Review: Wrath by John Gwynne

Posted by DarkChaplain at 12/31/2016
Events are coming to a climax in the Banished Lands, as the war reaches new heights. King Nathair has taken control of the fortress at Drassil and three of the Seven Treasures are in his possession. And together with Calidus and his ally Queen Rhin, Nathair will do anything to obtain the remaining Treasures. With all seven under his command, he can open a portal to the Otherworld. Then Asroth and his demon-horde will finally break into the Banished Lands and become flesh.

Meanwhile Corban has been taken prisoner by the Jotun, warrior giants who ride their enormous bears into battle. His warband scattered, Corban must make new allies if he hopes to survive. But can he bond with competing factions of warlike giants? Somehow he must, if he's to counter the threat Nathair represents.

His life hangs in the balance - and with it, the fate of the Banished Lands
Finishing a series of books you enjoyed is always a bittersweet experience. Sometimes more so than other times. Wrath is definitely that. I was deeply invested in this series once I realized how moving it was, and this is the perfect book to end 2016 on, both on my list on Goodreads and as far as reviews go. There's a few left that didn't quite make it in time for December 31st, but I'm happy to say that this did. Let me preface my swooning with a simple statement: Buy this series, it is amazing.

The Story:
"Events are coming to a climax in the Banished Lands, as the war reaches new heights. King Nathair has taken control of the fortress at Drassil and three of the Seven Treasures are in his possession. And together with Calidus and his ally Queen Rhin, Nathair will do anything to obtain the remaining Treasures. With all seven under his command, he can open a portal to the Otherworld. Then Asroth and his demon-horde will finally break into the Banished Lands and become flesh.

Meanwhile Corban has been taken prisoner by the Jotun, warrior giants who ride their enormous bears into battle. His warband scattered, Corban must make new allies if he hopes to survive. But can he bond with competing factions of warlike giants? Somehow he must, if he's to counter the threat Nathair represents.

His life hangs in the balance - and with it, the fate of the Banished Lands"

The Review:
Wrath is, with no real doubt, my favorite novel of 2016. It is the perfect book to end the year on for me. I was worried that the final book in the series would end with an unsatisfying conclusion or wouldn't wrap things up neatly enough, but oh boy were those fears unfounded. Wrath is an incredibly strong close to what has become one of my favorite Fantasy series in recent years.

The story picks right back up from where Ruin left off - Drassil has fallen to Nathair and Calidus, Corban's diverse warband of men and giants scattered in Forn Forest. Immediately things kick off again, giving the reader opportunities to refamiliarize themselves with the characters and their griefs. I was worried that I might have lost track somewhere, since I read books one to three over the course of a month at the start of 2016, but it pulled me right back in within a few chapters and I was on top of events once more.

Every single plotline in the book felt valuable to me. I cannot claim that I didn't enjoy any one of them. John Gwynne did an amazing job splitting the plotlines while having them all contribute somehow. More than in the previous novels, paths cross here and many strings turn into one. Of course, the story centers in and around Drassil, but we still get glimpses from outside Forn, including the journey of Edana and Camlin, and their resistance against Queen Rhin. The tension all across the Banished Lands is palpable, even though everything runs right back to Drassil for the grand finale. And what a finale it was!

I'll be honest. I cried many times throughout the book. I cheered just as often if not more, and I ended up shouting "No! No! No!" in disbelief in instances. The book made me happy, it made me incredibly sad, and it had me excited all the way through. John Gwynne's a bastard for writing this book, but damn me if I don't love him for it. Wrath is the epitome of an emotional rollercoaster, just that instead of a boring, abrupt end to the ride, everything felt settled and satisfying here. Everything is in its place by the end, whether directly stated or implied, and the story of Corban and the rest ends on the best possible note - looking back to what was, yet also towards the future. It is a bittersweet end, for sure, but one that had me emotionally invested and happy.

But getting there wasn't easy. There is a lot of action here. The God War is presented as brutal, visceral, full of grief and wrath, but Gwynne manages to still focus on the men behind the shield walls, or wielding the axes and swords, and give us genuine looks on their beliefs, their fears and their valour. A bunch of you reading this will probably be aware that, while I read a lot of action-heavy books (40k says Hi), it is the characters, the drama between them, and the dialogue which keep me invested - and Wrath, like the entire series, nails those aspects. Personal drama is at an all time high here, especially as some heroes catch up to their nemeses and things get bloody. Seeing the Old Wolf in action once more was glorious, for example, yet also struck me with a lot of grief for what humanity he has lost since the early books. Seeing other characters fight with their own demons and making their final choices was incredible. Honestly, there are more characters in here that I cared about and came to love since the first book than I can count here.

In places, the book broke my heart. It made me utterly sad and stunned me with its little twists. And yet I never really wanted to stop reading. It never turned me off from going on with just another chapter, just another, and stay up deep into the nights. It stayed consistently engaging, which is no small feat for a book that hits you with over 700 pages! Not once did I feel it wasn't worth getting here, through three other books about as long as this one, to see the massive conclusion of the God War. When the novel was painful to read, it was not because it was a bad book in any way, shape or form (this ain't Star Wars: Aftermath!), but because I cared so deeply for everything that was happening and wanted the cast to settle down with a happy ending. Instead Gwynne kept heaping loss and sadness onto his characters, and the reader, and made this mythical war between good and evil feel so much more alive and relevant, so much more scary and earth shattering. A lot of authors can learn a thing or three from this epic finale, in my opinion. The betrayals cut deep, the bonds of loyalty hold firm. It is an emotional and dramatic highlight all around.

I'm dancing around plot details, though. I don't want to spoil things needlessly, because I fully believe that this entire series is worth reading, worth being surprised by as you go through it. I don't want to blunt the victories or tragedies before you stumble over them. Heck, I didn't really know anything about the series going into it back in late January. All I knew was that my girlfriend had recently started reading Malice and really seemed to enjoy it. So I picked it up myself, and before I knew it I sat with Ruin finished and facing a 10 month wait for the final book. Thankfully, now they are all released and you won't have to wait like I did.
As for myself I can say that Wrath is one of the few series finales that actually made me want to go back and start the series all over immediately after getting through it. For now I am restraining myself and not giving in, due to how much fresh material I have still left to read, but I don't doubt that I'll be coming back to The Faithful and the Fallen in the future. I am looking forward to it already.

You got me, John Gwynne. You got me excited, you got me to weep, you got me looking forward to the next book with your name on it. Wrath, standing head and shoulders above most fantasy series' finales over the past many years, guarantees that I'll read whatever its author is working on. Of Blood and Bone, was it? Starting with Dread? Well, I'm in. Thank you, John, for ending my 2016 with a big and glorious bang.
Now if only somebody could tell me how I can get these massive tomes signed, that'd be swell...

Wrath 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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