Valour (The Faithful and The Fallen Series) Kindle Edition
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Oh and I think Gwynne decided that every living soul on the Banished Lands must have a scar running down their face. It seems like every new character that he introduces has some kind of scar running either down or across their faces.
I think I like this better than book 1, and am looking forward to book 3 coming out in the fall. I feel like there was more action this time, though I will admit some of the battles started to run together. The writing style was about the same as the last and I can't honestly think of much to say about it. I suppose that means the author didn't have any annoying (to me) habits with respect to his use of words.
I have mixed feelings regarding the sense of danger in the book. The good guys (at least the main POV ones) tend to make it out of battles relatively unharmed. It's more a question of which of their allies or which side character will die. Because there are quite a lot of deaths in this book, but they tend not to be POV characters (so not reaching George R.R. Martin territory just yet), with a few notable exceptions. And perhaps because they're not POV characters, we're not as moved by them. Also it kinds of seems like there are new people to fill in the gaps left by the ones who depart. Then again, that's to be expected in this type of book.
Second books in a series often have a lot of problems. I think this is actually an improvement on book 1, though, and I like that we are getting a taste of what is presumably going to be the final conflict. Key players from both sides meet (though their subsequent separation is a bit too convenient in some instances).
Another thing that is done well in this book (as opposed to some others I have read lately) is that the geopolitical conflict is nicely worked into the overall good-versus-evil story arc. Kingdoms are being fought over, alliances are being made and broken, various parties are manipulating and/or being deceived. But it all fits. (As opposed to Peter V. Brett's Demon Cycle, where the last 2-3 books have been expounding on a foreign culture at length without advancing the plot...)
That is not to say there isn't anything that should be cut. I find that the character Maquin's storyline is a bit unbalanced. I find him to be sympathetic and to have more of a point than Kastell's storyline in book 1 (Kastell is a young nobleman Maquin has been charged with guarding). But there is a *lot* of internal monologue regarding his personal quest for revenge. He ends up as a pit fighter at one point (like a Roman gladiator, for simplicity's sake). And there is much discussion about how he abstains from excess. And so forth. It starts to get repetitive. But some of Maquin's parts are done well -- the number of pit fights described in detail is just about right. Also done well is a storyline with Fidele (mother of Nathair, leader of one of the two great forces being gathered) in the second half of the book. We get just enough of the negatives to really sympathize with her plight, without it being overdone.
Much of Corban's (the hero, basically) storyline is that of running -- either to get away from pursuers, or to the rescue of someone who has been captured. Thankfully we are not treated to endless descriptions of nights in the woods. (On the other hand, we are treated to many, many descriptions of battles...) This is somewhat balanced by Corban's thoughts about coming to terms with a prophecy about him. I think his reaction is suitable for someone his approximate age, with his background.
MInor spoilers in this paragraph, but not related to the main plot (at least not yet). Veradis is another POV character who returns (he's Nathair's battlechief, basically). As is Cywen, Corban's sister. I predict an actual romance between the two of them in book 3 or later. Because nearly every scene with one of them in it mentions dreamy thoughts about the other. Veradis isn't so important, overall, in this book. His parts could have been taken by nearly any one of Nathair's battle leaders. He often wasn't even with Nathair. He seems to be in this book solely to remind us that (1) he exists, (2) he has a thing for Cywen, and (3) this is speculation but I think he is supposed to be having doubts about Nathair and I suspect he will change sides at some point in the future. So he is kind of predictable. He was better in book 1. But I think he has some potential, some further room for growth, so we will see. Cywen, on the other hand, changes very little from book 1.
I will say, I am actually interested in some of the side characters. Many are complex, with appropriate flaws and conflicting loyalties. I think the level of character development, at least for the viewpoint characters, is quite good. Some of the villains are a little one-dimensional (Jael, Rhin, and even Nathair at this point). But at least there are several of them, and they are capable of being manipulated and/or defeated or at least suffering setbacks, so they are not all-powerful baddies. It gives a sense of a more even conflict, not something one-sided, and that does make for a better story.
In the end, I found myself wanting to read this despite the flaws I mentioned above. I thought the pace was decent for about 2/3 of the book (spread about, not limited to the beginning or end). I thought many of the characters were well-developed. I thought it was an improvement on book 1, and it definitely left me looking forward to book 3, which I think I'm going to go pre-order now.
Builds and develops the original. There is good progress across the board for characters and story-line although from the size of it i think i may be more than a trilogy.
I eagerly await the next installment and the answers to some burning questions.
The only thing to keep in mind is that you may wish to have a character list with you if its been a few months since you read book 1. After a few chapters i was back into the flow though.
You just have to read Malice and Valor if you're a fan of great epic fantasy. Last year's great finds and sensations were Blood Song and The Red Knight. This year's are Malice and Valor. They are just that good.
One thing I may not have mentioned in my review of Malice was the major role of the giants. Most epic fantasies have giants either as gentle helper-outers of the protagonists, or as easily vanquished antagonists who are bit players. Not here. They are the major race opposing the humans and they use their size and weapons skills and smarts to very lethal effect. These are really the first books I've read where giants are fully fleshed out and have starring roles.
Magic once again is very scarce in these books, but obviously will become more prevalent as the ultimate bad (and good to some extent) guys and gals come closer to entering the many story arcs. But that's another great selling point about these books. Even without much magic they are absolutely fantastic, the kind you just have a hard time putting down.