Or: “When your sister is more of a badass then you are!”
A bit later than planned, but never mind! Things have been quite hectic lately. I have been reading The Heart of Stone, sent to me by an awesome author that can only be Ben Galley. He very kindly sent me a copy of his book for me to review, and you can check out his author interview I conducted with him here:
I have not finished the book yet, however, so until I have that review ready to go, I thought I would bring you my thoughts on another very talented author’s opening novel: Malice, the debut novel of the Faithful and the Fallen series. I only discovered this novel a few months ago when a friend of mine recommended him. I picked up a hardback copy of Malice in a shop shortly after and began to read, with few expectations of how to approach it. I really did not know what to expect.
I was pleasantly surprised.
I have several thoughts of Malice. It is slow. This is not a bad thing at all, of course. This is one hell of a dense book, packed with powerful narrative, excellent worldbuilding and you really get behind each character, even if you do not agree with their ideas, the story does an amazing job of emphasizing 95% of the characters. (Except a couple.) But the story is very slow for a large portion of the book. If you are a fan on wham-bam straight into magic duels and sword fights, you’re going to be disappointed. While there is a heavy emphasis on action scenes later in the book, there is quite a lot of buildup.
When I said dense, I meant it is dense. This is one complex book, on a scale to ASOIAF. There are many different points of view that all interweave with each other, and the story takes a rather lavish pacing throughout. None of it is done poorly, but it is a slow burn that eventually brings most of the different viewpoint windows into one that makes it easier.
Now, let’s talk about characters. There is a lot happening here, and all of them are well written. There is an amazing cast taking place, with the hero Corban and his rather more redeemable sister Cywen, Brina and her annoying pet raven, the brilliant yet misguided Veradis taking up the most of my fan club money. The beginning, however, does stink a lot of bad vs good vibe with annoying Draco-Malfoy style characters like Rafe who virtually exists to bully Corban, and I grew frustrated with Corban being a weak little bitch and doing fuck all about it until much later in the book. However, it is all well done and allowed me to emphasize, believe me, there is a fuckload of emphasizing you’ll have to do, for this is a grim book on level with Martin’s bloody Red Wedding. Even I felt affected by the events in the book, and I’m a prick. Once Corban adopts the little wolf known as Storm, things really heat up.
The fight scenes…OMG! They are wonderful! It is a very heavy Nordic style military with warbands and a beautiful adoption of new battle tactics like the Shield-Wall by Veradis, and you’ll see blood and guts all over the place. Battle scenes are fast and thick and make you feel.
The sheer scope of this book is frankly impressive even for a veteran fantasy author. To do it on your debut, well, I’m blown away, and inspired for my upcoming series Counterbalance. It takes a lot of “easy” fantasy tropes but builds them up so well it is a riveting read. I’ve only read Book 2 of the four-book series so far, but I understand completely why it’s so well received. There really isn’t any problems with the book at all apart from a slow buildup and Corban not stabbing Rafe through the balls with his own spear, but it is an excellent read and builds up to something truly gut-wrenching. Highly recommended, and the series only brings more brutal fights into an endgame that demands two champions: The Black Sun and the White Star. People will die and people will be led astray before it ends.