Review: Valour by John Gwynne

Posted by DarkChaplain at 5/10/2016
The Banished Lands are torn by war as the army of High King Nathair sweeps the realm challenging all who oppose his holy crusade. Allied with the manipulative Queen Rhin of Cambren, there are few who can stand against him. But Rhin is playing her own games and has her eyes on a far greater prize ...

Left for dead - her kin have fled and her country is overrun with enemies - Cywen fights to survive. But any chance of escape is futile once Nathair and his disquieting advisor Calidus realize who she is. They have no intention of letting such a prize slip from their grasp. For she may be their one chance at killing the biggest threat to their power. Meanwhile, the young warrior Corban flees from his conquered homeland with his exiled companions, heading for the only place that may offer them sanctuary. But to get there they must travel through Cambren, avoiding warbands, giants and the vicious wolven of the mountains. And all the while Corban struggles to become the man that everyone believes him to be - the Bright Star and saviour of the Banished Lands.

Embroiled in struggles for power and survival, the mortal world is unaware of the greatest threat of all. In the Otherworld, dark forces scheme to bring a host of the Fallen into the world of flesh to end the war with the Faithful, once and for all.
After devouring Malice I jumped onto Valour almost immediately. Things only got better.

The Story:
"The Banished Lands are torn by war as the army of High King Nathair sweeps the realm challenging all who oppose his holy crusade. Allied with the manipulative Queen Rhin of Cambren, there are few who can stand against him. But Rhin is playing her own games and has her eyes on a far greater prize ...

Left for dead - her kin have fled and her country is overrun with enemies - Cywen fights to survive. But any chance of escape is futile once Nathair and his disquieting advisor Calidus realize who she is. They have no intention of letting such a prize slip from their grasp. For she may be their one chance at killing the biggest threat to their power. Meanwhile, the young warrior Corban flees from his conquered homeland with his exiled companions, heading for the only place that may offer them sanctuary. But to get there they must travel through Cambren, avoiding warbands, giants and the vicious wolven of the mountains. And all the while Corban struggles to become the man that everyone believes him to be - the Bright Star and saviour of the Banished Lands.

Embroiled in struggles for power and survival, the mortal world is unaware of the greatest threat of all. In the Otherworld, dark forces scheme to bring a host of the Fallen into the world of flesh to end the war with the Faithful, once and for all."

The Review
Like Malice before it, Valour has something oddly nostalgic and familiar about it. It still retains the same endearing character growth that made me enjoy its predecessor, and still managed to captivate me all throughout its 650 odd pages.

Unlike Malice, this book picks up right away, seeing the action stretch from start to finish through various plotlines. Where in its predecessor, the battles, big and small, were mostly confined to a few plotlines and the final parts of the story, here we pick up right from the climactic finale of Malice and everybody is getting into more tussles than they'd like to. And it is a blast!

While protagonist Corban comes to terms with new revelations and the loss of those dear to him, as their party of refugees is hunted across kingdoms, Maquin of the Gadre proves his valour in unexpected ways, with his back to the wall. Veradis, meanwhile, feels growing discomfort with his king and friend's choice of allies. Camlin, in turn, learns trust and friendship from those he least expected to befriend.

New point of view characters join in, both fresh and recurring faces, among them the fiery Coralen and Tukul, a Jehar master waiting for the Seren Disglair.
The cast stays diverse and interesting, and switching viewing angles within plotlines offer greater depth for all around. Both Coralen and Tukul were a joy to follow, whether through their eyes or those of Corban and co. Camlin especially appealed, and I was greatly satisfied by his character arc's progression in Valour.

Things get serious in this installment, and the days of Corban's peaceful life are numbered. Kingdoms fall, nooses close tight as Asroth's servants and their influence grow. This novel was far bleaker than its predecessor in many ways, and yet it still maintained an upright tone full of warmth and hope where it could. The bonds of friendship and family are tested time and again, but there is valour in loyalty and trust. For every desperate moment, there is a gleam of hope in other places. I appreciate that greatly.

While Valour stays about as predictable as Malice before it, and had me guess the outcomes of various plot arcs way ahead of the game, I still can't bring myself to fault it for that. It just works, and being able to see a character grow along expected lines that mesh with your own thoughts of what would make for exciting scenes down the line, is satisfying. It makes a lot of sense where certain characters end up at the end of the road, and it makes them feel internally consistent in their morals and beliefs.

The supernatural and magical elements take a step towards the center of the stage, developing quite a bit from the first book. It still remains mostly supportive elemental magic (still no fireballs being flung!), which fits the setting well. That does not mean that its use is not spectacular at times, but it keeps the world grounded overall.

Being halfway through the series now, I honestly think that The Faithful and the Fallen has the potential to go down as a genre classic in a time where many authors seem intent on reinventing the sword and sorcery. If [book:Ruin|23524878] and the upcoming [book:Wrath|27411345] can maintain the series' strong characters, setting and themes til the end, then my library, and hopefully those of many others, will be all the richer for it.

Valour 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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