel very organic and realistic in a way.

Of course, Ruin also throws twists at the reader, and preconceived notions about characters can be torn down just as quickly as they might be reaffirmed. Betrayals invariably happen once more, and some of them struck me very deep due to how little I expected them. Others, meanwhile, I expected to turn yet was surprised to find them stay true to Corban and Elyon. And then the book also offered less drastic surprises that made me smile and laugh rather than fear for the characters' lives (though one of those instances towards the end made me both laugh and fear for one of them!).

Ruin is in many ways the tipping point for the series. Many old grudges find an end. Characters on both sides fall and shift the balance of the God War in their passing. Other actors fall out of favor or regain trust after stepping back from the brink. It is a real shake-up of the cast dynamics, just before the finale coming up with Wrath.

Throughout it all, Corban and Nathair both come into their own, accepting the roles they are growing into. Bright Star and Black Sun both get serious and let the covers fall in their own ways. Revelations are made, and the God War is entering its hot phase. The preparations are over with, and both Corban and Nathair are firmly set on a collision course that will shake the Banished Lands to their foundations.

But despite all the horrors of war and demonic forces at work, there is much to smile over. There are many happy moments and touching events to bear the protagonists up. Romance is creeping in more than ever, and hope for the future is everpresent. The books final parts feature some of the highest notes in the series so far - just before reality comes tumbling down again to leave us with a cliffhanger that, to me, beat the first two books in cruelty to the reader.

Ruin is probably the strongest novel in the series so far. Gwynne did an incredible job leading things to their logical conclusions for massive payoffs, while shuffling things up just enough to make me both dread and anticipate the finale. With so many old ties cut in this book, it will be fascinating to finally read Wrath later this year.

I honestly cannot wait to see how this series will be wrapping up after this installment.

Ruin on Goodreads

About the Author

I'm known as DarkChaplain across the internet, and call myself a passionate gamer and book enthusiast. I have been blogging mostly about games for a couple of years, but finally found my way to reviewing a different medium: Books. Honestly, I prefer that job so far.
Follow Me on Twitter @TheDarkChaplain


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